Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook drives for a reverse layup against… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
A few things to take from the Lakers' 102-93 loss Thursday to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
1. The Lakers unraveled in the second half. After exhibiting great ball movement, energy and disciplined defense en route to a 30-18 first quarter, it was only natural for the Lakers to unravel. They've done it plenty of times this season. So it wasn't surprising it happened again. The Thunder inflicted most of their damage in the third quarter. Pau Gasol picked up his fourth foul. Kobe Bryant, who scored 23 points points on seven-of-25 shooting, missed all four field-goal attempts. Andrew Bynum had no one to pass to out of double and triple teams. Troy Murphy was ineffective in shooting and defending Kendrick Perkins (10 points in the third quarter, really?). The Lakers rarely ran through their offense through Ramon Sessions and mostly through isolation. And absolutely no one could stop Russell Westbrook from dropping 17 of his 34 points in the third quarter.
The problems went beyond that. The 18,997 at Staples Center showered the Lakers with boos after Gasol failed to box out on Nick Collison on two consecutive possessions. Then the Thunder beat the Lakers on a pick-and-roll that resulted in Westbrook getting an open dunk en route to a 84-70 lead with 9:08 remaining. The boos continued when Kevin Durant posterized Gasol in the third quarter. That play epitomized everything the Lakers lacked defensively. The Thunder converted on 23 second-chance points and outrebounded them, 48-44 , because of the Lakers' inconsistency in boxing out. OKC even beat the Lakers in the half-court because of their tendency in playing underneath the screens. The Lakers may wonder why the media has been skeptical of their progress this season. Hogwash. Their performance against Oklahoma City explained why.
2. Andrew Bynum came out with a vengeance. The Lakers' coaching staff shared plenty of laughs over the controversy surrounding Bynum's benching for taking an ill-advised three-pointer against Golden State. Good news: He didn't live up to his word by shooting more three-pointers. He also appeared incredibly aggressive by posting 25 points,13 rebounds -- his first double-digit effort on the boards in the past five games -- and four blocks. In the second half, he faced some struggles with double teams and triple teams, but that had more to do with the fact with his teammates not moving.
3. Metta World Peace's good defense canceled out his bad offense. OK, so it was cute to see his two three-pointers cut the Thunder lead to 96-87 with 2:25 left. But World Peace hardly should've been featured as much offensively where he went three-of-13 from the field. It's a shame because World Peace mostly played solid defense on Durant, who had to work hard for his 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting. World Peace made him pick up his dribble, fronted him in the post and aggressively fought through screens. It was all for naught because of World Peace's bad shooting.
4. The Lakers are chippy with the Thunder. The Lakers clearly showed they can't beat the Thunder in a playoff series. But it surely would be competitive. World Peace pushed Perkins on a drive to the basket. Bryant constantly jawed with James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha. The mere sight of Perkins reminded the Lakers of him wearing a Celtics uniform. It would make for a competitive series that would probably go the Thunder's way.
5. Derek Fisher's video tribute was a nice touch. So was his game. Before the game started, the Lakers presented a montage that featured all of Fisher's memorable shots, drawing a loud ovation from the 18,997 fans at Staples Center. You know, the game-winner with .04 seconds left over San Antonio in the 2004 playoffs, the two three-pointers against Orlando in the 2009 NBA Finals and the drive against Boston in the 2010 Finals. The video even featured Fisher's dive for a loose ball that played a large part in the Lakers' New Year's Eve victory this season over Denver. The crowd also loudly cheered Fisher when he checked in at the 2:03 mark in the first quarter. Fisher then hugged Steve Blake in a long embrace.
To the Lakers' dismay, these images hardly lived in the past. The 37-year-old Fisher scored seven points on three-of-six shooting in 11 minutes on plays he rarely displayed this season with the Lakers. On the first possession, Fisher guarded Bryant in the post and forced him into an off-balance jumper. Fisher stormed past Blake off the dribble en route to a left-handed layup. He drove into traffic again, scored and converted a three-point play. Yeah, so there was the clanged shot with his toe on the line and a careless turnover. But Fisher proved he still has something left in him to remain effective.