Lakers vs Oklahoma City: Lakers in a funk, lose fifth straight game
For the most part, the Lakers played hard against the Thunder.
For the most part, the Lakers played with a sense of urgency against the Thunder.
And still it did no good.
The Lakers lost their fifth consecutive game, a season high. They have two regular-sesaon games left, more than enough time for them to match their longest losing streak since 2007, when they lost seven straight from March 2-15.
It seems clear that the Lakers are now in a funk, a team going in the wrong direction, a team looking nothing like the club that went 17-1 after the All-Star break.
It means that the Lakers are losing hold of the second-best record in the Western Conference, which would guarantee them home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Lakers and Dallas Mavericks now are tied at 55-25, with the Thunder one game back, but L.A. holds the tiebreaker over both clubs after winning each season series, 2-1.
Kobe Bryant scored 31 points for the Lakers, but it wasn't enough.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 31 points and Russell Westbrook added 26 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
The Lakers finally started to play harder in the third quarter -- but not until they trailed by eight points early in the quarter.
As a result, the Lakers were able to take a two-point lead heading into the fouth quarter.
The Lakers held the Thunder to 24 points in the third.
This was significant because the Lakers allowed Oklahoma City to score 36 points in the first and 30 points in the second quarters.
Ron Artest gave the Lakers a lift by scoring six points during the quarter.
Thunder 66, Lakers 64 (end of first half)
When the Lakers fell behind by 12 points for the second time in the first half, they seemed to need some kind of spark.
It came after Kobe Bryant and Thunder center Kendrick Perkins were each assessed a technical foul for pushing and shoving each other.
Even when the officials stepped between Bryant and Perkins, they continued to glare at each other.
After Bryant had scored yet again in the second quarter, Andrew Bynum grabbed the ball out of the net and threw it into the stomach of Perkins.
Bynum also was given a technical foul.
But with Bryant scoring 22 first-half points and Gasol adding 18, the Lakers pulled to within two points by halftime. Andrew Bynum has 10 points and five rebounds.
Russell Westbrook leads the Thunder with 18 points, five assists and five rebounds. Kevin Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, has 15 points on six-of-nine shooting.
Thunder 36, Lakers 31 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers couldn't slow down the two-man show of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and forward Kevin Durant in the first quarter tonight at Staples Center.
Then again, the Lakers seemed to have problems stopping anybody on the Thunder. Oklahoma City shot 63.6% from the field in the first quarter.
Westbrook drove by the Lakers and shot over them in scoring 16 points on five-of-eight shooting in the first. Westbrook made both of his three-pointers as well.
Durant scored 11 points in the opening quarter.
The Lakers stayed close because Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol each scored 11 points in the first quarter.
Before the Lakers played the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night at Staples Center, Coach Phil Jackson was asked if his team's abundance of turnovers during their current four-game losing streak is a concern.
The Lakers have turned the ball over 73 times during this stretch.
Jackson, however, had other reasons for his team's shortcomings.
"Turnovers are the sign. They are not the reason," Jackson said. "The reason is a lack of urgency. And because it's a lack of urgency, there is not a whole lot of crispness and whole lot of execution in what we're doing and a lot of urgency about our defense."
Jackson was hopeful that the Lakers would find that sense of urgency against the Thunder.
Jackson was asked if the Lakers will regain that sense of urgency before the playoffs start this weekend.
"I don't know if they're going to do it or not," Jackson said. "I mean, yes, I'm encouraging them. Very much so. Yes, it's nice to do it."
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers guard Derek Fisher steals the ball from Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in the second quarter Sunday night at the Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times