Just when the Los Angeles Lakers looked they had things figured out, they ran into a real team.
The Oklahoma City Thunder continued their recent dominance over the former kings of the West, winning 122-105 on Tuesday while taking the season series from Kobe Bryant and the boys 3-1.
Once again, it was a case of too much talent, too much speed and it was all simply too much for the Lakers to handle as one of the league’s worst defenses got spanked again, allowing more than 110 points for the 15th time this season and for the third time against OKC.
Russell Westbrook led the charge for the Thunder, scoring 37 points while collecting 10 rebounds and dishing out five assists. Kevin Durant added 26 points of his own as the Thunder cruised by the aging and ailing Lakers in the final quarter.
However, the story turned out to be less about how good the Thunder were and how the Lakers simply failed to measure up. The Lakers, who came into the game as winners of seven of their last 10, had people talking playoffs again, but they still had something to prove against one of the West’s best. Instead of proving they could contend, the Lakers proved they were not worthy of such company. The Lakers are now 1-11 on the road against teams that currently hold Western Conference playoff positions.
Though Bryant put forth a valiant effort, scoring 30 points, he added another injury to the Lakers’ growing heap as he went to the locker room with pain in his right elbow.
“Every time you try to bend your elbow or extend it, there’s a little resistance and there’s a lot of pain,” Bryant said, according to ESPN.com.
The Thunder had no sympathy to offer L.A.
“Kobe didn’t look hurt to me,” Durant said. “We’re not going to feel sorry for them. If they’re out there playing, then they can play. Kobe looked fine. Dwight (Howard) looked fine.”
And a few years ago when the Lakers were in the dominant position in the West, they would have done the same. The Lakers never let other teams have excuses, so why should anyone feel sorry for the team that has so dramatically underachieved this season?
At 30-31, the Lakers are currently two and a half games back of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot. They certainly have the talent to get there, but their aging, injury-ridden roster might not have enough fuel in the tank. For now, I wouldn’t too much faith, or stock in the Lakers reaching the postseason.