OKLAHOMA CITY -- Before the game Tuesday night, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he believed his team had truly turned the corner and it had "stuck" for the previous 18 games, with L.A. winning 13 of them.
The second of those wins was against the Oklahoma City Thunder back in January, when the Lakers held OKC's potent offense to just 96 points. It was a needed win at the time.
But to do it again at Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the Thunder were 26-4, could really legitimize the run the Lakers have been on.
"You look at the schedule, you look at OKC, and I use it more as a measuring stick of where we need to go," D'Antoni said. "What we have to improve on."
They can start with protecting the basketball.
A game after coughing it up 21 times against Atlanta, leading to 29 points for the Hawks, the Lakers had 16 turnovers Tuesday against the Thunder that led to 22 points.
Shoring up their defense overall would help, too.
Despite Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard stating repeatedly that the Lakers would have to control the tempo and slow down the rolling Thunder in order to have a chance in the game, Oklahoma City scored 71 points in the first half en route to 122 for the game.
Even if the Lakers accomplish their goal of making the playoffs, they have a long ways to go to have a chance of knocking off a team such as the Thunder in a seven-game series. Here’s a quick overview of Tuesday’s tilt:
How it happened: Things looked mighty bleak in the early going, with Bryant going to the locker room with an ulnar nerve contusion in his right arm and Howard needing a timeout to attend to his sore right shoulder. All the while, the Thunder kept putting up points like the scoreboard was a pinball machine. The Lakers crawled their way back within five in the fourth, thanks to 10 points in the final period from Metta World Peace and Steve Nash's finding his stroke (finishing 7-for-15 for 20 points, after going just 1-for-7 in the first half).
What it means: The Lakers’ time at .500 was short lived, and they'll have to wait until at least Friday against Toronto to get back over .500 for the first time since Nov. 20. Meanwhile, L.A. still doesn't have an answer for Russell Westbrook (37 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) or Kevin Durant (26 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals, three blocks).
Hits: Bryant scored 30 points on 8-for-19 shooting, despite the right elbow injury. He hit three big 3s and helped keep L.A. within striking distance for most of the game.
Misses: Howard fouled out with just six points on 1-for-7 shooting. (He did manage 16 rebounds.)
The Lakers were outscored 52-22 in points in the paint.
The Lakers' bench was outscored 39-20, with Derek Fisher pouring in 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting for the Thunder.
Stat of the game: The Thunder finished with just two turnovers, tying the NBA record for fewest turnovers in a game.
What's next: The Lakers play the second night of their road back-to-back in New Orleans on Wednesday. The Hornets are just 21-40 on the season, but they are full of young legs and had Tuesday off to rest in anticipation of L.A.’s visit.