Another day goes by, another big man goes down to injury, another loss is added to the streak. The Oklahoma City Thunder and especially Kevin Durant showed what they think of the current Los Angeles Lakers and those preseason predictions about the best team in the Western Conference.
If you’re a Lakers hater, this has got to be the funniest and most pleasing turn of events you could have asked for when the team was being assemebled earlier this season. Now, Jordan Hill’s season is over, and the Lakers really don’t have any big men left until Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol comeback, not that things were going so well when they did.
The Thunder sat quietly and listened while so many “experts” declared the Lakers as the new team to beat in the West. For the second time this season, they’ve beaten the sad and disappointing bunch that simply is running out of excuses and explanations as to why nothing is working, and running out of time to make it work.
No one enjoyed this win more than Kevin Durant, who is also having quite a special season, in which the talks of him being one dimensional and limited in his overall game when compared to LeBron James are slowly disappearing. The NBA’s scoring champion scored 42 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and added 5 assists while shooting a very impressive 16-25 from the field, as the lack of any kind of interior defense from the Lakers simply made life too easy for the Thunder.
Having Steve Nash guarding you made life extremely easy for Russell Westbrook as well, scoring 27 points. He had a huge game on isolation plays, coring 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting on such plays. Westbrook entered the game averaging 2.9 isolation points per game, while shooting under 30%.
The Thunder made 19-of-28 shots inside five feet Friday, including 5-of-5 from Kevin Durant. Over the last three games without Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in the paint, the Lakers have allowed their opponents to make 67% of their shots from inside 5 feet, which would be the worst percentage of any defense this season.
There’s something about seeing Kobe Bryant that gets Durant going. Maybe it’s the “next great scorer” thing, maybe it’s just the current scoring race. But there’s probably more to it. Durant is as competitive as they come. His performances against James Harden this season when the Thunder met the Rockets are more proof of that.
And what about the Lakers? Nothing new. Kobe Bryant led the scoring with 28 points, but shooting only 8-23 from the field. Over the last three games, without the big men Bryant loves to ignore during his selfish offensive streaks, he’s shooting 37.7% from the field, well below his season mark of 47.2%. He may not trust them as much as he trusts himself, but the Lakers other shooting options without the two big men are Metta World Peace, finishing with 4-17 from the field and Steve Nash, who took only six shots.
There’s a real feeling of now or never for the Lakers, losing six straight games, knowing that pretty soon, if it keeps up like this, there won’t be much left to save. And that is when the real ugly things are going to start coming up. For the Thunder? They couldn’t care less, worried about their own battles with the Clippers for the number one spot in the West.
Our job is to worry about our team and our organization. It wasn’t easy. I just think we did a good job of playing team basketball defensively, and it showed. Kevin took control most of the game.