Lakers Unable to Keep Up With Thunder
It started so well for the Lakers, who bolted out to a 10-0 lead over Oklahoma City. But by the end of the night, a dispirited Kyle Kuzma was among those left searching for team identity.
“That’s not being a Laker,” Kuzma said after losing 133-96. “I’ve only been a Laker for a few months, but that’s not it.”
The rookie called this game “five steps back,” as the Lakers (11-26) fell for the eighth straight time.
The purple and gold traded blows with the Thunder (21-17), tying the game through one quarter. But their engine gave out from there.
OKC used a 37-18 second quarter to seize the lead for good.
Their three-headed monster of Paul George (24 points), Carmelo Anthony (21 points) and Russell Westbrook (20 points, 12 assists) hit tough shots when the Lakers were locked in defensively and accepted easy buckets when L.A. tuned out.
Even seldom-used rookie Terrence Ferguson hit six 3-pointers and threw down a couple highlight slams to reach 24 points.
“We just flat out kind of gave up as a team,” Kuzma said. “They took a little lead, and we just went to being selfish on the floor. We didn’t compete on defense and they killed us flat out.”
Kyle Kuzma talks about needing to play with better effort. pic.twitter.com/ybA2synAXB— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 4, 2018
Oklahoma City shot a season-high 60.2 percent from the field and made 14 3-pointers. Meanwhile, without point guard Lonzo Ball (shoulder sprain), the Lakers’ offense devolved into isolation possessions and bad shot selection.
“We need to realize that this league isn’t about offense, and this league isn’t about getting numbers and getting shots,” coach Luke Walton said. “It’s about playing basketball, playing defense and setting screens and focusing on all those little things.”
While the Lakers have owned a losing record for the whole year, their trademark has been competitive basketball in almost every game — until recently.
In six contests without Ball, they have lost by an average of 17.3 points, clearly missing a player that ranks among the NBA’s top 10 in assists, has shot well recently, rebounds among the best at his position, and competes on defense.
But regardless of personnel, Walton knows that showings like the one against the Thunder are unacceptable.
“Our fans deserve better than that,” he said, “and our organization deserves better than that.”
Were gonna figure this out promise that— kuz (@kylekuzma) January 4, 2018
Kuzma led the Lakers with 18 points. … Brook Lopez had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting off the bench in his return from injury. … George, Anthony and Westbrook combined to shoot 27-of-45. … A crowd fo 18,997 sold out Staples Center.