Losing to the Los Angeles Lakers is quite embarassing, at least this season, and especially for a championship caliber team like the Oklahoma City Thunder. So revenge was on the mind of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook when they stepped on the floor, thinking about that recent loss. But it’s not such a noteworthy thing to do – get payback – when it’s such a bad & sad bunch of players on the other side.
There are moments that bring joy to Lakers fans this season. They’ve beaten a few formidable teams this season to give their fans those rare moments of feeling like they’ve been used to, but it’s mostly been one long year of understanding that this team was built to lose, and wait for better days, either via the draft or free agency.
So Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook huffed and puffed, and the entire build up to this game was about getting revenge. About a team with the probably MVP of this season and the most athletic point guard in the NBA going at the borderline worst of the Western conference. With that kind of fire in the belly of the Thunder, it wasn’t a very surprising outcome to see the scoreboard showing 131-102 in favor of Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 29 points each, as the Thunder blew the Lakers out of the game after the first quarter (33-19). The Lakers can hadle a run and gun game and a high pace affair. That’s pretty much the only thing you can say that Mike D’Antoni teams do well no matter who is the player that runs the floor. But aggression and physicality? That’s a different story, and the Thunder have plenty of that to show for, and were simply too dominant and focused to make it a fair fight. When a better team comes ready to play against another side that’s out there just to pass the time (and that’s pretty much been the mindset for the Lakers over the last three months), you can’t expect it not too end badly.
Westbrook added 9 assists and shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, while Serge Ibaka had a huge game inside with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks against the Lakers, finding it very difficult to handle that kind of defense, shooting only 39.4% from the field. Caron Butler, who is probably getting more minutes because of the Sefolosha injury than Brooks would had like to give him during his early days on the team, scored 11 points off the bench.
This was just a display of power over the weak. The Thunder will continue to look shaky here and there with their defense going through the motions. Without Perkins, it’s a lot more about effort and focus than just the efficiency of Brooks’ defensive strategies. When things get going early on through Westbrook and Durant, there’s not too much to worry about. But smarter, better teams than the Lakers will be able to handle the defense we see every night from the Thunder, needing more from Durant and Westbrook in terms of their commitment and focus than what they’re usually willing to give on that end of the floor.