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Lakers 105, Thunder 96

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:45 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Sunday’s loss to the Lakers.

  • Kevin Durant knew the Thunder was walking into a game against a desperate team. And that’s exactly how the Lakers played Sunday. Desperate. Everything to gain. Nothing to lose.
  • “You could tell, the whole arena felt that way,” Durant said. “They needed a win. It was a must win for them, and they came out and performed well.”
  • Dwight Howard certainly didn’t deny it. “We are desperate,” Howard said. “We can’t keep losing. From now on, we can only go up. We’ve been at the bottom. So now we just got to look up and get up.”
  • Thunder players have known all season that opposing teams will look at them as a possible pick-me-up. A win against the Thunder, Durant has repeatedly said, can turn around a team’s season. But the Thunder just couldn’t do enough to slow down the Lakers and stop them from notching this win.
  • L.A. shot an opponent-high 55.4 percent from the floor, got six players in double digits and simply dominated in crunch time.
  • After the game, everyone with the Thunder tried to stay positive. But that positivity reeked of spin. The defense was the worst it has been all year (statistically), yet nobody seemed to want to own it.
  • Scott Brooks: “Defensively, they shot too high of a percentage. We got to do a better job of that. That’s what we pride ourselves on game in and game out. And 55 percent, considering through the other 40-something games teams average 43 percent on us…so they shot the ball well.”
  • Russell Westbrook: “I think we were in good shape. They just made some tough shots and got to the line a lot.”
  • Durant: “They hit some tough shots. Our first thing is to protect the paint and peel out after that. They were hitting some tough shots.”
  • Brooks, though, told it like it was when talking about Kobe Bryant. “Kobe picked us apart,” Brooks said. “Fourteen assists back-to-back games. I don’t know if he’s ever had that before. But that tells you how great he is.”
  • Bryant finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and 14 assists, the second straight game he had 14 assists. He scored or assisted on 12 of the Lakers’ final 19 points after checking back into the game with 7:03 left to play.
  • After the game, the locals were calling him “Kobe Johnson,” a nickname that’s a tribute to Magic Johnson and one Bryant playfully embraced on Twitter after dishing 14 assists against Utah.
  • Bryant had an assist to six different teammates, producing the Lakers’ balance and, consequently, giving the Thunder headaches.
  • It’s not just that the Thunder couldn’t cover anyone on the Lakers. OKC couldn’t score very efficiently on them either. Much of that seemed to stem from stubbornly being stuck in a two man offense.
  • Durant and Westbrook took 52 percent of the Thunder’s shots and scored 54 percent of the points. The two-man game is never preferred. This time, it wasn’t pretty. The two combined to shoot 16-for-48 from the field and missed seven of their 10 3-point attempts.
  • Westbrook started the game missing his first eight shots and finished 6-for-22 from the field. It was the culmination of a brutal road trip for Westbrook in terms of accuracy. On this six-game trip, he made just 47 of 127 shots, just 37 percent.
  • Westbrook did have 13 assists and nine rebounds.
  • Russ’ 27 assists in the last two games are his most ever in any two-game span.
  • Bryant and Westbrook both entered the fourth quarter needing just one rebound for triple-doubles. Neither got it. Had they both grabbed that last board, they would have become the first players since Baron Davis and Caron Butler in November 2007 to have triple-doubles in the same game.
  • Thunder players either hate talking about the Lakers, or they just didn’t want to add to the narrative. Either way, responses to questions about the Lakers (even inquires that had to do with the game) were short and sort of testy.
  • Westbrook on if the win could turn around the Lakers season: “I’m not worried about the Lakers.”
  • Durant when asked the same question: “Who knows? And who really cares about them? It’s all about us. We’re focusing on us. They got a good win.”
  • Thabo Sefolosha on the challenge of covering the Lakers when Kobe is more of a facilitator: “I don’t know. This is their problem. This is their team. I think they played well tonight and that’s all.”
  • Kendrick Perkins won this latest battle with Howard. Consider the season record split.
  • Westbrook and Kobe got into it early in the third quarter, and (amazingly) it resulted in a technical foul on Kobe. Bryant pushed Westbrook in the back after he tried to steal the ball from behind. Westbrook responded by turning and shoving Bryant back. Westbrook after the game: “He pushed me. That’s what happened. I just got pushed. I don’t mind talking, but I don’t like nobody putting their hands on me.”
  • Westbrook proceeded to talk trash to all of Section 111.
  • I would have liked to have seen Durant stay on Bryant in the home stretch. Kobe hit one jumper on Durant and had two assists while Durant checked him before Thabo returned. But maybe KD’s length could have had an impact on Kobe.
  • Not only did Thabo not far any better (and maybe even worse), but the Thunder didn’t have any scorers to turn to after Brooks replaced Kevin Martin with Sefolosha. Westbrook and Durant couldn’t buy a bucket, combining to go 4-for-12 in the fourth, and no one else on the court for the Thunder was a threat.
  • Durant and Serge Ibaka are barking at each other more and more. The two clearly are not on the same page for whatever reason, and their frustration with the other is showing. After one miscommunication, Durant tried to iron out the issue with Ibaka and Ibaka just waved him off. This continues a string of games in which the two have chewed each other out and had to be told to cut it out, if not be separated. “We’re just trying to help each other out. At the end of the day, that’s all we’re trying to do,” Durant said. “It’s times when I mess up and he tells me. It’s times when he messes up and I tell him. We both got to do a better job of responding to each other and just helping each other out.”
  • I then asked Durant if it’s defensive issues or offensive. “It’s both ends,” he said. “I think it goes back to us wanting to be so perfect. Sometimes we both got to just calm down and play the game.”
  • Brooks on not intentionally fouling Howard, who was 2-for-10 from the line tonight, in the fourth quarter: “I thought it was one possession we could have done it. But I don’t think it was called for at that time. At that point it was a couple of points game. One stop and score and we’d cut it to two.”
  • That stop never came.
  • You would have thought the Lakers won Game 1 of the NBA Finals the way their fans rejoiced at the final buzzer.
  • The Thunder went 3-3 on this six-game trip and played, maybe, seven good quarters. Three of those came against the Kings. That’s alarming. So too is the Thunder yielding 106 points and 46.6 percent shooting on this trip.
  • Up next. Memphis on Thursday.

-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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