The Los Angeles Lakers have not played very well on the road this season and they had one of their biggest tests tonight in Oklahoma City. Once again, the young Thunder team is one of the best squads in the NBA and well above .500, a mark the Lakers were looking to reach by the end of the game.
Ever since returning from the All-Star break, the Lakers have vastly improved and are looking like a playoff team. Los Angeles has had some success against the Thunder this season and it was looking to steal a win on the road in front of a hostile crowd.
The Lakers had a slow start to the game and they struggled on both ends of the court. Los Angeles looked very sluggish in its offense set and the team had trouble stopping the Thunder from running the fast break. Oklahoma City quickly jumped to a 7-0 lead and momentum was completely on its side.
To make matters worse, Kobe Bryant left the game early in the first quarter in what appeared to be a right elbow injury. By the looks of it, the setback seemed serious as Bryant does not leave the court very often no matter how banged up his body is.
Kobe Bryant’s headed to the locker room after aggravating a sore right elbow. #Lakers
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) March 6, 2013
The game continued on and the Lakers still could not find any flow to their play. The team could not get anything going on the offensive end and there was no continuity when it had the basketball. On the other end of the court, the Lakers allowed the Thunder to get anywhere on the floor and the explosive opponent was attacking the basket at will.
Bryant ended up returning to the game later in the period, but his presence didn’t do much to help the Lakers cut into the deficit. At the end of 12 minutes, the Lakers were facing an 11-point hole, 37-26. The Lakers’ defense in the first quarter was nearly non existent and the team had trouble gaining any sort of momentum.
Despite the fact that the Thunder did not have Kevin Durant on the court to open the quarter, the Lakers were unable to capitalize and climb out of the hole. Oklahoma City continued to play well on the offensive end and it did a great job limiting the Lakers on both sides of the court. The Lakers seemed disinterested in the second period and with 8:51 remaining in the half, they were down 46-32.
Nothing was going right for Los Angeles and the team lost complete control of the game. The Thunder never lifted its foot off the gas pedal and continued to punish the Lakers from the paint and perimeter. It seemed like every player on Oklahoma City found a way to break up the Lakers’ defense and that led to easy looks all over the court.
Nevertheless, the Lakers finally began to knock down some of their shots and the surge was led by Kobe Bryant. Even though Bryant was dealing with an arm injury, he sparked the Lakers with his perimeter shooting. Los Angeles was getting nice looks on its possessions, but it could not do much to stop the Thunder from scoring, preventing any sort of run from occurring.
After two quarters of play, the Lakers were down 71-55 after allowing the Thunder to shoot 52 percent from the field. Bryant led the Lakers in scoring with 18 points, but as a team they committed 11 turnovers whereas the Thunder only had one.
The Lakers started the second half pretty well and they were able to knock down shots that weren’t falling in the first two quarters. The offense was running very smoothly and the Lakers were slowly gaining some momentum. Even though the team faced a double digit deficit, the Lakers were getting clean looks near the basket and on the perimeter. At the 9:22 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 77-64.
Los Angeles hung around as the period progressed and the team began to play much better on the offensive end. Although the Lakers still had problems preventing the Thunder from attacking the basket, their defensive intensity was much higher than it was in the previous half.
12 point game after Kobe’s two free throws. 81-69 with 7:30 left in the 3rd.
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) March 6, 2013
The Lakers began to chip away at the deficit and the tempo of the game favored their style of play. Oklahoma City was no longer running in the open court and that allowed the Lakers to get themselves back into striking distance. With just three minutes left in the third quarter, the Lakers were down just six, 85-79.
After 36 minutes of play, Los Angeles faced an eight point deficit, 97-89.
Kobe Bryant was on the bench to begin the fourth quarter and the Lakers had trouble getting baskets with their star player off the court. The team had the chance to put a serious dent into the deficit in the opening minutes of the period, but former Laker Derek Fisher hit a timely basket and the Thunder regained a 13-point lead, 104-91.
However, the Lakers found a groove on offense as time went by and they eventually cut the deficit down to six after a Metta World Peace three. Still, even though the Lakers were able to hit their open looks they were doing very little to stop the Thunder from scoring. Whenever the Lakers hit a much needed basket, they allowed the Thunder to trout down the court and respond with field goal of their own.
OKC inexplicably left Steve Nash open for a 3-pointer. Kobe kicked it out, Nash drained it, lead down to 5.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 6, 2013
The Lakers had an opportunity to make it a one possession game, but due to their ill advised shot attempts, the team was unable to do so. Oklahoma City increased its defensive pressure and that prevented the Lakers from getting clean looks at the basket. As a result, Los Angeles settled with tough shots and eventually trailed by nine, 114-105, with 2:49 left to play.
Oklahoma City ran away in the final minutes of the game and the Lakers could not stop the onslaught. The Thunder sealed the victory after a Russell Westbrook fast break dunk and the Lakers players knew they lost their chance to grab a win.
As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers walked off the court losers 122-105.