Friday, December 13, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Thunder 122, Lakers 97
By Dave McMenamin
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kobe Bryant was pass-first. He was a facilitator, a creator. The Mamba channeled Magic out there against the Oklahoma City Thunder, owners of some magic of their own at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a perfect 10-0 home record coming into Friday night.
But as much Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni ended up being right for preaching confidence in Bryant's point guard abilities, it was another statement he made before tipoff that rang even more true.
"We spend 90 percent of the time talking about offense when our problem is defense and our problem is toughness and that's where we got to get to," D'Antoni said. "Sometimes we don't play hard enough and if we get that, you know what? The other stuff works out. It's amazing how it works out."
Yes, Bryant racked up double-digit assists (falling two shy of his career high with 13 in 23 minutes) and filled in at point guard for the Lakers' point guard-less roster, but L.A. provided about as much resistance as a porcelain plate against the Thunder's raucous offense.
Oklahoma City put it on L.A. with 122 total points, marking the third time this season the Lakers (who scored 97 of their own) have given up 120 points or more, with 50 of those Thunder points coming in the lane after D'Antoni specifically started Jordan Hill alongside Pau Gasol to try to curb that paint production.
It's going to take a lot more than Bryant collecting dimes to get the Lakers through this trip.
How it happened: The Thunder led by 10 after the first quarter, 15 at halftime and 20 heading into the fourth. Then they pushed the lead to as many as 30 in the final frame. This wasn't a game, it was a mockery.
What it means: The Lakers are now 10-12 and look like a team at a crossroads. After taking so long to find some sort of identity they could lean on from game to game, injuries to Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar and the reintegration of the still-rusty Bryant back into the mix have this team in a tailspin.
Hits:Wesley Johnson returned to the starting lineup with a solid 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 assist.
Xavier Henry attempted a career-high 16 free throws (but made only nine) en route to 15 points.
Ryan Kelly scored the first two-point basket of his young career.
Misses: The much-ballyhooed matchup of Bryant checking Russell Westbrook lasted all of one possession. Westbrook hit a 3-pointer the first time down the court for OKC with Bryant contesting and suddenly it was Bryant on Andre Roberson and Jodie Meeks sliding over to Westbrook the next time L.A. was on defense.
Kevin Durant scored 31 points in 31 minutes. Westbrook had 19 and 12 assists.
Bryant, who came into the game averaging 5.5 turnovers in his first two games back, had seven against the Thunder.
Meeks shot just 3-for-16.
Stat of the game: 0-3. That's the Lakers' record since Bryant's return.
Up next: L.A. plays in Charlotte on Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back set. The Lakers are 1-3 so far this season in the second game of these setups. They finish their four-game trip with another back-to-back Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta and Memphis.