The Quick Hit: It was supposed to be case of master versus student. It has become a case of student challenging master.
Quite simply, the Los Angeles Lakers, with all their star power and glitz, were expected to handle the talented but inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder. After all, the Lakers had that Larry O’Brien swagger; the Thunder were unproven upstarts.
Well, throw the script out the window. On Thursday evening, the Thunder not only beat the Lakers 101-96, they exposed the defending champions for the world to see.
The old legs of the Lakers struggled against the young legs of the Thunder. Russell Westbrook blew by veteran Derek Fisher and attacked the basket at will; Serge Ilbaka was active in the middle; and Kevin Durant’s length gave Kobe Bryant fits on both ends of the floor.
The purple-and-gold were once again unbalanced and out-of-rhythm offensively. In game two, Bryant scored 24 points, but took 29 shots, while Fisher and Gasol each tallied 17 points on a combined 12-for-20 from the floor. As usual, the bench struggled.
Meanwhile, Westbrook’s 27 points kept things close and provided Durant time to work out his early shooting kinks. James Harden – perhaps, the NBA’s most efficient scorer – had 18 points on 4-of-7 shooting. While the rest of the Thunder didn’t have strong offensive nights, they chipped in with inspired defense and timely rebounds.
The biggest issue for the Lakers is focus. Instead of dealing with Oklahoma City in a professional manner like a past world champion should, they’ve been distracted and unconfident. For instance, after building a significant lead in game three, they sat back when they should’ve been pressing for the knockout.
Of course, inconsistent play is nothing new for these Lakers. All year, they’ve turned it on and off; however, this eventually caught up to them in the second half of the season. And it caught up to them in game two and game three against Oklahoma City.
The Lakers need to find their focus and soon. If they don’t, the student may do more than challenge the master.
Got thoughts on the Lakers and the Thunder? Get at us in the comment box below. Photo courtesy of jshuyn.