The Los Angeles Lakers were not expected to win. They were not expected to challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder, really. And well, they met expectations. Like a sprinter who gets off to a fast start but finishes dead last, the Lakers were beaten by a long distance.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder were far too athletic and synced up for LA to have a chance on Friday night. Durant finished with 31 points on 10 of 13 shooting. Westbrook finished with 19 points and 12 assists. By the way, neither player got off the bench in the fourth quarter.
This was not close. The final score was 122 to 97, and some would argue that score line was generous to the Lakers.
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“We turn the ball over too much,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni lamented after the game. “It starts on the defensive end.”
As a team, LA committed 19 turnovers, and Kobe Bryant was responsible for a game-high seven turnovers. His 13 assists helped balance that figure, but the Lakers were well outmatched on Friday night.
“I thought Kobe (Bryant) did a good job of passing the ball up,” D’Antoni said optimistically. “I thought Pau (Gasol) played well tonight…He was aggressive.”
Gasol was direct and got into the post early in the ball game. He scored 14 points in 23 minutes and shot six of 10 from the field. However, the Spaniard was not aggressive enough on the defensive boards. The Thunder out-rebounded the Lakers 59 to 41, and 20 of those Thunder rebounds came on the offensive glass.
“We [have] got to rebound with our position,” D’Antoni complained after the game.
With regards to Bryant, the 35-year-old appeared to be moving well, but he clearly did not have confidence in his legs to attack players and shoot over the opposition. At the half, Bryant had only two shot attempts. He would finish with only six shots and four points in 23 minutes. Still, Bryant ran the offense, and scoring points was not the issue on Friday night.
“I think [Bryant has] gotten better every game,” D’Antoni said. “He's fine. He’s the least of our worries right now.”
The stumbling Lake Show rolls into Charlotte on Saturday night, as the Lakers look to get their first win with Bryant in the lineup.