Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2012

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night, and while the road team made it extremely interesting late, they couldn't muster a comeback and pull out the victory.

    Coming into this matchup, the Lakers had lost two of their last three, while the Thunder were riding a six-game winning streak. OKC came out in this one and looked like the more aggressive team, and while the first quarter was closely contested, the second period proved to be the turning point.

    The Thunder were far more efficient than their opponents, outscoring Los Angeles 41-26 in the second quarter alone. In the first half, they shot 54.3 percent from the field, converted 72.7 percent of their shots from behind the arc and had 26 points in fast-break situations.

    An unfortunate theme for the Lakers was not getting back on defense. Oklahoma City was willing to get out and run, and excelled in making long-distance passes that led to easy baskets. 

    The Lakers teased their fans about half way through the third quarter with a few key stops and consecutive buckets, but the will of Kobe Bryant wasn't enough to turn momentum in their favor.

    L.A.'s fourth-quarter struggles have been the talk of the NBA world as of late, but this time we saw a late-game performance that sparked a comeback instead of allowing one.

    Unfortunately for the struggling Lakers, it proved to be too little, too late, as the Thunder took this one 114-108.

Starting Point Guards

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    Russell Westbrook, PG, OKC : A

    Russell Westbrook looked like he was on a mission in this game, as he was easily the most aggressive player on either side from the start. 

    The first quarter alone saw him score 13 points, finish above the rim with a monster jam and hit 3-of-4 from behind the three-point line, including a last-second shot from deep. He finished the half with 27 points and a career-high five three-pointers.

    Westbrook's willingness to attack the rim showed what kind of a player he can be when he puts his head down and drives into the paint.

    He quieted down in the second half, which is the only reason he doesn't earn a perfect grade, but his 33 points and eight assists are good enough to earn some serious recognition.

    Chris Duhon, PG, LA: C+

    Chris Duhon was overshadowed by Russell Westbrook in this one. The Lakers' temporary starting point guard finished the game with 14 points with four makes from beyond the arc. He was also a big part of the run that sparked the late-game comeback.

    The biggest issue was clearly on the defensive end. There was virtually no stopping Westbrook in this one, as his size and athleticism made it nearly impossible for Duhon to contain him. 

    Duhon played 36 minutes in this game, but it wasn't until OKC's defense let up late that he made a significant impact. 

Starting Shooting Guards

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    Kobe Bryant, SG, LA: A

    Despite the Lakers' problems in the first half, Kobe Bryant quietly played well early. He went into the third period with a team-high 15 points, five free throws makes and two blocks that helped create opportunities on the offensive end.

    In typical Bryant fashion, late in the game is when he took over. The third quarter saw Bryant give fans in L.A. hope, as he was clearly taking it upon himself to keep the Lakers in this game with offensive bursts. 

    The final period didn't truly get interesting until late, but when Bryant began knocking down shots from long distance, Los Angeles was able to stretch out the contest.

    As the Lakers' clear-cut, go-to option, Bryant finished with a team-high 35 points on an efficient 11-of-24 shooting from the floor, including 4-of-5 from long distance and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.

    Thabo Sefolosha, SG, OKC: D

    Thabo Sefolosha may be known for his defense, but he had obvious struggles when it came to slowing down Kobe Bryant.

    The Lakers' shooting guard made his presence felt in a big way, and quite frankly, there was nothing Sefolosha could do about it. He did manage to collect three steals and five rebounds, but that did little to change what his head-to-head competition was able to do.

    On offense, the 28-year-old only managed to score five points on 2-of-4 shooting.

Starting Small Forwards

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    Kevin Durant, SF, OKC: A

    Kevin Durant didn't score his first bucket until nine minutes had already passed in this game, but that didn't stop him from finishing 10-of-19 from the field, 2-of-4 from three-point land and 14-of-16 from the foul line. 

    After missing his first three shots, Durant went on to make his next six attempts. The second period may have belonged to Russell Westbrook, but the third belonged to KD. 

    Heading into the fourth quarter, the Thunder superstar had 28 points, as he had taken it upon himself to combat any sort of run the Lakers tried to manufacture. 

    Durant finished with nine rebounds and four assists to go along with his 36 points.

    Metta World Peace, SF, LA: D-

    Despite playing 37 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Metta World Peace was completely invisible in Friday night's matchup.

    Offensively, World Peace was extremely inefficient. He finished with just 8 points on 4-of-11 shooting—the fewest points of any L.A. starter.

    On the defensive end, where he is supposed to make his presence felt, he allowed Kevin Durant to do almost anything he wanted.

    Simply put, World Peace made virtually no impact on this game.

Starting Power Forwards

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    Serge Ibaka, PF, OKC: C+

    Serge Ibaka used his size and strength to do work against Antawn Jamison on the low block. 

    The big man even had his jumper going for him, as he helped spread the floor against a stagnant Lakers defense.

    A one-block, six-rebound performance isn't spectacular by his own standards, but his 50 percent shooting earned him 14 points in a game where efficiency propelled OKC to victory.

    Antawn Jamison, PF, LA: C-

    The Los Angeles Lakers were without Pau Gasol again Friday night, which meant Antawn Jamison was the one starting in his place.

    Jamison got off to an efficient start. He had six points on 3-of-4 shooting within minutes of the opening tip, and he was the only Laker to make more than one shot halfway through the first quarter.

    The 36-year-old has shown that he has the ability to play in Mike D'Antoni's system, which shouldn't surprise those who have watched him throughout the years. His energy level a question mark at this stage in his career, but his skill set is still sharp as ever. 

    Unfortunately, his production was lost after the first, as he was a non-factor during the final three quarters.

Starting Centers

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    Dwight Howard, C, LA: A-

    Dwight Howard made his mark early in this game, as he dominated the glass and knocked down four of his first five free throws. He finished the first period with eight points and 10 rebounds.

    The problem is that there was a stretch in this game—primarily when OKC was rolling offensively—where Howard disappeared on both ends of the floor. He fell into the trap of not getting back on defense on every play, which is the only reason his grade isn't higher.

    The big man made up the difference late, though, as he bullied the opposition in the low post.

    Howard finished the contest with 23 points and 18 rebounds.

    Kendrick Perkins, C, OKC: F

    Throughout this entire game, there was no starter who was more ineffective than Kendrick Perkins.

    In 23 minutes of play, the Thunder center took two shots, missed both of them and didn't score a single point.

    He also pulled down just three rebounds, making it impossible to identify a single area where Perkins excelled. 

Sixth Man

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    Jodie Meeks, SG, LA: B+

    Jodie Meeks was the only Los Angles Lakers player who made any sort of splash off the bench Friday night.

    Meeks played an extremely efficient game. His 17 points wasn't enough to propel Los Angeles to a win, but his shooting gave the team the slightest glimmer of hope in the third quarter. He finished the game having shot 4-of-8 from the field, 2-of-4 from deep and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

    The 2-guard's performance was solid, but the Lakers are going to need more showings like this off the bench if they're going to compete on a more regular basis.

    Kevin Martin, SG, OKC: B-

    Kevin Martin played 26 minutes off the bench against the Lakers, scoring 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.

    The 29-year-old guard didn't meet his season average in points, but the fact is, he didn't need to with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook taking over on the offensive end.

    Unfortunately for the Thunder, Martin's contribution was limited to the scoring column. He didn't affect any area of the game outside of his shooting, but if you're OKC, you can live with that.

Bench

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    OKC Bench:  B

    The Oklahoma City Thunder got significant production out of only one player in their second unit besides Kevin Martin.

    Nick Collison played 17 minutes in this game, and he was able to put up 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The fans in Oklahoma City love him off the bench, and it's easy to see why, as the energetic big man made all the plays he had to at the rim.

    Hasheem Thabeet was his usual unproductive self on offense, but he did manage to pull down four rebounds.

    LA Bench: D+

    Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn't find any sort of spark off their bench outside of Jodie Meeks. 

    Jordan Hill had a stretch where he was pulling down rebounds and blocking shots, but offensively, he was just 1-of-4 from the field.

    The bench has been a huge problem for L.A. during the early part of the season, and a fantastic performance from Meeks is the only reason this grade isn't a straight "F."