The Lakers worst loss in 139 days
The Thunder came into the game 0-4 on the season, and, frankly, barely looked like a team capable of winning basketball games (obviously, the front office isn’t interested in doing so).
Somehow, the Lakers — yes, on the second leg of a back-to-back and without LeBron James, but still — coughed up the ballgame. And it got ugly.
In terms of their prospects for the 2021-22 season, I’m not here to overreact. Any split road back-to-back, especially for a team as new and short-handed as the Lakers, is a passable result. OKC fought hard and played well. Josh Giddey is, apparently, the truth.
But this was undoubtedly the ugliest Lakers performance since June 1, 2021 — Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns.
The stakes, roster, and GameCast may have been utterly different — especially sans LeBron in this game, and AD in that one — but the product was similarly unflattering. In that game, if you didn’t wipe it from your memory, the Lakers got steamrolled, 115-85. They got off to a hot start, only to begin turning the ball over, which directly led to hordes of Suns’ buckets (Los Angeles had 17 turnovers, to Phoenix’s 4).
One key difference: the Lakers were down by 30 in the first half of that game. However, the Lakers’ turnovers cropped up due to a loss of concentration and laziness — as they did in the second half in OKC.
In both games, the Lakers were plagued by their starting point guard, albeit in utterly contrasting ways. In Phoenix, Dennis Schroder put up zero points, one assist, and cost himself who knows how many millions of dollars. At the Paycom Center, Westbrook produced his first triple-double with the Lakers (20 points, 13 assists, 14 rebounds) thanks to a stellar first half — yet also racked up 10 turnovers and his decision-making got progressively worse.
“I got to take care of the ball,” Westbrook said postgame. “Too many mishaps allowed. It’s my fault. It’s on me. But I’m going to take care of it. I know that. And keep the game simple. Because we need those possessions, especially in games like this.”
Russ bricked an unnecessary three in the final minute, then was ejected with 1.5 seconds to go for overreacting to Darius Bazley’s meaningless dunk at the end of an exuberant and rare win for the Thunder.
Here's Russell Westbrook's explanation for picking up his second T for getting in Darius Bazley's face after the 21-year old's dunk in the final seconds of OKC's win over the Lakers (in a win for the anti-bat flippers!) pic.twitter.com/cq5tYicIJz
— michael corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) October 28, 2021
In both games, the Lakers failed in their execution, succumbed to carelessness, and lost their attentiveness and poise — on both ends.
On Tuesday, the Lakers took a 56-30 lead in the second quarter, and Westbrook was throwing out alley-oops like they were raffle tickets. From that point on though, they were outscored 93-59 by the upstart Thunder, made 5-of-25 from three-point range, while Westbrook was 5-of-14 from the field, mostly jumpers.
For all the chemistry issues that, naturally, still need to be sorted out with the 2021-22 squad, a veteran-laded group like this should always have the mental advantage. After all — this was a matchup between the oldest and youngest teams in the NBA.
On the plus side, it’s the beginning of a season, rather than the end. They’ll host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, hopefully with LeBron back on the court.