The most entertaining Lakers games as of late have been where the Kobe of old reappears to distract from any notion of an otherwise “old” Kobe. Tuesday’s win over the Nuggets was one of those nights. And, early on, tonight’s game seemed to be heading in a similar direction. Kobe earned his first two points with a vintage step back jumper along the baseline, which was soon followed by an open dunk in transition and then an infinite number of those still mystifyingly effective head fakes to bring him to the foul line.
Bryant scored 17 in a first half highlighted by a few fun-spirited back-and-forth jabs with Kevin Durant. Yet, as one would expect in the second night of a back-to-back, Kobe’s legs fell flat in the next half and this development could serve as an exemplar for the entire Lakers team on the evening.
After trailing by a relatively modest 11 points after the first two quarters, the Lakers allowed OKC to (or perhaps, more accurately, OKC chose to) go on a 23-0 run to open the second half and the deficit ballooned to 31 points by the end of the third quarter. In the end, the Lakers fell 120-85.
This is a result that, truthfully, isn’t all that surprising, especially when considering a few other factors: Julius Randle and Nick Young were forced to miss the game due to an ankle and illness, respectively; the Thunder had just beaten the Lakers by 40 points five nights prior to this one and the Lakers entered the matchup with a meager 1-5 record in games held on the second night of back-to-backs.
Perhaps the lone bright spot of the evening was D’Angelo Russell seeming to have regained a bit of his rhythm after his recent down stretch. Russell got the second-most minutes on the team Wednesday (28) and shot 37.5% from the field and 57% from three en route to a partially garbage time-aided line of 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.