The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a difficult defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, dropping their season record to 15-29. The game was never really in doubt as the Thunder cruised to win 114-90 against an injury-shredded Lakers team.
They began the night was already missing starting point guard Lonzo Ball, then lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Achilles strain) and Kyle Kuzma (hand) at various points in the game. Brandon Ingram also tweaked the ankle he sprained that previously kept him out two games.
Still, despite a depleted roster, head coach Luke Walton expected the Lakers team to adapt to their challenges. Specifically, he was disappointed that they allowed the Thunder to steamroll them physically. The Thunder dominated the boards 54-30, including an unacceptable 21 offensive rebounds.
Afterwards, Walton voiced his displeasure with the effort, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We weren’t tough. They beat us up. No matter how hard you play, we didn’t play well tonight, but if you’re physically going to get beat like we did, the way Adams was doing whatever he wanted out there on the floor, we’re not really giving ourselves a chance to win that game. Obviously, we’re shorthanded, you lose people, that’s disheartening, but that was part of them just being more physical than we were.”
Unfortunately, Walton is spot-on with his assessment that the Lakers weren’t willing or able to stand up to the bigger, stronger Thunder. Steven Adams alone had seven offensive rebounds, which was one more than the entire Lakers team collected.
Walton couldn’t pinpoint the source of his team’s lack of grit over their past two losses:
“We’ve got to realize when you play certain teams, like Memphis two nights ago, OKC, Minnesota, these are big, strong men. We’ve got to be ready to fight. Unfortunately, we weren’t tonight. … I’m not sure what it is. For a lot of the season, we’ve been a really good rebounding team. Normally, rebounding is where you see if a team is playing with an edge or tough or not. We’ve been pretty good this season as far as being a rebounding team. Not sure why the last two games have been the way they have. Hopefully this is something we can fix shortly.”
There are plenty of things off the basketball court to occupy the young Lakers’ minds, whether it be a fresh injury to a teammate or the looming trade deadline. The bottom line, however, is that if they want to have success on the basketball court they have to be prepared to fight for it regardless of who is in uniform.
With the season past the halfway mark, Walton will have to find a way to toughen up his team fast.
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