Derek Fisher wanted to play for a championship contender this season. So it only makes sense why Mitch Kupchak removed him from the Lakers roster. As long as the road to an NBA championship runs through Oklahoma City then the Lakers can start planning their summer vacation now. In fact, with the Lake Show sitting third in the West then pretty much any road that runs adjacent to OKC will be a dead in for the Lakers.
Twice the Lakers have faced the Thunder this year and in both contests Los Angeles has been reminded just how far away they are from being contenders. Tonight’s 102-93 loss at Staples wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might indicate. Aside from the first quarter, this one was all one-way traffic.
L.A. came out of the gate aggressive. Mike Brown made nice with Andrew Bynum then made the Thunder sore by pounding the rock inside. I’m sure Scotty Brooks would have loved it if Bynum was shooting threes tonight. Drew bounced back with a 25 and 13 effort but that mattered little in the grand scheme.
The Lakers jumped on the Thunder, outscoring OKC 30-18 in the first. Part of that was due to the Lake Show asserting its size in the paint. More of that was a result of to the slow starts of both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
At halftime the Lakers were clinging to a lead. That lead was gone once the third quarter rolled around.
Oklahoma City ripped off a 13-0 run led by Durant and Westbrook that put this one out of reach.
Ramon Sessions has added athleticism to the purple and gold but he’s still not the answer for Westbrook. The UCLA alum was unstoppable during his 36 point, 6 assist homecoming. He got to the rack with ease, running past every Laker as if they were cemented to the floor.
With Westbrook driving, Durant was thriving. KD came to life, shrugging off his slow start by posting a double-double (21 and 11). Like Westbrook, the Lakers had no answer for Durant. The MVP candidate got his jumper going which allowed him to start getting into the lane as well.
Once Pau Gasol went out with foul trouble the Thunder had the green light to attack. But you can’t even point to Pau’s absence as the biggest reason for the second half meltdown. There are some very disturbing trends emerging late in this season for the Lake Show.
The Lakers’ continuing trend of dismal defense is concerning. So too is Kobe Bryant’s cold shooting.
Are all the minutes finally catching up to KB24’s veteran legs? Is that wrist injury secretly affecting Mamba still?
Whatever the reason, Bryant can’t buy a bucket these days. 7 of 25 shooting overshadowed most anything else Kobe did tonight. 23 points on 25 shots is anything but an efficient offensive night.
As always the Lakers bench was nowhere to be found. Since Sessions joined the starting five the Lakers have lost whatever punch they once had in their second unit. Makes you appreciate the 7 points Fisher dropped in his 15 minutes off the bench for the Thunder.
At least the Staples crowd did the classy thing by showing their appreciation for Fisher. Everyone in Downtown L.A. could be heard cheering when the Lakers rolled a highlight reel of Fisher’s heroics before the game started.
Once any pregame drama was out of the way the Lakers did their best to take any drama out of the game. This one felt nothing like the potential playoff preview it should have been. Oklahoma City is simply in another class. Kobe might see his team as a title contender but after tonight even he has to admit that would only be possible if the Thunder are by some miracle eliminated before facing the Lakers.
Even more concerning is that the Lakers have yet to face the team one spot in front of them in the Western Conference standings. The San Antonio Spurs could really put a damper on L.A.’s playoffs seeding. But no matter how the Lakers performance once they finally face the Spurs I think we’ve already seen enough to know what would happen in a seven game series against Oklahoma City.