Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The final score might fool you. The Lake Show taking another L on the road to the tune of 114-108 against the defending Western champs in OKC might sound like some sort of a moral victory. Of course there never are moral wins in the pros though this loss did reveal some positives.
But before you can talk positive you’ve got to discuss the negatives.
Mike D’Antoni is living up to be every bit the defensive illiterate as promised. Russell Westbrook cut through the soft Laker defense with ease and Kevin Durant got any shot he wanted. Beating the Thunder is damn near impossible when their two All-Stars drop 69 combined. Even more difficult when the entire team shoots damn near 50% from the field.
A lot of those easy looks came courtesy of 17 turnovers committed by Los Angeles. That’s a real problem when you’re trying to run with the Thunder.
A 41-point second quarter by the Thunder pretty much doomed the Lakers. By the third quarter the lead ballooned to 19.
Here come those positives as promised.
The Lakers battled back getting to within 5 of the Thunder late in the fourth. It was too little too late but there was some seriously inspired play. Jodie Meeks had all kinds of energy off the bench and in one stretch ripped KD then got back for an offensive rebound and drew a foul. On the night Meeks scored 17 but more importantly earned some big minutes down the stretch.
D’Antoni went to a small lineup choosing to stretch the floor with three guards and Dwight Howard. Oh yeah…Metta World Peace was on the floor too and he made his presence felt.
Metta is already public enemy #1 in Oklahoma and like a good villain he gave the fans what they wanted. World Peace and Serge Ibaka got tangled under the hoop and earned double techs. That fired up the crowd and also helped lift the Lakers.
Again, it was too little too late and there was still too much standing around watching Kobe in the clutch. To be sure Bryant forced some shots as expected but there was not another Laker stepping up to the challenge.
The challenge for the Lakers is figuring out how to win in the instances when KB24 and D12 have big nights like tonight. Another positive is that the Lakers kept it competitive late without Pau Gasol who is still out of action.
The real problem is that even if these two teams meet in another seven game series it doesn’t look like much has changed since last season. Despite L.A.’s inspired effort late this one was one-way traffic. Metta’s antics were equal parts desire and frustration. There is a will to win, just no solid formula. That is the biggest negative of all. The season is not getting younger and each loss is making an already rough road all the more difficult to travel.