The Los Angeles Lakers were ‘picked apart’ in their second loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
If the Lakers had been able to hold two enormous leads over the Oklahoma City Thunder – up 26 on the road last week and up 19 at Staples Center on Thursday night – they would be 7-2 and OKC would be 0-8.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. The ThunderThunder outscored the Lakers 35-24 in the fourth quarter to win 107-104 on Thursday, their second come-from-behind victory over L.A., leaving the new-look Lakers scratching their heads as to what occurred.
“Defensively, we were all over the place,” said Anthony Davis, whose 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 5 assists were unable to propel Los Angeles to victory. “I had the impression that they were waiting for our coverages and then pulling us apart. For some reason, this squad appears every time they hit a shot against us; they made 15 three-pointers again tonight.”
The Thunder shot 15-for-41 from 3-point range, up from 15-for-37 in their last win on Wednesday. The Lakers’ defence, which had been ranked in the top three in each of the previous two seasons under coach Frank Vogel,Frank Vogel, has continued to deteriorate. Following the Thunder defeat, the Lakers are allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions, putting them in the bottom half of the NBA (17th).
When asked about the defensive lapses, Davis stated unequivocally that the Lakers were carrying out the strategies that had been assigned to them, but the Thunder were ready to dismantle them.
“I mean, they understood what we were doing for the entire second half
and their coach or Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander]Gilgeous-Alexander], whomever it was, made the adjustment to put his players in the correct location,” Davis said. “They also fired shots.”
The game came down to the shot that Gilgeous-Alexander hit — a 34-footer from the logo with 16 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:18 left in the game clock to put the Thunder ahead by six — and the shot that Russell Westbrook missed in the last few minutes.
Westbrook drove the ball up the court and missed a 3 from the wing with 3.5 seconds remaining after Carmelo Anthony knocked two late 3s to make it a one-possession game.
Westbrook’s decision to shoot it was deemed “inadequate” by Vogel. “We’d want to take a better shot than that. The spacing was poor. We were attempting to get Melo to the top of the floor, but there wasn’t enough space.”
While the Lakers have had more than their fair share of injuries hampering their fresh start — LeBron James missed his third game of the season already, this time with an abdominal strain that will keep him out for at least another week, and Davis suffered a sprained right thumb in the first half but played through it — there is something else working against them.
Teams, regardless of record, appear to bring the competition to Los Angeles with a rigour that the Lakers appear ill-equipped to face at the moment.
“It’s something we talk about. We’re always talking about it. Just accepting and embracing the reality that people will play, that teams will play differently when they play against us “said Anthony, who scored 21 points and watched Los Angeles lose for the first time in four games in which he has scored 20 points or more. “So that isn’t the [elephant] in the room. That is not something we avoid discussing. We’re aware of it; we speak about it; we debate it.
“I mean, [DariusDarius] Bazley, you take tonight as an example, right? I don’t want to reveal his statistics, but we go over it and spy it. But he comes up against us and makes the majority of his 3s against us. As a result, it will occur. We just have to own it. We must accept this and just ensure that people’s water is turned off when the time comes.”
Bazley was 8-for-37 from deep into Thursday’s game, but he went 2-for-3 against the Lakers.
From targets on their backs to finger pointing, to a fractured thumb for Talen Horton-TuckerHorton-Tucker and now a sprained thumb for Davis, plus a slew of other ailments to projected rotation players, the problems for a Lakers squad determined to win a championship this season are increasing.
At best, it’s been a rocky start. But there’s still a lot more basketball to be played before the game is over.
When questioned about his injury problems, Westbrook responded, “It’s intriguing.” “But, you know… I’m the type of person that plays the hand you’re dealt. That is what we work with, whatever it is and whatever is accessible. We’ve never had our entire squad together – not even close.
“So we just have to accept whatever we have and make the best of it in order to compete to the best of our ability.”