It’s going to be very easy to blame Russell Westbrook after the Thunder no-showed against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. After all, Westbrook had one of the worst shooting performances of his season to date, 6-22 overall and 1-5 from 3-point range. His worst tendencies as a shooter (pulling up with tons of time left on the shot clock, for example) were on display throughout the game.
But while Westbrook certainly deserves one of the fingers pointed in his direction, he also dished out 13 assists (mostly before the fourth quarter), and there was plenty of other blame to pass around. Oklahoma City came out sluggish from the start, and despite a few spurts (mostly from Kevin Durant, who finished with 35 points on 26 shots), they allowed the Lakers to dictate the flow of the game instead of getting out in transition, where Los Angeles struggles to contain a much more athletic team.
One issue that went unaddressed throughout despite the opportunity for adjustments was Thabo Sefolosha’s failure to defend Kobe Bryant in isolation and post-up situations. While Sefolosha is an admirable defender, Bryant’s work in the post consistently defeated him, and eventually the Lakers began running their entire offense through Thabo. The Thunder never countered this, somehow, and it beat them in the end.
This game clearly meant more to the Lakers than it did to the Thunder. That isn’t an attempt to detract from LA’s win, which was impressive on many levels. Pau Gasol was extremely efficient, scoring 17 points on 7-10 shooting off the bench. Bryant finished with two more assists (14) than field goal attempts (12). Steve Nash hit big shots down the stretch. Even Antawn Jamison pitched in when the Thunder were threatening to build a more comfortable lead in the first half. The Lakers played as well as we have seen them play all season.
But Oklahoma City aided and abetted the loss with lackadaisical play and plenty of missed jumpers, which allowed the Lakers to hang around and pull away at the end.
Keys to the Game
Thunder Defense: C-
It’s hard to blame the Thunder for being unable to contain Kobe Bryant. It’s less hard to blame them for failing to make any kind of adjustments in the defense to counter his newfound love of passing, as well as for the havoc wrecked by Jamison, Gasol and Nash.
Just nine turnovers for the game, so the Thunder mostly took care of the ball. But points are deducted for Westbrook’s four turnovers, some of which were pretty ugly. Westbrook can jump seemingly 15 feet in the air, but if all of his teammates are covered, these jump passes get him in trouble.
Rebounding wasn’t really a big factor tonight, but the Lakers did win the battle 43-39. OKC outrebounded LA 10-6 on the offensive boards.
Ryan’s Thunder Thoughts:
- Russell Westbrook had a rough shooting start, going 0-5 in the first quarter. However, he had six assists and five rebounds in the quarter as well. He wouldn’t hit his first field goal until the final minute of the first half, but he finished the half with nine assists and seven rebounds.
- The Thunder was 0-6 from three in the first quarter, and just 3-6 from the free throw line. These numbers were partly why they were down 27-23 after the quarter.
- On the bright side, OKC just had two first quarter turnovers and grabbed seven offensive rebounds.
- The Thunder put Dwight Howard at the free throw line eight times in the first half, but he only made of one them. How and NBA player can be so awful at free throws is still a mystery to me.
- The Thunder defense wasn’t that great in the first half. They let the Lakers shoot 51.3 percent overall and 45.5 percent from three. However, they were also able to block six shots and force seven turnovers.
- The Thunder offense wasn’t great in the first quarter, but things went a little smoother in the second quarter. The team’s field goal percentage was 47.8 at halftime.
- Serge Ibaka had a great first half, tallying eight points, five rebounds and four blocks. He was mostly quiet for the rest of the game though.
- Durant had a solid first half as well, dropping in 18 points.
- Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook got in a miniature shoving matching in the third quarter. It wasn’t a big deal, but Bryant earned a technical foul.
- Westbrook had a nice put back dunk in the final two minutes of the third quarter. It came after a missed layup by Kevin Martin on a Thunder fastbreak.
- Westbrook and Durant carried the Thunder in the third quarter, combining for 17 points.
- Westbrook had a technical called on him in the fourth. He complained about a missed foul call and the ref quickly hit him with the tech.
- Bryant was putting on a clinic today. He was hitting shots, distributing the basketball and crashing the boards.
- Westbrook never really got any offense going, finishing just 6-22 from the field. He did have 13 assists and nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Thunder.
- Kendrick Perkins had a pretty solid game today, with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists. It’d be nice to see him grab more boards, but overall it was a good game for the Thunder center.
- One of the bigger bright spots today was that the Thunder only committed nine turnovers. I’d love to see the team’s turns stay that low consistently.
- The Thunder was just 4-16 from three in today’s game. They had some open looks, but they just weren’t falling.
- Durant walked away with another 30-point performance today, dropping in 35. Unfortunately it had to come in a losing effort.
- OKC just didn’t seem to be itself today. The players seemed both frustrated and rattled for most of the game, and in the end they would fall to an underwhelming but dangerous Lakers team.