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Lakers 90, Thunder 87

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: February 27, 2011

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s loss to L.A.

  • The Thunder played an excellent opening period. OKC jumped out to a 12-2 run and showed early it was ready to compete for 48 minutes, whether shorthanded or not. A 28-22 lead was the result.
  • Thabo Sefolosha’s defense on Kobe Bryant was outstanding. Sefolosha made Bryant work for everything he got. He forced him into an air-ball, which ended up in a Lakers shot clock violation. He stripped Bryant following a pump fake. And he was a pest in the passing lanes, coming up with another steal on an entry pass into Kobe at the high post. What shouldn’t go overlooked is the job Thabo did on Kobe off the ball as well. Sefolosha denied entry passes extremely well, and once Kobe gave it up Thabo rarely allowed him to get it back. It took Bryant right out of the offense.
  • My question is where has this level of defense been from Sefolosha all season?
  • Bryant finished with 17 points on 8-for-22 shooting.  He had seven assists by also four turnovers.
  • Here’s a shocker. Kobe didn’t attempt a single free throw. That happened only once this year, in the Lakers’ road loss to Cleveland. You’d have to go back to last season to find the last time Bryant didn’t take at least one foul shot and the Lakers won. He pulled that feat in back-to-back games against Washington and San Antonio on March 21 and March 24
  • The Thunder scored 31 points in the second half. OKC made 12 of 40 shots (30 percent) and turned the ball over 10 times. The turning point came early in the third quarter. The Thunder came out of the locker room playing selfish basketball. The ball movement dried up, and too many players went into hero made, taking bad shots and forcing one-on-one plays. It completely killed the team’s rhythm.
  • The Thunder scored just 13 points in the third quarter, when it made just five of 22 shots. There was a stretch late where I would have loved to see Nate Robinson get some burn. The guy can be instant offense and is capable of igniting a team and the crowd.
  • Once again, late game execution on offense was a problem. The Thunder scored just three points in the final 3 1/2 minutes. Over that same span, the Thunder had three turnovers. The one bucket the Thunder did get was a 3-pointer from Russell Westbrook.
  • The final minute was discouraging. Kevin Durant had a Ron Artest strip the ball from him with 49.9 seconds left and the Thunder down three. And when Bryant missed a jumper, Serge Ibaka secured the rebound to give the Thunder another chance. Westbrook then dribbled around like a chicken with his head cut off before barrelling down the lane for a charge. And when Lamar Odom missed two free throws, the Thunder wasted two more chances to tie when Durant missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and James Harden misfired on a trey following a tap out by Nick Collison.
  • Something will have to change in these late-game opportunities between now and playoff time. If not, that one aspect could be a big problem.
  • A lot of questions about why Daequan Cook wasn’t in for Sefolosha for the final possession. I didn’t ask coach Scott Brooks that. Historically, Brooks likes to have Sefolosha inbound the ball because he’s good at it.
  • Cole Aldrich got the nod over newcomer Nazr Mohammed as the first big off the bench. It was a surprise move. I just knew Brooks would opt for Mohammed to back up Collison. But, boy, it’s a good thing he didn’t. Aldrich was as good as we’ve ever seen him. He had about three boards, a block and a steal in roughly five minutes. His energy on defense and on the boards was a pleasant surprise. At this point, it’s all about baby steps for Aldrich. And we saw him take a few today.
  • How do you like this from Kobe on Kendrick Perkins: “Kendrick provides a big body for them and he is the best low post defender we have in the game.”
  • Durant’s struggles against the Lakers continued. He had 21 points on 20 shots. When asked what is it about his defense against Durant, Artest dug through a bag, pulled out a shoe, raised it and smiled. “It’s got to be the shoes,” Artest said.
  • The Thunder is the fifth highest scoring team in the league. Without Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic in the last two games, OKC scored 88 and 87 points.
  • Harden was ultra aggressive attacking the paint early. He’s been looking for his more often lately. And he is so much better when he’s doing that. He’s ordinary when he camps around the perimeter and reduces himself to a spot-up shooter.
  • Cook is stroking it with incredible confidence right now. When he touches it, he lets it fly. And when he lets it go, his form and rotation are beautiful. Even most of he misses look good.
  • Too many Lakers fans in the building for my liking. Where did they all come from? Someone on Twitter told me that the season ticket holders who sit next to him sold their seats for this game to some Lakers fans. That’s terrible.
  • The “Beat L.A.” chant with a minute remaining was awesome. It never gets old.
  • How about Collison’s left-handed putback dunk midway through the second quarter? Wonder who was more surprised, the Lakers or Collison.
  • The move Westbrook put on Bryant with 4 1/2 minutes left in the third was just ridiculous. After a steal, Westbrook gathered the ball near the top of the key and darted the other way. When Bryant reached in near halfcourt, Westbrook wrapped the ball around his back, leaving Bryant looking silly before dashing in for a breakaway dunk.
  • Westbrook knew the play was great. He couldn’t keep from smiling after the slam. But here’s the best part. Westbrook said that was his first time dunking with his left hand.
  • The Thunder is on its first three-game losing streak. It only took 58 games.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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