The Los Angeles Lakers played one of the biggest games of their season tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff matchup. The Lakers played their final game of a three-game road trip and they needed to end the trip on a high note against one of the best teams in the league.
In the Lakers’ previous game, they routed the New Orleans Hornets and were hoping to use that momentum to trump the Thunder.
There was a lot of hype heading into tonight’s game and the Lakers needed to win in order to prove to themselves that they can compete the elite teams in the league. The crowd was excited to get the game underway and for the first time since the Western Conference Semi-Finals, the Lakers played in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Lakers began the game with a ton of energy and their offense was running quite well, but the team had trouble guarding the Thunder. Oklahoma City knocked down three three-point shots to begin the game and the team was feeding off the crowd’s energy. Even though the Thunder were making an effort to run the fast-break, the Lakers did a good job weathering the storm.
Los Angeles was able to knock down perimeter shots and Antawn Jamison continued to play well for the team. He was performing well on both ends of the court and his early seven points allowed Kobe Bryant to save his energy in the opening period. At the 5:50 mark of the quarter, the Lakers held a 15-13 lead after a 6-0 run.
The Lakers played a strong 12 minutes and the team controlled the tempo for the majority of the period. However, the Lakers lost their edge towards the end of the quarter as Russell Westbrook hit a three at the buzzer. The Lakers headed to the bench with a slim 27-26 lead and Dwight Howard led the team with eight points.
Who said the 36-year-old Jamison is too old for D’Antoni’s up-and-down system? He’s running the floor every possession w/ 7 pts already
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 8, 2012
The Lakers had their second unit on the floor to begin the period and for the most part they performed quite well. Los Angeles has not had great performances from the reserves this season, but in tonight’s game, the substitutes did a great job. Jodie Meeks slowly began to build trust in his game, and the Lakers relied on him to knock down perimeter jumpers. At the 8:30 mark of the period, the Lakers held a slight 37-35 advantage.
However, the Lakers lost their momentum as Kevin Durant sparked a run for the Thunder. Oklahoma City inserted the starters into the game and the Lakers responded by putting Bryant and Howard back on the court. Los Angeles’ transition defense began to deteriorate and the Thunder took advantage of their speed and athleticism. At the 5:48 mark of the period, the Lakers were facing a 45-40 deficit.
Turnovers began to be a big problem for the Lakers and the Thunder were in complete control of the game. Oklahoma City made a living off running in the fast-break and they constantly attacked the basket with little resistance. The offense was very stagnant and the Lakers had trouble getting any ball movement.
At the end of two quarters the Lakers faced a 15-point deficit after an explosive second quarter by the Thunder. Westbrook led the way with 27 points and Oklahoma City hit a total of eight three-pointers. As for the Lakers, Bryant led the team in scoring with 15 points, but they committed eight turnovers which hurt them dearly.
The game isn’t over, but the reality is w/o two of their four best players (and a key bench player), L.A. shouldn’t win this game. BK — Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) December 8, 2012
The Lakers didn’t do much to put a dent into the deficit in the opening minutes of the period and momentum was still on the Thunder’s side. Turnovers continued to be an issue for the Lakers and the Thunder kept on punishing the Lakers in the open-court. Los Angeles was able to make some of it shots, but the team could not do anything to prevent the Thunder from scoring.
At the 8:55 mark of the period, the Thunder were up 76-59. The Lakers did gain some momentum as the quarter progressed and Chris Duhon did a nice job knocking down his perimeter jumpers. Los Angeles needed to jumpstart its offense and Duhon provided a small spurt. However, all the euphoria came coming down and the Lakers could not get the deficit down to single digits. There was nothing the Lakers could do to stop the Thunder from the onslaught and it seemed like everything that could go wrong, went wrong.
Kobe Bryant continued to score for the Lakers and just like every other game, it felt like he was the only player that kept faith. The offense was going through Bryant and the other players just stood and allowed him to dominate. Heading into the final period, the Lakers were down 89-75 and nothing was going their way
Kobe is now 3 of 3 from 3 after hitting over the NBA’s tallest player, Thabeet, + the PF & FT to reach 25 points. But OKC up 87-72. — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 8, 2012
The outcome of the game was essentially decided before the quarter started and the coaching staff chose to insert the second unit looking for perhaps a spark. The reserves did play with some great energy but they still could not do enough to bring the Lakers back to a reasonable position. With 9:20 left in the game, the Thunder were leading 94-79 and time was quickly running out for the Lakers.
The Lakers did managed to put together a meaningful run as the quarter progressed as the cut the deficit down to 11. Los Angeles was stringing together successful possessions and players besides Bryant were finally beginning to give him some support. With 3:50 left in the game, the Lakers managed to bring the deficit to 11, 104-93.
However, it was too little too late for the Lakers and they could not complete the comeback. Los Angles was beginning to gain some momentum, but with only a few minutes left in the game, there was no way the Lakers could come away with the victory.
Tempers began to flare in the final minutes of the games as Metta World Peace and Serge Ibaka got into a little altercation. The incident could have been worse, but both sides did a great job controlling the issue.
As the final buzzer sounded the Lakers fell to the Thunder and once again failed to win on the road. Los Angeles did manage to get the game down to five points with 20 seconds left, but the Thunder to snuck away with a 114-108 win.
The Thunder are very good. They are who we thought they were.
— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) December 8, 2012