Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday night contest at Oklahoma City, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins
8:40 L.A. probably thought it couldn’t have started much worse than being down 9-2, having yet to make a shot from the field in six attempts plus two turnovers, when Kobe Bryant had to go to the locker room after doubling over in pain grabbing at his shooting arm/elbow. Trainer Gary Vitti went with him, and as we all know, Bryant doesn’t just leave the court for nothing. Moments later, we learned that it was an ulnar nerve contusion, which is essentially an injury to the funny bone. His return was officially “questionable.”
5:35 The starters combined to shoot 0 for 10, but Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison combined to hit three straight shots to pull the Lakers within six points at 17-11. Meeks hit a three, then a driving layup, and Jamison a baseline put-back of Dwight Howard’s miss. Howard, meanwhile, had grabbed at his bothersome right shoulder earlier, but stayed in.
0:00 The Lakers crept to within four after the quick burst from the bench, but saw OKC build its lead back into double digits with a 9-2 run, capped by two Derek Fisher (yup, that Fisher) free throws off the sixth Lakers turnover.
7:45 With Durant and Westbrook sitting, Bryant and Howard couldn’t take advantage, in fact allowing the Thunder bench to turn a 9-point lead into a 15-point lead when Fisher hit a triple after Nick Collison laid one in. This after Meeks hit two free technical free throws (Fisher and Durant) and Howard made his first shot in five attempts to cut it to 10 at 46-36. Nash, having just checked in, followed by missing his sixth shot in as many attempts, and Howard couldn’t get a put-back to fall.
3:37 Ulnar nerve be damned, Bryant rose to drain back-to-back three-pointers from the right wing, then hit 2 of 3 free throws while drawing Ibaka’s third foul, forcing him to join Perkins and Collison with three of their own on the OKC bench. However, with Hasheem Thabeet in, the Lakers failed to put the league’s tallest and perhaps least mobile player in screen/roll as Kobe repeatedly took shots (though he had made 5 of 9) from the right wing … at least until he tired, and Nash got a jumper, then free throws when they finally ran the pick and roll. OKC, however, was scoring too, and kept its lead around 10.
0:00 L.A. could ill afford to close the half poorly, but after they cut the lead to nine, they allowed a 7-0 run to close the half, making it 71-55. Durant have five of those points for 20 total, and must have enjoyed the 11-1 turnover line in favor of his team, a major difference maker. Meanwhile, both Nash and Howard were only 1 of 7 from the field.
5:43 L.A. was hitting shots, converting 6 of 9 as Nash got his third of the quarter to fall, but so were the Thunder, allowing the home team to maintain a 14-point lead after two free throws from Westbrook. His 25 points, eight boards and four assists in 25 minutes were more than the Lakers could handle on this night.
0:00 Overall, it was a much better third quarter for the Lakers, who outscored the Thunder 34-26 to cut the 16-point halftime lead in half. Nash was perfect from the field, making all five of his shots plus two free throws for 13 of his 17 points, while Bryant added 10 more to reach 28. Westbrook did most of OKC’s damage, hitting for 16 of his game-high 34 points, in a 97-89 lead heading into the fourth.
8:40 Despite the turnover margin remaining ridiculous (15 to 1), the Lakers remained in the game, down nine after the second triple from World Peace, the team’s 10th. L.A. had made 31 of 40 free throws, to OKC’s 19 of 20, to help them stay alive, but the task remained quite tall. Doing them no help was Fisher, up to 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting, his first points of the season for the Thunder in his third game. Yet moments later, the lead was trimmed down to only five when Nash drained a three immediately upon returning, the Thunder inexplicably leaving him open in the corner with Kobe penetrating and dishing. That came with 6:14 left.
3:41 In an absolutely killer sequence for the Lakers, Nash missed an open three – he’d been 6 for 6 in the second half – and OKC’s power forward, Ibaka, drained a corner three on the other end. That’s a six-point swing in a manner of seconds, LAL finding itself again down nine instead of cutting it to three. By the way, OKC committed its second turnover, but was still one below the franchise record for fewest TO’s against L.A., set on 4/7/12, when Phoenix had three. Two ties the NBA record.
0:00 The Ibaka three took the final wind out of LAL’s collective sail. Bryant missed consecutive shots on the other end, and the Thunder then scored six straight to cap a 9-0 run, pushing the lead back to 15 with 1:32 to play. Westbrook reached 37 points with a steal and ensuing dunk to cap it, and in the meantime, Howard had fouled out and World Peace sprained his ankle. MWP hobbled off the court, and will be a question mark for New Orleans tomorrow night. All in all, the Lakers failed to score in the final six minutes of the game, finishing like they started, with a final margin of 122-105. We’ll see you in the Crescent City tomorrow night.