Lakers go softly against the Thunder


Please excuse the confusion, but weren’t the Lakers the ones with the 12-game winning streak against their opponent?

It didn’t look that way Friday, the Lakers never leading and never coming close to giving the Oklahoma City Thunder a game, Kevin Durant getting 26 points and the “M-V-P” chants while Kobe Bryant had 11 points and nine turnovers in front of a jubilant crowd at Ford Center.

Phil Jackson sensed trouble right away, calling a rare timeout 1:29 into the game, but nothing stopped Oklahoma City on its way to a 91-75 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score.

The tally through three quarters: a numbing 80-47, the Thunder obviously ahead, the Lakers’ lack of effort washing away all the goodwill they banked two days earlier in San Antonio.

The loss did more than end their seven-game overall winning streak. It took a hatchet to their longest active streak against any franchise, a run that included six victories against the Thunder and six when Oklahoma City was still the Seattle SuperSonics.

The Lakers had a paltry seven assists, one more than their team-record low of six against Cincinnati in a 104-90 loss in December 1964. Friday’s game also marked their lowest output since a 108-72 loss to Dallas in March 2007.

Not a good night for anybody, really.

Pau Gasol had nine points on three-for-nine shooting and played “soft,” Jackson said.

Ron Artest was also a no-show. The same player who had 16 points and five steals against San Antonio had two points and three turnovers against the Thunder.

Anger began seeping into the game with the Lakers down 25 near the end of the third quarter.

Bryant scowled after a three-second violation on Gasol. Jordan Farmar yelled at Gasol after the Lakers’ forward failed to call out a screen that erased Farmar.

Then Sasha Vujacic and assistant coach Brian Shaw had a face-to-face on the bench after Vujacic said he didn’t want the coaches yelling at him. Vujacic was scoreless in almost three minutes.

How could a team that looked so good in the second half against San Antonio look so lost two days later?

“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “It definitely is [different].”

Bryant said he wouldn’t be worried about the team unless it unveiled similarly poor efforts in the playoffs.

“I know what we can do,” he said. “I know what our identity is. That’s the part that you don’t want to be second-guessing.”

Lakers coaches warned their players about going one-on-one against the young, quick Thunder. Players were also told to be careful of turnovers.

Bryant was two turnovers short of his career high and, of greater interest, had nine for the second time this month, matching his turnover total against Golden State on March 15.

“Kobe wasn’t really himself tonight,” Jackson said.

At halftime, the Lakers already down, 53-34, Jackson didn’t even use video of the first half for in-game instruction and adjustments, one of only a handful of times that has happened this season.

“I thought Pau was soft inside and didn’t take the shots I’d like to see him take,” Jackson said. “He didn’t get the ball in a good position. He wasn’t really getting a power base on his shots.”

Gasol disagreed.

“I don’t think I was less physical than any other game,” he said. “There wasn’t anything different for me out there. I just missed a couple good looks that I usually make.”

The Lakers have almost no time to reflect, seeing how they’re playing tonight at Houston, the same team that took them to seven games in last season’s Western Conference semifinals.