The Lakers tip off a four-game road trip in Oklahoma City against one of the NBA’s best in the Thunder. The Lakers have lost their first two games since Kobe Bryant returned from his Achilles injury and now must make more rotation changes with Steve Blake being sidelined for six weeks.
The Thunder continue to be one of the best teams in the league thanks to the consistent greatness of Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook made a much quicker than expected return from a torn ACL and the Thunder are full of young players capable of making an impact. It will be a tough road for the Lakers to win one on the road.
Sloppy play from both teams started the game before Westbrook got the scoring going with a three pointer. Wesley Johnson had steal and dunk followed by another transition layup. Meeks hit a nice reverse layup and the Lakers took an early 10-7 lead. Durant made Johnson look silly in blowing by him for a dunk, followed by a Durant jumper and a Westbrook fast break dunk and the Thunder quickly tied the game. Thunder had a 12-1 run to take a five point lead, but Gasol worked one of his best post moves of the season for a nice basket over Kendrick Perkins.
The Thunder’s speed and athleticism was absolutely killing the Lakers as they are in the midst of an 18-3 run that pushed the lead to nine. Bryant had a nice steal and layup to cut the lead to five, but an Ibaka offensive rebound and put back followed by a Durant four-point play and the Thunder lead by 11. The Thunder flirted with 40 points in the first quarter. The Lakers struggled defensively but Young somehow kept the Lakers within striking distance and the Thunder led 38-28 after the first.
Lakers did not start the quarter well as Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb scored five quick points. Wesley Johnson hit a big three-pointer, but Jackson answered with a jumper of his own. Durant blocked Henry’s layup and hit a three on the other end followed by a Westbrook transition layup giving the Thunder an 18-point lead. Kobe came back in the game with about five minutes left and found Shawne Williams for an easy jumper. Bryant would then hit Gasol for a short jumper to cut the lead to 14 as the Lakers continued to try and fight. Henry almost slamed it home over Perkins and the shot still fell in plus the foul. At the end of the half and the Lakers trail 66-51.
The Thunder scored the first six points of the third before Meeks hit a three to start the scoring. Defense and rebounding continued to kill the Lakers as the Thunder got every shot they wanted. Bryant started out a little more aggressive in this quarter as he barely missed a couple of jumpers, but passed the ball nicely and hit Jordan Hill for a big dunk. Despite being clearly outmatched, the Lakers continued to play hard and compete, but the turnovers continued to plague them as some of Bryant’s passes were tough or impossible to handle. Westbrook continued his great game with a couple of nice assists that basically put the game out of reach. Henry took a hard fall at the end of the quarter but hit two free throws to end the quarter as the Lakers trailed by 20.
Chris Kaman entered the game for the first time in nine games to start the quarter. The Thunder put their bench in to start the quarter, but the results remained the same. Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson got to the paint at will to start the quarter as the lead grew to 27. The Lakers rebounding woes continued as even the Thunder bench players controlled the offensive glass. Henry took another hard fall but stayed in the game and Perry Jones threw down a vicious slam. Kaman hit a jumper to register his first points. The Thunder with some more offensive rebounds leading to a basket. Despite the deficit, and hard falls taken, Henry continued to attack the basket with reckless abandon. During a timeout Bryant left the bench to go into the locker room early. Ryan Kelly got some action and scored a layup and a block but the Lakers were far out of this game as the Thunder won 122-97.
The Kobe Prelude Experience: Prelude 1