Skip to content

Lakers’ backs against wall after Thunder hands L.A. sixth straight loss

Jan 12, 2013, 2:21 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, Antawn Jamison AP

“I told the team that the biggest thing is that our season starts Sunday,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after the latest in a parade of losses. “And we have got one run and have one shot at it and they need to get ready mentally and physically.”

That is the sound of a desperate coach. A coach who knows his team needs wins right now, needs to win two-thirds of its games from here on out to have a chance of even making the playoffs.

Lakers fans have been mentally in that desperate space for a while now, but it felt and sounded like the Lakers team is finally getting there after getting thumped 116-101 by a genuine contender in the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night. Kevin Durant had a season high 42 points. Russell Westbrook had 27 points and 10 assists. Oklahoma defended, ran the break, executed with crispness, and basically did whatever they wanted. Oklahoma City was up 16 at halftime and the game felt like glorified garbage time in the second half.

The Lakers have plenty of excuses — they were without Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol again in this game, plus now comes the news Jordan Hill will be out for the season with hip surgery. Westbrook’s eyes lit up when asked what it was like to turn the corner and not see the Lakers’ seven-footers protecting the rim, but he caught himself and just said it was “different.”

“It’s true, but people aren’t going to remember all the excuses of the season,” said Kobe Bryant, who finished with 28 points but on 8-of-23 shooting.

The Lakers have had injury excuses all season but the fact is with this loss they fall to 15-21. They will need to go better than 30-16 the rest of the way to make the playoffs (that record would get them to 45 wins, which is the lowest number the West’s eighth seed has had in five years). And remember they still have the Grammy road trip ahead of them.

But more than that, Friday night’s drubbing was evidence of just how far away from a contender the Lakers are right now. And how much better the Thunder are even than last season.

Early on, with fresh legs, the Lakers starters hung around in the game. Then the run everyone knew the Thunder would go on came with a Thabo Sefolosha three and a Durant runner in the lane. Suddenly it was a 9-point OKC lead.

But at the end of the first quarter the Lakers fought back to tie it up with a stretch of good defense — an Antawn Jamison steal under the basket, an Earl Clark block of Serge Ibaka, a Kobe steal. They tied the game at 25.

But the problem for the Lakers all season has been the defense has only been good in stretches. Then it goes away.

It went away in the second quarter — Oklahoma City put up 39 points quarter shooting 70 percent. They got shots in the lane, they were draining threes and most of their shots seem to be open ones created off the dribble or with the extra pass. The Thunder shot 59.1 percent for the first half, were up 16 at the break and the game was all over but the shouting.

Durant was 10-of-15 shooting for 25 points in the first half, and he was fired up. He drove around Earl Clark at one point and just threw down a dunk then displayed the kind of anger we don’t usually see from the NBA’s golden child.

“We moved the ball so well,” Durant said. “We were finding open shots, guys were getting into the lane.”

And when that didn’t work, Durant or Westbrook would just blow by their defender off the dribble. Westbrook in particular looked sharp with his game. And the Lakers lacked any real rim protection to slow them.

“Well they have a good team but like I say you can’t expect to be at your best when you don’t have your best players on the floor,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “There is just no way around that. When you get them back it takes time to gel and get rhythm and chemistry.”

The Lakers just don’t have that time anymore. And they know it.

Whether they can do anything about it remains to be seen.

Latest Posts
  1. Mason Plumlee rapping? Yes, Mason Plumlee rapping. (VIDEO)

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Mason Plumlee with a money gun shooting $100s.

  2. James Ennis allows Heat to push back decision on him until opening night

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:40 AM EDT

    Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers Getty Images

    Ennis will get the chance to prove his case in training camp.

  3. Gregg Popovich missed games last November due to heart procedure

    Jul 27, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Gregg Popovich Gregg Popovich

    Larry Brown said the condition had Popovich thinking about retirement.

  4. Larry Bird says Stephen Curry, himself in mix for best deep shooter ever

    Jul 27, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    Larry Bird Larry Bird

    Bird also says Jordan would destroy him one-on-one right now.

  5. Report: Heat will pick up contract of Tyler Johnson, as expected

    Jul 27, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT

    Tyler Johnson AP

    James Ennis seems on the bubble with Miami.

  6. Roy Hibbert pleased to have a coach who played in NBA (psst: it’s Byron Scott)

    Jul 27, 2015, 4:05 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Four Getty Images

    Center goes from Frank Vogel to Byron Scott and is happy about it

  7. Will Bucks arena deal pass Wisconsin Assembly?

    Jul 27, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks New Court Getty Images

    Key Democrat implies it’s not a certainty

  8. Report: Kings trying to hire Bobby Jackson, too

    Jul 27, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Vlade Divac is trying to put the band back together

  9. Report: Cavaliers sign Matthew Dellavedova

    Jul 27, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT

    2015 NBA Finals - Game Six Getty Images

    Did he accept the qualifying offer?

  10. Pacers sign Shayne Whittington, guarantee his salary for this season

    Jul 27, 2015, 12:11 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Orlando Magic White Getty Images

    Indiana apparently liked what is saw from undrafted free agent last season

  11. Heat trade Zoran Dragic, second-rounder to Celtics

    Jul 27, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT

    Zoran Dragic, Stanley Johnson, Jared Berggren AP

    Protected second-round pick going back to Celtics

  12. Report: LeBron James OKs Mike Miller trade

    Jul 27, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    2015 NBA Finals - Game Three Getty Images

    Miller reportedly wanted to leave Cavaliers for a team that would play him more

  13. Reports: Knicks signing Darion Atkins, Wesley Saunders

    Jul 27, 2015, 9:32 AM EDT

    Michigan State v Virginia Getty Images

    Both players to receive partially guaranteed contracts

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (3176)
  2. S. Curry (2950)
  3. K. Durant (2304)
  4. J. Fredette (2266)
  5. T. Hansbrough (2165)
  1. B. Haywood (2164)
  2. L. James (2140)
  3. I. Thomas (2063)
  4. C. Copeland (1970)
  5. P. Prigioni (1882)