Who are these Lakers? There were only eight of them: old guys, D-League castoffs, and Chris Kaman. And yet they thoroughly dominated the Thunder for three quarters, shooting over 50 percent and taking a ten-point lead — it had been as much as fifteen — into the fourth.
Halfway through that frame, Los Angeles had rolled up nine turnovers, and the Thunder got their first lead of the game. The Lakers would not, however, go away willingly; with 22 seconds left, Kaman slid past Serge Ibaka for a bucket, but missed the and-one opportunity that would have tied the game. With 11 seconds left, it was Thunder 107, Lakers 103; Los Angeles had one more possession, but the ball ended up in Reggie Jackson’s hands, and Jackson calmly dribbled it out.
Six of the eight Lakers hit double figures, but none made it to 20: Kaman and Wesley Johnson had 19 each, and Kaman added 10 rebounds for the double-double. Most impressive, at least to me, was Kendall Marshall, a second-year man starting at the point for L.A., who turned in a stirring performance, scoring 14 and delivering 17 assists.
Against all that, what could the Thunder bring? The answer, as seemingly always, is Kevin Durant, who knocked down 19 points in that fourth quarter, finishing with 43. Oh, and 12 rebounds too. What the Thunder did best was take away the ball: L.A. wound up with 22 turnovers, 14 of which were steals by the Thunder. (Jeremy Lamb had four of them, along with 11 points, before fouling out.) And there were eight blocks, five by Ibaka.
One question, at least, was settled: does this ragtag collection of misfits deserve to call themselves Lakers? Damn right they do.
And the season is “halfway” over: it’s the All-Star break. See you on the other side.