Dissecting the Lakers' turnovers in 91-75 loss to Oklahoma City
Nothing went right in the Lakers' unimpressive 91-75 loss Friday to the Oklahoma City Thunder. They trailed by as many as 33 points, shot only 39.2% from the field, lacked any positive standout performances and appeared to be an entirely different team that put away the San Antonio Spurs just two days earlier.
The loss does very little to change the Lakers' playoff fortunes. They still hold a Western Conference-leading 53-19 record and have a 5-1/2-game cushion against Denver (48-25), a six-game lead over Dallas (47-25) and a 6-1/2-game advantage over Utah (47-26).
And as The Times' Broderick Turner correctly reminds everyone, the Lakers can't dwell on this loss too much, especially with the team playing Houston tonight at 5:30. The Lakers may not have had this type of performance since their 105-79 loss Nov. 13 to Denver. But the team's 18 turnovers, including nine from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, is nothing new. The Lakers have committed 14.8 turnovers in the last 10 games, including a season-high 24 March 15 against Golden State. That eclipses their season-average of 13.6 turnovers per game. Bryant, meanwhile, has averaged 4.7 turnovers per game in the past 10 contests, including two performances where he committed nine turnovers. That exceeds Bryant's season-average of 3.2 turnovers per contest. After the jump, I broke down all of the Lakers miscues against Oklahoma City and why they happened.
First quarter, 11:01 - 10:53
Going one-on-one against Thunder guard Kevin Durant, Lakers forward Ron Artest jab-stepped right, switched dribbles and then drove left. Because Durant was temporarily caught out of position, Oklahoma City center Nenad Krstic both denied Pau Gasol the post and cut off Artest's driving lane. Durant recovered and forced Artest to pick up his dribble while Gasol worked on posting up Krstic inside. Artest placed a bounce pass to Gasol inside, then ran a give-and-go by cutting toward the left baseline as Durant followed behind. After Gasol's dump pass, Krstic switched on Artest, planted his feet and drew the offensive charge on Artest.
First quarter, 7:42 - 7:31
Bryant looked to feed an entry pass on the right block, but Lakers forward Lamar Odom couldn't get positioning over Thunder forward Jeff Green. When Gasol flashed up toward the free-throw line, Bryant threw the pass near the direction of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook up top. He tipped the pass to guard Thabo Sefolosha, who ran the break for the easy layin while Gasol and Artest slogged back. That left Bryant and Fisher alone on the 3-and-2 break, leading to the Thunder widening the lead to 13-4.
First quarter, 7:26 - 7:18
After passing to Gasol on the right block, Bryant faked left past Sefolosha and then cut right to go backdoor. Gasol's bounce pass nearly landed in Bryant's hands, but Sefolosha swiped the pass, which bounced off Bryant's fingers before going out of bounds. Though the turnover was given to Bryant, it was Gasol's pass that caused the turnover. The pass was well-directed toward Bryant, but Gasol didn't take into account Sefolosha's quick recovery time and length that allowed him to deny the backdoor.
First quarter, 6:00 - 5:52
On the far corner, Bryant tried going one-on-one against Sefolosha, but he denied him space. So instead, Bryant posted on Sefolosha before soon drawing a double team from Green. Bryant tried weaving through both defenders and did successfully, but he picked up his pivot foot and was called for traveling. That marked the team's third turnover in the previous five possessions.
First quarter 5:29 - 5:22
Bryant brought the ball up the floor, crossed over and drove right to the free-throw line past Sefolosha. Green stepped up to help before Bryant quickly lost his handle. Westbrook stole the ball and converted on a fast-break layup, widening the Thunder's lead to 19-7.
First quarter, 3:59- 3:51
Green tried feeding Sefolosha at the top of the key, but Odom tipped the pass. Bryant grabbed the loose ball, but quickly lost control and Westbrook grabbed possession. Here is a classic case of his fractured right index finger limiting his handle.
Second quarter, 10:53 - 10:49
Lakers guard Jordan Farmar found forward D.J. Mbenga unguarded just below the free-throw line. Mbenga was so excited he drove the lane without dribbling. Sorry, even the NBA has to call that a travel.
Second quarter, 9:05 - 8:53
After Odom fed an entry past on the far post to Artest, he backed his way toward the basket against Green. Oklahoma City guard James Harden dropped down on the double team and swiped the ball away from Artest. He was so consumed inching his way toward the basket that Artest didn't even see the double team coming.
Second quarter, 6:26 - 6:20
With Bryant squared up in triple threat position against Harden, he jabbed right and then drove right before losing his footing and falling down on the ground. Thunder guard Eric Maynor swiped the ball, which went out of bounds after last touching Bryant's hands.
Second quarter, 2:59 - 2:53
After Gasol deflected Maynor's pass inside, Bryant picked up the loose ball and ran the break. After crossing over to his right hand, he drove past Sefolosha to the lane. Just as Bryant went up for a shot, Oklahoma City forward Sege Ibaka swiped the ball out of Bryant's hands.
Second quarter, :05 -:01
Bryant flashed up toward the top of the key before Odom inbounded Bryant the ball. With Oklahoma City bunched up on the strong side, Bryant tried exploiting the imbalance by driving left, something that Sefolosha allowed him to do. The Thunder quickly recovered with Durant guarding the near post and Westbrook moving to the paint. The help wasn't really much needed, however. Bryant lost his footing at the left block, fell on the ground and lost the ball just before time expired. The Lakers entered the locker room with a 53-34 half-time deficit.
Third quarter, 10:04 - 9:45
Once Artest fed an entry past from the corner to Gasol inside, Artest cut across the baseline and created some leverage on Westbrook. Gasol fed a very soft pass to Artest, which was quickly batted away from Durant. Moments later on the other end, Westbrook and Krstic ran a high screen-and-roll at the the top of the key. Krstic set the pick on Artest just above the circle while Gasol appeared ready for the switch. But Westbrook caught Gasol off balance, drove left and pulled up for a 14-foot jumper. The basket gave the Thunder a 57-36 lead.
Third quarter, 9:31 - 9:23
After Odom passed to Bryant on the far wing, he pump faked over Westbrook, swung the ball around, jab stepped and then threw a pass intended to the near-end of the perimeter where Artest was standing. But the ball landed right in the hands of Green at the right block.
Third quarter, 4:04 3:50
Gasol kept calling for the ball while Odom scanned the court from the near perimeter. But Gasol couldn't get proper positioning on Krstic. Instead Odom passed up top to Bryant, who tried going one-on-one against Harden. Bryant crossed over to his right, while Farmar flashed across to the lane to the far wing. Shortly after Bryant pulled up for a jumper inside, he dished it out to Shannon Brown outside. Gasol was then called for a three-second violation, causing Bryant to scowl at Gasol.
Third quarter, 2:56 - 2:47
Odom fed Gasol as he cut across toward the right block, but Harden swiped the pass. Durant then led the break and drew a foul on Brown. After a Lakers timeout, Durant made both free throws to give the Thunder a 73-47 lead.
Third quarter, 1:05 - 1:00
After Odom grabbed a rebound off his missed drive to the basket, Maynor swiped the ball from behind. Moments later, Durant dunked off Harden's missed runner, giving Oklahoma City an 80-47 cushion.
Fourth quarter, 6:53 - 6:47
Farmar, on the far end of the perimeter, crossed over twice before driving left past Green. His dribble bounced off the leg of Ibaka and Green picked up the loose ball. No one on the Lakers, including Farmar, made any attempt to grab the ball, which had slowly gone to the far end of the perimeter.
Fourth quarter, 2:37 - 2:31
Once Lakers forward Adam Morrison passed the ball to Lakers forward Josh Powell on the far corner, Morrison cut toward the far baseline. Powell's pass intended for him went to the near side of the court into the hands of Harden.
What this means
The Lakers' high level of turnovers speaks to the team's inconsistent chemistry and offensive communication. It's puzzling because the Lakers have shown glimpses of that throughout the season, but it's troublesome that something as fundamental as handling the ball remains such an issue. There were plenty of bad passes, a few traveling violations and even a three-second violation.
As for Bryant, the problem goes beyond communication issues. He committed two turnovers because of poor ball handling, something that appears to be a problem because of his fractured right index finger that he has played through since injuring it Dec. 12 in a game against Minnesota. Bryant also committed two turnovers after losing his footing. The other five turnovers had a wide variety of causes, including a a travel violation, two poor passes, getting swiped from behind and a bad pass from Gasol that tipped off Bryant's hands.
Just like all the other miscues the Lakers committed against Oklahoma City, the Lakers can correct the turnover problem. Their urgency and work ethic depends on external events. And Houston (36-35), although pesky against the Lakers, don't have as much to play for as does the Thunder (44-27), which is trying to lock a sixth seed in the West. The Lakers' turnovers are a more serious problem, however, since they've happened with such frequency.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant falls and loses control of the ball while driving to the basket during the Lakers' loss to Oklahoma City on Friday. Credit: Larry W. Smith / EPA.
Photo: Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefolosha, bottom, knocks the ball away from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during the first half of Friday's game. Credit: Larry W. Smith/EPA.
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, tries to drive past Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant during Friday's game. Credit: Larry W. Smith/EPA.