After losing to the Rockets on Sunday, the Lakers are in Oklahoma City on Monday for their final game of the season against the Thunder. It also concludes their three game road trip serving as the final setup to the game against the Jazz on Wednesday. Sort of amazing to think the season is already over. In a way, I liken how it’s passed to those first few months of being a new parent. The days have been so long, but time has passed by so quickly.
Though it was back in December, it feels like just the other day Kobe announced, officially, this season would be his last. Now his final game is in two days. I know the time between then and now has been filled with losses, missed shots, fits and starts from the young players, and a whole lotta #byronquotes. Those tough moments have had me, more than once, wishing for the end to finally come. Now that it’s here, I can’t say I’m particularly thrilled about it. Yes, I want the negativity and suffering to end. But saying goodbye to Kobe isn’t something I’m looking forward to all that much, even though I know it is time.
This game, in itself, has little value to either team. The Thunder are locked into the 3rd seed in the conference and, as we’ve discussed, the Lakers will finish with the 2nd worst record in the league behind the 76ers. Their odds for the lottery are set, then, at roughly 56% of retaining their top 3 protected pick with only the basketball gods (and math) to determine how things go. Tonight, then, one has to wonder how the action will play out and whether either side will bring their best effort.
Kobe will surely give his best, though on the 2nd night of a back to back it’s hard to know what that will look like. He’s had a few good scoring games lately and his 35 points against the Rockets on Sunday speak to his ability to still get hot. He’s had his moments against the Thunder/Sonics over the years too, especially with the history of Ray Allen (a chief rival throughout his career) and the emergence of the Durant/Westbrook duo over the past 9 seasons.
— NBA (@NBA) April 11, 2016
Kobe has long expressed how highly he thinks of KD and Russ, both possessing a demeanor and approach to the game Kobe likely sees as mirroring his own. The relentlessness, the scoring skill, the want to not just beat your opponent, but bury them are traits the Thunder pair bring in spades and are traits Kobe’s built his legend off of. To face them this last time, then, will be special.
This is true even if the game isn’t likely to be very competitive. The Thunder have had their lax moments — especially in the 4th quarter where they have surrendered leads at an alarming rate — but it’s highly doubtful the Lakers will pose any such threat this game. Still, it will be nice to see the D’Angelo/Westbrook battle and to see how Randle deals with the length and paint protection of Ibaka and Steven Adams. Clarkson will also have his hands full dealing with the defense of Roberson and then the streaky scoring of Dion Waiters. These games within the games are why, beyond saying farewell to #24, I find interest in these late season games which have all too often just padded the Lakers’ loss totals.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.