Yikes. Where to even begin. The Oklahoma City Thunder have won two games. Both have come against the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. held leads of 19 or more in each one.
LeBron James played in neither game. Still, the Lakers — the oldest, most accomplished team in the NBA — should beat the league's youngest group, especially at home.
“Early leads mean nothing in the modern NBA,” Frank Vogel said. “You gotta play four quarters.”
The Lakers thought Russell Westbrook would solve their biggest Achilles' heel in recent years: playing winning basketball with LeBron off the court — and would ease the burden on the 19-year veteran.
In the three games without James, the Lakers needed overtime to defeat the 2-6 San Antonio Spurs, squandered a 26-point lead in Oklahoma City, and, on Thursday, let a 19-point lead to the Thunder slip away at Staples Center. The humiliating 107-104 loss dropped Los Angeles to 5-4.
LeBron will be out for at least one week with a strained abdomen.
“We still gotta play basketball,” Anthony Davis said. “He's a key to our team, but he's gonna be out. … We still have enough pieces to win basketball games.”
This should motivate Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers moving forward if they want that 'chip 👀 pic.twitter.com/DQqgN1pt7b
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) November 5, 2021
Let's recap the wildness of what seems like the Lakers' umpteenth consecutive dramatic game.
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10 crazy things from Lakers' loss to Thunder
Westbrook was superb in San Antonio, but his crunch-time miscues have been glaring.
Last Wednesday vs. OKC, Westbrook lost his poise as his team crumbled. He turned the ball over 10 times and bricked an ill-advised 3-pointer in the final moments. Afterward, he promised to be more responsible with his decision-making.
Since then, he largely backed those words up.
Thursday was a bit of déjà vu. With 25 seconds left and the Lakers down 103-101, Russ unnecessarily barreled into the paint and lost control of the ball — a killer turnover. On the next play, he inexcusably lost his man on the Thunder's inbounds.
Fans are wondering what Russell Westbrook was doing here? 🤔pic.twitter.com/9FpZZeNyDS
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 5, 2021
On the final possession, he zoomed into a 3 with 3.5 seconds left. Brick. Ballgame.
Não tinha o que fazer aqui não, foram pra cima do Melo no bloqueio, méritos pra defesa de OKC que conseguiu EXATAMENTE o que queriam:
Deixar o Westbrook arremessar de 3… https://t.co/oxRSDXHVUE
— Coast to Coast Brasil | NBA (@brasilcoast2) November 5, 2021
“Not good. You want to get a better shot than that,” Frank Vogel said.
Westbrook nailed three of his first four triples and hit three beautiful bank shots from the wing. Consequently, he got too comfy with the J and stopped attacking.
“We gotta continue to have him touch the paint and create as much as possible.”
The Russell Westbrook experience:
— 27 points
— 6 rebounds
— 5 assists
— A late turnover
— Inexplicably leaving his man for dagger layup
— A missed game-winning three pic.twitter.com/fayXeN0ax4
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 5, 2021
Carmelo Anthony's IcyHot shooting
Anthony was Prime/Olympics/Hoodie and now Staples Melo for three quarters — sending the bench and arena into a frenzy with each triple. His defense, rebounding, and passing were helpful.
As the game heated up, he cooled down. Melo missed his first five shots in the fourth, and, frankly, didn't come close to making any of them. (The downside to his popularity at Staples is that each miss feels like a letdown.)
But then! He nailed two 3s in the final 4o seconds. He finished with 21 points on 5-of-10 from distance — his fourth home game this season with at least 20 points and five 3s. Unfortunately …
Melo hurt his right hand after a shot contest nicked him with 1:51 to go. He was visibly in pain.
On the next play, Compromised Melo forgot to play D. Then, he tried a layup that would be impossible for Kyrie Irving. (And didn't use his good hand!)
These were the 3 biggest possessions of the game imo. One features Carmelo rotating late, the other spotlights Carmelo refusing to rotate at all, and following that up with a circus shot on an injured hand. pic.twitter.com/nIya2x0VpG
— Check out @FirstBallotPod (@GotEm_Coach) November 5, 2021
The Lakers are the more seasoned team in basketball. Yet, their late-game choices (without LeBron) have been confounding.
Lu Dort, Melo get into it
Melo and Lu Dort got into a mini-skirmish as the game was tensing up. On the plus side, unlike vs. Phoenix or in the prior OKC showdown, though, the Lakers kept it together (kinda).
Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley drain wild 3s
If the Lakers squeezed out this W, it would have largely been thanks to massive treys from Bradley and Reaves — both of whom were on the court for their D.
Bradley hit a tough 3 with 3:26 to cut the Thunder lead from five. Reaves ripped a 26-footer to cut a six-point margin to three with 1:08 left. Solid players, but this is not the Lakers' recipe for success.
Before the first-half buzzer, Davis — who has been dealing with ankle soreness and was pinballing his body around — got tangled with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He keeled over in pain.
Anthony Davis got tangled up chasing a rebound right before halftime and seemed to be in a lot of pain before the Lakers headed to the locker room pic.twitter.com/AgizLs5sYn
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) November 5, 2021
Davis reentered the game a minute into the third quarter, though was diagnosed him with a right thumb sprain. He played with a wrap on his hand.
Davis was dominant in the first half — 18 points, 12 rebounds — including 14 points in the first period. In the second half, he was 3-of-7.
Afterward, AD said he “really couldn't move” it at first and it swelled up. He tersely said it was “fine,” but didn't commit to playing vs. the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. “We'll see how it feels.”
In the fourth quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander (28 points and six dimes) was, by far, the best player on the court. The 23-year-old (younger than HBK) calmly capitalized on the Lakers' increased double-teams and created open looks for his teammates.
He made a slew of impressive, ballsy buckets, culminating in his pull-up dagger from the logo with 1:16 left.
LOGO SHAI! 😤https://t.co/UCerBfq7nv
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 5, 2021
Shai beats the quadruple team 🪙@shaiglalex ➡️ @luthebeast pic.twitter.com/wwn8Zo7ADY
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 5, 2021
Muscala played seven minutes. In crunch time, though, the former Laker made his presence felt and Lakers fans more nauseous. He scored six huge points out of nowhere. Ouch.
Vogel's regrettable moves
In addition to Westbrook, Vogel took the brunt of the flak on #LakersTwitter due to his decision to pull Russ and AD for three key minutes of the fourth quarter. He had Melo join for the last two.
The offense sputtered under the stewardship of Rajon Rondo (zero points in 15 minutes), and the Lakers' 84-78 lead was just 84-83 by the time the stars came back in. It was brutal.
“We missed a lot of layups and a lot of open 3s,” Vogel said. “We're getting good looks. … You gotta rely on your defense, and it wasn't enough.”
Not his best night.
The Lakers' defense was awful in the 4th quarter
Except for the aforementioned timely 3s, the Lakers couldn't do anything right in the fourth quarter, and it wasn't all on Vogel. The Lakers' defense, again, collapsed. They allowed 35 points in the final period.
“Defensively we were all over the place,” Davis said. “They knew what we were doing. I feel like they were waiting on our coverages and were just picking us apart.”
(Well, maybe some of that is on Vogel.)
“That's a game we should win. We all feel that way right now. Disappointed in that fourth quarter,” Vogel said. “We have big picture patience but small picture sense of urgency.”
In the small picture, the Lakers visit Portland on Saturday — without LeBron and, possibly, without AD.