Jan 12, 2013, 2:21 AM EDT
“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.
Jun 19, 2013, 4:35 AM EDT
You’ll have to excuses ESPN for not mentioning LeBron James achieving a triple-double during the Heat’s 103-100 win over the Spurs until Game 6 ended. LeBron grabbed his 10th rebound – capping a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound, three-steal game – on Chris Bosh’s block of Tony Parker’s jumper with 31 seconds left, setting off a whirlwind…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:33 AM EDT
At shootaround on Tuesday before Game 6, Chris Bosh said that hot shooting Spur Danny Green wasn’t going to get clean looks at threes. Then, with the Spurs having one last shot in overtime to tie the game, Bosh made sure his words were good by blocking a Green desperation three to tie the game.…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:29 AM EDT
MIAMI — After suffering a brutal Game 6 loss that the Spurs had every reason to believe would turn out in their favor, one of the team’s key veterans wasn’t exactly optimistic that they’ll find a way to bounce back emotionally in time for Thursday’s Game 7. Manu Ginobili was the Game 5 hero for…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:24 AM EDT
For three quarters, as it has been for much of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs execution was just too much for the Heat to handle — the Spurs shot 50 percent, they played smart defense, they moved the ball, Tim Duncan was playing like a man possessed with 30 points and 14 rebounds,…
Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6
Jun 19, 2013, 2:06 AM EDT
Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings. Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title,…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:53 AM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was the Miami player who took the necessary step of declaring Danny Green was done getting open looks. When push came to shove, Bosh – the Heat’s center (!) – backed up his words, which really should have come from one of the perimeter players who kept leaving Green open.…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
Ray Allen is amazingly, incredibly clutch. This is exactly why the Heat wanted him from Boston. What a huge shot. If the Heat win this series, that will go down as one of the greatest shots in Finals history. Allen and LeBron James will get credit for making 3-pointers to send Game 6 to overtime,…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
Tony Parker, who made the defining play of the series, his twisting, shot-clock beating clincher in Game 1, is at it again. He stepped back to create space for a game-tying 3-pointer, got a steal on the other end and then drove into the paint for a short jumper to put San Antonio up by…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 10-point lead, but the Heat are fighting back. Two shoes or one, they’re not quitting. I don’t know why the Spurs called timeout after Mike Miller made that 3-pointer without his shoe. I’d want to attack him on the other…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
That was a great game. And Game 7 sets up to be something special. For three quarters San Antonio’s execution was too much for Miami and the Spurs entered the fourth up 10 (75-65) and just 12 minutes away from a title. Tim Duncan had been a force, with countermoves spinning Chris Bosh around and…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
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