Did OKC Loss Prove Lakers Have A Shot … Or That They Are Simply Shot?

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a glass half-full, glass half-empty kind of night for the Los Angeles Lakers against the reigning West champs.

In one sense, everything that could go wrong Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder did. Kobe Bryant banged a nerve in his right elbow in the opening minutes, briefly had to leave the game and played through pain all night. Moments later Dwight Howard signaled for a timeout as the torn labrum in his ailing right shoulder seemed to flare. That issue and foul trouble made him a non-factor on either end of the floor, finishing with as many points (six) as fouls and as many field goals (one) as OKC’s six-minute man Hasheem Thabeet.

Yet despite a disaster of a 71-55 first half that sent Magic Johnson panic tweeting about deficient defense, a Steve Nash 3-pointer with 6:14 to go in the game made it OKC 110, L.A. 105, and a bit of apprehension gripped Loud City where the Thunder almost never lose.

The Lakers couldn’t buy a bucket the rest of the way; in fact, they didn’t score again and a game that felt like a Thunder rout throughout but wasn’t, ended up one anyway, 122-105. 

“Kobe didn’t look hurt to me. We’re not going to feel sorry for them,” Kevin Durant said. “If they’re out there playing then they can play. Kobe looked fine. Dwight [Howard] looked fine. We know they’re a resilient team, they’ve been fighting hard all year. They made some shots in that second half. They were making 3s, hitting contested 2s.”

If — and it remains a big if — the Lakers make the playoffs, they very likely could face this incredibly athletic and talented Thunder cast in the first round. If you’re buying half-full after this one then you believe that the Lakers are improving, that with a little more time, with a more engaged Howard (six points, six fouls, 16 rebounds in 37 minutes), with the likely return of Pau Gasol, they can at least muster up a scare.

If you’ve accepted that the 30-31 Lakers’ glass is half-empty with 21 games left, which in practical terms means their playoff tank is virtually bone dry, the view is that Kobe’s old-and-slow crew simply isn’t in the same class as the young Thunder with their dynamic, practically unguardable duo of Durant and Russell Westbrook, who was Wednesday’s leading scorer with 37 points on 15-for-29 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and five assists.

So which is it, half-full and rising or half-empty and leaking? Kobe just might have provided the answer when asked if the Lakers have the depth to make a seven-game series competitive with the Thunder, who got 63 points from Durant and Westbrook, and 39 more from its bench despite a slumping Kevin Martin.

“We do, but we don’t have the athleticism that they do, so if we allow them to play to their strengths and use their athleticism we’re going to be in trouble,” said Kobe, who finished with 30 points and a bum elbow. “They’re ready to get up and down and use their speed to get to the rim and we have to be able to alter that. If we can stay in front of the ball and be solid defensively, we give ourselves a much better chance.”

If …

The fact is the Lakers aren’t built to stay in front of the Thunder. Westbrook, 24, can’t be guarded by the 39-year-old Nash, and if Kobe’s on Westbrook then he can’t be on Durant, who is too much for Metta World Peace. Even speedy second-year guard Reggie Jackson had his way in the paint, juking for two key drives in the fourth quarter. The Lakers’ perimeter defense — and transition defense — failed miserably and Howard either wasn’t in position to guard the paint or was hung out to dry.

The numbers are jarring in the categories that include being able to “stay in front of the ball and be solid defensively.”

OKC outscored L.A. 52-22 in the paint and 22-6 on fast-break points. The Lakers committed 16 turnovers that the Thunder turned into 22 points. Meanwhile, in an anomaly, OKC tied an NBA record with just two turnovers. That won’t happen again, but unless the Lakers get a grip on their own turnovers — which they haven’t all season, ranking 27th in the league — it simply won’t matter.

No team other than the Miami Heat cashes turnovers into points more quickly than the Thunder.

But for those who insist on the Lakers’ glass still being half-full:

“I still think our team is capable,” said Nash, who corrected a 1-for-7 first half from the floor to score 20 points on 7-for-15 shooting. “I don’t think we had a good performance tonight by any means and we still had our chances to cut the lead to two or three a couple times. This is a process for our team. By no means are we a finished product or even in a comfortable place. We’re just trying to find ourselves still.”

They’ll find themselves in New Orleans Wednesday night, desperate again to get a win.

44 Comments

  1. They definitely have a shot at making the playoffs this year, just no chance for a championship, A very sad year overall for the Lakers.

  2. BJ says:

    Yes, unfortunately the Lakers are shot…. I doubt if they make the playoffs. Lets root for the Clippers, they have a better chance than our other LA team.

  3. W/E says:

    If they somehow manage to get 8th spot Popovich and the spurs will humilate big time Mike d’antonis team..

  4. sports fan says:

    After looking at the remaining schedule for the Lakers I think their record will end up being 41-41 and they’ll miss the playoffs.

  5. tebow666 says:

    “No team other than the Miami Heat cashes turnovers into points more quickly than the Thunder.”

    The Denver Nuggets would like a few words….

  6. Celtic Pride says:

    I feel that the best nickname for Kobe is “Black hole sun”
    So talented and skillful, such narcissistic ego and chemistry destroyer.

  7. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Don’t be fooled by the recent Laker run. They can’t keep this going in the long run.

    Lakers (I surmise) probably won’t make the playoffs this season or the next 5 seasons.

    Bryant is trying so hard just to try to make the playoffs that he’s coming down with minor injuries. Probably because he’s out-of-shape from a cardiovascular standpoint. He looks like he just lifts weights but doesn’t do nearly enough cardio. Basketball involves tons of running and jumping. Muscle-building isn’t as important. That’s why he looks tired all the time.

    It’s funny watching Tuesday’s OKC game (not just for the lopsided officiating clearly in the Lakers’ favor [how many FTs did they get?]) when Laker coach sent Bryant out there to the “wolves” as soon as he could when Bryant returned from the locker room in the first quarter after suffering an elbow-stinger or whatever. Laker coach secretly wants to keep playing Bryant extremely heavy minutes out of sheer joy. Watching Bryant suffer. That is sadistic yet funny at the same time.

    Even if the Lakers get LUCKY and “stretcher” themselves into an 8 seed, OKC will SWEEP them out of the first round EASILY. It will be a GIFT for the OKC Thunder because they can have an easy first round and begin focusing right away on future rounds and on the Finals.

    I am the truth from which you run.

  8. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    It’s also VERY amusing to watch Kobe Bryant hoist up at least 3 or 4 30-foot 3-pointers. Of which, he missed all of them badly. And, I believe he shot those 30-footers when there was still plenty of time left on the shot clock.

    Funny, funny, funny.

    Sorry, Kob, you’re not Dan Majerle (who used to make lots of super-long-distance 3s).

  9. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Bryant looks tired all the time. Probably because he doesn’t do nearly enough cardiovascular exercise. He just lifts weights and does muscle-development.

    Trust me: I used to be in the US Army where we had to do A LOT of long-distance running. I can see how out-of-shape Bryant is.

    He’s nowhere near the physical shape he was in when he won 2 NBA Scoring Titles. Way past his prime. Way past.

    Evidence: Tuesday’s OKC-LAL game.

    Bryant was suffering from a myriad of minor injuries. He’s risking major injury by pushing himself too hard (recently) to score 30 PPG. Obviously, it’s not working for his overrated team.

    • W/E says:

      lol u dont know what u are talking about. Kobe is 34 and playing through injuries and tries too hard for his team thats why he seems tired, he needs to play less minutes plain and simple. More exercise will just cripple him. And Kobe doesnt seem like doing any intense weight training look at his body he aint bulky.

  10. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I’m not gonna bother checking the box score (cause I’ve been down this road before) but Tuesday’s Thunder-Laker game was kind of a joke.

    How many more FTA did the Lakers get???

    It was obvious to the naked eye, though. Bogus call on Perkins (resulting in him being subbed out immediately) at around the 4:00 minute mark of the first quarter. Howard went to post him up. THAT WAS IT! They called a foul on Perkins??? Love the way they didn’t show slow-motion replay of that “foul.” That was just one example. :-D

    I’m glad that the Thunder played “for real” this time. Although the officiating was clearly in the Laker favor (why? who knows?), the Thunder looked like they were “toying” with the Lakers the entire game. Thunder won easily. No contest.

    Guess Jay-Z wasn’t around this time. :-)

    I could tell the Thunder didn’t play for real in the previous Laker-Thunder matchup in LA. This game is what happens when the Thunder play FOR REAL. NO CONTEST. A subpar team like the Lakers have ZERO chance against an elite team like the Thunder.

    I am the truth from which you run.

  11. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    After the Lakers regress to the mean, they’ll probably lose a lot in the next couple weeks or so.

    Great chance for Portland to finish the season strong and capture the 9th spot in the West Standings (especially with the smart addition of Eric Maynor). Experimenting with the option to play Lillard at SG and Maynor at PG adds versatility to Portland’s used-to-be-weak bench. Portland should eventually take that 9th spot back — it belongs to the Trailblazers!!

  12. cris says:

    if the lakers were be able to get to the playoffs..
    teams will they face will cry!!!thats the fact

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      You know …

      Denial. “De-nile” is not just a RIVER IN EGYPT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      :-D

      • Nice says:

        I like your style man… keep it up!
        But still… where are the “5” rings and “17” banners LAST RESORT comments?…. i miss those.

  13. Vino Kulafu y Shuktong pamparegla ni kobe 24 says:

    @KB24
    comebacks… The moment the ball tips off they knew they will loss… COMEBACKS??? your kobegod didn’t even try to defend… All he do is to act like the end of the world and whine.. That’s all… They may win against N.O. but they don’t have a chance on SPURS,Clips,Nuggets,and KINGS yes KINGS…. They won against the kings when Cousins not playing… they are 3-1 against the KINGS preseason included.. 3 losses when COUSINS’ on the floor…. Playoffs??? It’s not a question… They will certainly won’t make it… uLOLs….

  14. Mhiexture says:

    Couldn’t still prove that they even have a chance.
    A nice blowout, congrats OKC!

  15. KB24 says:

    If the Lakers win this game must have been one of the great comebacks in NBA history

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      No. Orlando recently came back from 17-point-deficit at the Hornets. Correct?

      Don’t see the Lakers doing the same when they play the Hornets on the Hornets’ home floor (and back-to-back games). Hornets (with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon back) SHOULD crush the Lakers. Here we go again. Lakers probably ready for another losing streak!!

      Unless the refs screw up the game, Chicago should win easily against the Lakers as well. EASILY. Even without Rose. Their potent defense (and especialy their great frontcourt) will conquer the Lakers AGAIN!! Nate Robinson and Daequan Cook (former Thunder players) have the chance to dominate!!!

  16. Robin-des-bois says:

    “…Dwight Howard (was) a non-factor on either end of the floor”. With 16 rebounds?

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Well, he played poorly offensively and defensively. He can still fill up the rebounds stats sheet. In this game, they were garbage rebounds or rebounds that didn’t seem to affect the game much.

      It was awesome when Serge Ibaka rejected Dwight Howard’s weak dunk attempt!! I’m sure that’ll hit highlight reels!!!

  17. bahamaballer says:

    It’s good to remain optimistic, but The Lakers don’t stand a chance against the elite teams this year. These are words from a diehard Laker fan. So much talent, so very poor play. if Kobe only received the much needed help he needs from the rest of the team. no doubt, the play would have been far better.

  18. Bstarr says:

    Well this loss prove the Lakers 1 thing: how happy must they be if they reach the playoffs finishing 7th or 8th….
    They will be sweeped for sure if they play OKC. Those guys are young, energized and like KD said: no mercy for them! I give LAL a small chance against Spurs.

    Last year fans in Utah were so happy to reach the playoffs and 1 week later it was over. So what benefit does a team have to patricipate but has no chance to go to the next round???

    Personally I hope to see the Lakers play the Clippers in the 1st round. But untill now its still no playoffs for Lakers……

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Won’t really matter (from the Laker perspective) because Phoenix Suns have their 2013 first-round draft pick!

      Right???

      • dattebayo says:

        They have both the 1st and the 2nd Round Pick for the upcoming draft from the Lakers…

  19. uoykcuf says:

    What a game! 71 @ half time! I don’t know what’s more funnier, westbrook dance walk after every tough shot or whenever bryant got stripped he held his arm like “damn ref! he injured me again!”. Seriously, it’s your arm/elbow, sigh, we knew. Still it doesn’t give you an excuse for poor defense. You walk around on D, stayed at backcourt after turnovers. Did you hurt your legs as well? Lakers were making a great run until you came back.
    Playoffs? No question!

    • jw says:

      LOL what an utterly stupid / idiotic comment you make. The guy is playing through tons of pain and still drops 30 points… Keep sitting on your couch and criticizing people while Kobe is in the gym this morning trying to add to his 5 rings.

      • hooplover says:

        thank you jw! that had to be the most stupid thing anyone could have said. kobe plays through pain all the time. me personally, i have zero tolerance for pain. had it been me i’dve ran to the locker room kicking screaming and hollering like the gilrl i am! lol! hats off the kobe for his determination and contless effort…..

      • hooplover says:

        typo, “to kobe”! i feel i must correct my typo before the grammar police arrive!!!!

      • Nice says:

        Here we go again with the “5” rings… somewhere below we’ll find the “17” Banner!!! WoooHoo Go! Lakers Fan!

      • uoykcuf says:

        Also, enough with the rings. First, was he the main man in the first 3? Nope, shaq was. And after shaq left, see how good kobe was? didn’t make the playoffs, took 15 games to “nurse” his injures so enough with the playing through pain act. Also, he demanded a trade that year after he boot shaq out to become the `man“.
        Second, was he a good player to make his teamates better? Another nope, with d12, mwp, clark, gasol, jamison. you can call back iverson and it’s a lock in the playoffs.
        Third, is he a clutch player? I think we all saw game 7, 6-24? MWP and gasol bail him out. So Nope again.
        I rest my case, still I have a hard time understand why you root for a guy that doesn’t make your team better. Doesn’t make sense at all.

    • uoykcuf says:

      Hurt his elbow, not his legs. See his D? walking, talking to ref, staying at backcourt, lazy getting back? that’s not playing through pain. Thta’s just lazy D. 8-19 wasn’t a good game, -11 wasn’t a good game. You like kobe because you admired him taking the pain like a man? Guess what? That’s most of us do as well.
      Still Playoffs? NO question!
      Next!

  20. Be Realistic says:

    The Lakers better get their sh** together or they will find themselves to be the biggest dissapointment in NBA history lol. I would much rather see them face OKC or the SPURS first round. Like Barkley said “Lakers would get beaten like a drum”.

  21. Chris Brown says:

    I believe they can still make the playoffs. Though I had less hope of them winning this game, but I never expected them to make a rally to make it just 5 points, OKC is a very good team, they are even the only team that can match the Heat. Injuries are not the issue, Kobe scored 30 points despite of its injury, and Dwight provided good defence. I can still see light in this Lakers team.

  22. allaroundballer says:

    2003-04 runner up Lakers are still better

  23. PdaDunker says:

    Being a Laker fan this hurts. But realistcally, LAL cannot play solid D, because it’s neither the coaches’ emphasis or strength nor are the majority of the players fast enough or willing enough to play solid D. Let’s face the fact that LAL is too old (sorry, but it’s simply impossible to run with a 24 year old when you’re more than 10 years his senior, so sorry Steve Nash, sorry Kobe). Like I wrote before, this is likely the best team never to win anything….like the rediculous Karl Malone and other stars studded Lakers of the past. Time to bring youth, speed, agility, solid D, athleticism and a coach to get D first….Time to rebuild quickly. And get some solid benchplayers, please, who can get playing time. Don’t trade Pau, adjust to the luxury of having two great big man, any good coach would love that fact.

    • jimboy1963 says:

      I agree with you a hundred percent, pal. The 2 biggest mistakes that can be easily pinpointed are adding aged warriors (Nash, Jamison & Duhon) instead of bringing in youth & speed, and choosing a coach who prefers offense over defense (one who preaches 3-point shooting instead of teaching players how to CONVERT FREE THROWS & HOW TO LIMIT ERRORS) over a very good defensive-minded coach (Sloan). You know what, sometimes in the back of my mind I think, though I don’t want to, they are just using “injury” as an excuse so that if ever an opponent beat them, they already got a good alibi & fans will feel sorry for them. As what KD said, if you are out there playing & you can play, then you are NOT hurt!!! Going back to youth & speed, they should copy the Spurs’ blueprint regarding that matter. Slowly but surely, injecting youth one at a time to replace the aging ones & perfectly blending AGE + EXPERIENCE with YOUTH + SPEED & the result is SUCCESS. That is why Pop is one of the most respectable coach in the NBA. As for their playoff chances, I can say very slim… Sorry for my comments Mr. Jim Buss & Mr. Kupchack, I just want to voice out my frustrations because I really am a Laker fan…

      • uncle drew says:

        yeah man that was a good insight. i also owe the spurs up until being an elite team not only in the West but on the entire league inspite of having aging duncan ginobili. i agree with that, that it does something with the coach and the balancing of the roster and capabilites

    • uncle drew says:

      well atleast the “boy band” 4allstars on late 2003-04 lakers is still better, because they manage to be on Finals. But this time it hurts me a lot. i feel very sorry for kobe bryant.

      • All City says:

        LAKERS CHOOSE NOT TO PLAY DEFENSE, WHICH IS ENDORSED BY COACH!
        TURNOVERS, SHOT SELECTION & DEFENSE IS THE SOURCE OF EVERY LOSE!!!!
        FUNDAMENTALS IS ESSENTIAL TO EVERY TEAMS SUCCESS!!!

        AT LEAST FOUL AND PUT EM AT THE LINE INSTEAD OF JUST LETTING WALK BY AND LAY IT IN!!
        ESPECIALLY GUYS OFF THE BENCH, YOU HAVE 6 FOULS AND DONT EVEN USE EM!!

        THE OTHER THING IS DANTONI DOSENT UTILIZE HIS TIMEOUTS!! ESPECIALLY IN THE FIRST HALF, LEAVING TIMEOUTS ON THE TABLE WHEN YOU HAVE AN OLDER GROUP WHO COULD USE THOSE TOs TO CATCH A BREATH, INSTEAD THIS JOKE LETS THEM PLAY LONG MINUTES WITH OUT MANAGING HIS AFFORDED TOs ACCORDINGLY!

        LAST THING, COACH IS TOO AFRAID TO CALL OUT ANYBODY ON THEIR MISTAKES!! HE HAS NO BACKBONE WHICH EXPLAINS HOW HE LET CARMELO RUN HIM OUT OF NEW YORK!!!!

        ANYBODY FEEL ME?