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

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIJanuary 12, 2013

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

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    At this rate, the Lakers faithful, like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Denzel Washington, might want to see if they can get a refund for their season tickets.

    The Lakers put on another abysmal performance, falling to the Thunder, 116-101. 

    Led by Kevin Durant's 42 points, the Thunder imposed their will on an undersized Lakers team that looked outmatched and overpowered throughout the night.

    More often than not, the Lakers were out of place on defense, caught lazily trailing players like Durant and Russell Westbrook. That is simply inexcusable for any professional team, let alone one with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on the same roster.

    When Earl Clark and Metta World Peace shoot a combined 10-of-30 from the floor, the Lakers' chances of pulling out a win are slim to none.

    It wasn't just that the Lakers didn't have all the talent on their roster, though. They were beaten by a younger, more aggressive and more focused team in the Thunder. 

    The Thunder shot an impressive 50.6 percent from the field, which shows either how bad the Lakers' defense was or just how smooth Durant and Westbrook are.

    Either way, the Lakers flat-out lost to a much better team. This one wasn't as close as the 15-point difference may make it look. It's time to change some things in Los Angeles. The problem is, no one knows what needs to be changed. 

Point Guards

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    Russell Westbrook, Thunder

    Once the game got out of control, Russell Westbrook started jacking up shots like they were going out of style. That played a major role in both his 27 points and 47.6-percent shooting from the floor. 

    Westbrook's athleticism and agility forced Steve Nash to defend Thabo Sefolosha instead of him, and that shows just how much of a threat Westbrook really is.

    In addition to his quiet 27 points, he grabbed seven rebounds and accounted for 10 assists, all while committing just three turnovers.

    It's not often that efficiency is the name of the game for Westbrook, but that was the case against the Lakers. He got into the paint at will, and he exposed the Lakers' weak perimeter defense. 

    Westbrook certainly gave the Lakers a few things to work on moving forward, and for that, they should thank him.

    Grade: B+

     

    Steve Nash, Lakers

    The two things that Steve Nash did well against the Thunder were one, look old, and two, get outplayed by a younger, more athletic point guard in Russell Westbrook.

    Nash ended the night with seven points and seven assists, but it paled in comparison to Westbrook's dominant performance.

    One of the most disappointing aspects of Nash's play was that he couldn't even defend Westbrook. Because of Westbrook's speed, Nash was forced, most of the time, to focus his defensive efforts on Thabo Sefolosha.

    It's clear that the Lakers need more offensive production from Nash, because they aren't getting it from anywhere else.

    Without any dominant bigs, Nash absolutely must step his game up, and he failed to do that against a more prepared Thunder team that gave the Lakers a serious beat-down. 

    Grade: C

Shooting Guard

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    Thabo Sefolosha, Thunder

    Shockingly enough, Thabo Sefolosha had a relatively productive night when you compare his nine points to his season average of 7.5 points per game.

    Sefolosha's defense on Kobe was as tenacious as usual, and while Kobe dropped 28 points, his 34.8 shooting percentage shows just how strong Sefolosha's defense was.

    Much like Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder don't need much from Sefolosha, and he's more than comfortable with that. He shot 66.7 percent from the floor, and he rebounded better and tallied more assists than Kobe in four less minutes of action.

    He plays strong defense and he's opportunistic on offense, and the Thunder can't complain because it gets the job done.

    Grade: B

     

    Kobe Bryant, Lakers

    Hey Kobe, right now might be a good time to panic, or at least figure out how to save your beloved Lakers.

    To be fair to Kobe, he was the only player wearing a Lakers jersey that showed up, ending the night with nine points more than any other Laker.

    I'm imagining that Kobe left the court with some choice words ready to be said to his teammates and head coach, but he may want to point some of them at himself after shooting just 34.8 percent.

    The Lakers are playing without passion and energy, and Kobe, the vocal leader, is certainly responsible for a major part of that.

    Instead of focusing on scoring alone, Kobe needs to find a way to play at his elite level while also getting the most out of his teammates, no matter who's out on the court.

    Grade: B-

Small Forward

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    Kevin Durant, Thunder

    Well this one wasn't even close. In the first half alone, Durant outscored Metta World Peace by 17 points, and he also shot 10-of-15 from the field, as compared to World Peace's abysmal 4-of-14 performance.

    40 points in three quarters? Sixty-four percent shooting from the floor and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc? No problem for the man they call Durantula.

    It's clear that this is Durant's world, and we are all just living in it. The Lakers found that out firsthand, and there was seemingly nothing they could do about it.

    Durant ended the night with 42 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and the crazy thing about that production is that he could've added quite a bit more if this one was actually close.

    With this performance, it's clear that Durant is the front-runner for the 2013 MVP trophy. He is playing out of his mind, and the Lakers are well aware of that. 

    Grade: A+

     

    Metta World Peace, Lakers

    I thought Metta World Peace's defense was supposed to be one of his strengths. Well, it clearly wasn't Friday night as Durant abused him throughout the evening.

    There were times when World Peace gave way to Kobe to try to defend Durant. But to no avail. The point here is, Durant made World Peace look slow, old and downright bad.

    With the amount of space he gave Durant on the perimeter, it was almost like World Peace forgot that Durant is the best shooter in the entire game.

    What made World Peace's performance that much worse is that he put up a Kobe-like amount of shots, ending with 18 on the night. He made just five of them, shooting 27.8 percent from the floor.

    Shooting just 1-of-9 from beyond the arc is pretty terrible, too. I mean, when you're 0-of-5, don't you think you'd think twice about putting more shots up? Not when your name is Metta World Peace. 

    I know all the trade talk might be surrounding whether the Lakers should move Pau Gasol or not. But they might want to start looking at whether World Peace is the man they need at the small-forward position.

    Grade: F 

Power Forward

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    Serge Ibaka, Thunder

    If I were Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, I'd keep saying, "Hey, Serge, remember that time you got outplayed by Earl Clark?"

    Ibaka's lackadaisical performance against the Lakers should give him all the motivation he needs to continue to improve every facet of his game.

    There's no way he should've ended with just six points and seven rebounds on 37.5-percent shooting from the floor, going up against an untested player like Clark.

    Luckily, the Thunder didn't need any of Ibaka's production because Westbrook and Durant could've beaten the Lakers by themselves. That doesn't save Ibaka from a lower score than Clark here, though. 

    Grade: D+


    Earl Clark, Lakers

    This one wasn't really fair since Earl Clark isn't particularly built to play at the power-forward position.

    Wait, that's how that sentence should've read, but in reality, Clark outplayed Serge Ibaka at a position he's not meant to play. 

    The problem with Clark's performance was that he was way too overaggressive on offense. There's no way he should end with 12 shots, especially when a player named Kobe is on his team.

    Aside from his 5-of-12 shooting performance, Clark actually had a rather productive night, accounting for 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks.

    Of all the Lakers' starters, Clark had the second-"best" plus-minus, with a -17 on the night. Either that shows how terrible the Lakers' starters were or how great Clark was. You make the call there.

    The one positive the Lakers can take away from this ugly loss is that Clark might actually be a good swingman throughout the season.

    Grade: B-

Center

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    Kendrick Perkins, Thunder

    While Kendrick Perkins didn't grab a single rebound until the second half, he still had an impact on the game.

    Perk did what Perk does best, and that is being a defensive force in the paint. With two blocked shots early on, Perkins asserted himself against an incredibly small Lakers lineup.

    He made it difficult for the Lakers to get easy shots off in the paint and he grabbed rebounds on both sides of the glass. That's exactly what the Thunder needed him to do.

    Perkins always plays with hustle and a sense of urgency, and while he might not put up a lot of offensive production, he gets the job done when and where he needs to. 

    Grade: B-

     

    Robert Sacre, Lakers

    Let's be honest, the Lakers didn't expect much from Robert Sacre, right?

    While the Lakers knew Sacre wouldn't get remotely close to Dwight Howard-esque production, I'm sure they didn't think he'd play as bad as he did. 

    He ended with a whopping six points, three turnovers and four rebounds. I'm not a statistician, but when you're 7' and 260 pounds, the number of rebounds you haul in shouldn't be that close to your turnovers.

    Let's not overlook the fact that Sacre committed six fouls in just 22 minutes of play, either. 

    Sacre proved that the without Jordan Hill, the Lakers don't have much depth behind Dwight Howard, and that's a major issue moving forward.

    Grade: D

Sixth Man

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    Kevin Martin, Thunder

    As usual, Kevin Martin brought it coming off the bench, ending the night with 15 points on 50-percent shooting.

    The Thunder didn't really need much from Martin, but that didn't keep him from being opportunistic with the ball. He shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, and only turned the ball over twice.

    Martin was efficiency in the flesh, and that helped the Thunder keep the Lakers at bay throughout. Not that the Lakers were ever really threatening after the first quarter.

    Grade: B+

     

    Antawn Jamison, Lakers

    A majority of Antawn Jamison's offensive production came when the game was well out of hand in the fourth quarter. But still, Jamison finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

    Jamison's veteran play and 47.1 percent shooting from the field helped keep this one from getting truly ugly near the end.

    It was just too little, too late for Jamison and the Lakers, though, when the Thunder's starters went to the bench.

    The reason why Jamison's grade is lower than Martin's is because, well, he didn't help his team win like Martin did.

    If Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are out for significant time, it might be time for D'Antoni to start thinking about putting Jamison into the starting lineup. He may just be the spark the Lakers need. 

    Grade: B- 

Bench

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    Oklahoma City Thunder 

    The Thunder's second unit dropped 26 of its 116 points, with all 11 non-Kevin Martin points coming in scrub time in the fourth quarter.

    It's clear that depth isn't an issue for the Thunder, because frankly, they can survive without dipping too deep into their reserves.

    Aside from Martin, the Thunder's bench shot just 3-of-11 from the floor and 0-of-3 from beyond the arc. Maybe that's why Scott Brooks rarely uses the guys keeping the bench warm.

    If it wasn't for Kevin Martin, the Thunder would hands down have one of the worst second units in the game.

    Grade: C

     

    Los Angeles Lakers

    Thirty-eight of the Lakers' 101 points came from their second unit, and while that shows just how out of reach this one was, it's still impressive production nonetheless.

    The Lakers' bench shot an impressive 15-of-33 from the floor, and when you compare that to the 24-of-65 shooting from their starters, it shows just how productive the second unit was.

    It wasn't a pretty performance from the Lakers by any stretch of the imagination, but the second unit showed a bit of promise—albeit against the Thunder's scrubs.

    Grade: B-

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