In a game that we'd all like to forget, the Oklahoma City Thunder barely eeked out a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, 117-113. Lou Williams scored a career-high 44 points. In other words, the Thunder continued their time-honored tradition of failing to guard random wing players from other teams. Dion Waiters certainly deserves some of the blame. But really, it was a fast paced game where the Thunder defense just couldn't quite get set most of the time. Williams had an easy time navigating with the ball around screens on the perimeter, and certainly didn't encounter any resistance from Enes Kanter at the rim.
Luckily, the Thunder were able to muster up just a little bit more talent on the offensive end. Russell Westbrook pitched in 36 points, and had no trouble creating space against Jordan Clarkson. Over the course of the final 7 plays, Westbrook scored or assisted upon 5 of them. (The other two possessions were Westbrook turnovers.) So you really have to admire Westbrook's ability to see weaknesses in the Lakers' defense when it counts. I was particularly impressed with the fact that Westbrook went to Steven Adams twice, as Westbrook recognized that the Lakers had no center in their lineup.
Kevin Durant had an impressive game as well, scoring 24 points on only 15 shots. KD definitely took advantage of his matchup with old man Bryant. Kobe was stuck around screens most of the time, as KD hit floater after floater in the lane. Even rookie Anthony Brown wasn't much of a challenge for KD. On the bench, Enes Kanter led everyone with 15 points. Considering the Lakers played no center on the bench, Kanter's production isn't much of a surprise. Rookie Cameron Payne chipped in 11, scoring points from an array of different spots on the floor. Floaters, threes, and jumpers all appear to be well within Payne's skillset.
Why did the Lakers get close?
Dion Waiters had another one of those awful games. It was really visible in the first half, when he wasted four possessions over a four minute span. But taken as a whole, there weren't a ton of positives from Dion's performance. Waiters missed a couple of open shots, and it looked bad because he was off-balance. His shots in the paint were made in traffic and ill-advised. Defensively, Waiters seemed to be the culprit on a lot of Lou Williams baskets. You could also place a microcosm of the blame on the four missed shots from Morrow, or the two missed shots from Collison. I felt Morrow was just a bit off from the perimeter, while Collison definitely forced it in traffic a couple of times. Really, the only reason I'm singling these guys out is because the Thunder's offense was so nearly flawless.
Defensively, the Thunder seemed to have a lot of issues. Roy Hibbert got 8 points during the first quarter, which completely baffled me. A lot of them just felt lucky, as an open jumper went in or Hibbert grabbed a loose ball with no one around him. Kobe Bryant scored 19 points tonight, mostly in mismatches and transition. And Jordan Clarkson poured in 17, three of which came on a halfcourt shot at the end of the first.
- Kevin Durant played 40 minutes. Blegh!
- Nick Collison contributed with some solid defense on Julius Randle. Randle was one of the few Lakers to actually miss shots, so that's kind of important.
- D'Angelo Russell went out with a sprained ankle after just 8 minutes of action.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, the closer
Thunder Down Under: Kevin Durant, the scorer
Thunder Blunder: Dion Waiters, the lost one
Thunder Plunderer: Lou Williams, the foul drawer
Next Game: At the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday, January 10th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!