Just as we predicted in our preview, the Oklahoma City Thunder gave the Lakers a very tough test tonight that extended past regulation into an overtime period. The Thunder played aggressive and quick, and exposed many flaws in the Lakers defensive scheme. The Lakers also showed considerable weakness when the starters left the floor, as they only got six points from their second unit, all six coming from only two players. This inability to score from the bench mob will definitely cost Los Angeles when they play tougher opponents in the future. One positive aspect of the game was Ron Artest’s best game as a member of the Lakers, as he continues to improve with each passing game. Next up for Los Angeles is their first back to back set of the year, a date with Trevor Ariza and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.
First Quarter: LAL 32 OKC 25
The Lakers started off the game strong, especially young center Andrew Bynum who started off very tough and established a low post presence very early on. The Lakers jumped to a big early lead, but towards the end of the quarter Oklahoma City stormed back making it close at the end. If not for the early dominance of Andrew Bynum there is a good chance that Los Angeles could have fallen behind early and struggled to come back. Kevin Durant kept the Thunder in the game early with 12 first quarter points that really prevented the Lakers from running away with it early.
Second Quarter: LAL 20 OKC 26
A lack of defense and very poor bench production cost the Lakers in a very dismal second quarter. Oklahoma City was able to capitalize on Lakers mistakes, and there were plenty of them, to draw within a point going into the locker room. The Lakers finished with 25 turnovers, a pathetic number that will not result in very many wins. Just like the first quarter the Lakers used a heavy dose of Andrew Bynum, who scored eight points in the quarter. Oklahoma City surged ahead with the combination of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, two young stars who were able to electrify the crowd and really get the momentum in the Thunder’s favor. The upstart Thunder entered the half trailing the defending champions by a single point.
Third Quarter: LAL 19 OKC 22
The Lakers did not come out of the locker room with the type of intensity needed to put the Thunder down and quiet the rather loud crowd on hand. The game continued to be sloppy, and Phil had to resort to his starters to get the job done. At one point he did move to a mostly reserve line up, but that was short lived as the Thunder continued to press the issue. Both teams traded baskets for essentially the entire quarter, with the Thunder edging the Lakers out to lead by two after three.
Fourth Quarter: LAL 19 OKC 17
The fourth was equally as contested with the Thunder capturing the energy of their crowd and jumping out to an early lead. The Lakers would eventually pull even midway through the quarter on the efforts of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. The Lakers went away from Bynum half way through the game after an extremely successful first half, they found him again in the fourth for some easy buckets. After a Ron Artest lay-up the Lake Show took the lead in the fourth and look to have picked up the momentum. However, after a tough Kobe Bryant jumper to push the score to 90-88, Jeff Green responded on the other end with a bucket of his own to send the game into overtime.
OVERTIME: LAL 11 OKC 8
In the extra five it was Mamba time. Despite his illness, Kobe Bryant showed again why he is the game’s best, especially in the clutch. Bryant hit a later jumper, and sealed the win with two free throws, giving the Lakers the 101-98 victory over the Thunder.
Off to Houston tomorrow for the second game of their back to back mini road trip. The Lakers bench will need an improved effort in this one as the starters logged some heavy minutes tonight.