Kobe Bryant and Lakers can’t elbow their way past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY — Had the Lakers somehow beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder, you could easily imagine Kobe Bryant’s postgame tweet.
Ulnar-nerve contusion THAT.
Something fairly important intervened to prevent it. Reality.
Bryant had 30 points but the Lakers lost to the Thunder, 122-105, Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, falling to 2-13 against the top five teams in the Western Conference.
It wasn’t the best of games, and it wasn’t the worst, but it accurately described a team that slipped a notch below .500 after fighting hard just to get there.
The Lakers (30-31) were actually in the mix after Steve Nash’s three-pointer brought them within 110-105 with 6:14 left. They didn’t score again, missing their last nine shots.
They also added another curiosity to an already untenable season by forcing only two turnovers, tying the fewest ever by an NBA team. They also gave up 96 Oklahoma City shots and the third-most points they’ve allowed in a game this season.
“We’re not exactly a team that is going to turn you over many times,” Bryant said. “We’re not like a Memphis or a Clippers that get after you and create turnovers.”
The Lakers’ already shaky playoff hopes took a momentary turn when Bryant hunched over in pain while his right arm dangled at his side early in the first quarter. He motioned to athletic trainer Gary Vitti, headed to the locker room and returned a few minutes later with what was officially called an ulnar-nerve contusion. That’s a bruised funny bone.
The Lakers exhaled. Their season continued. Unfortunately for them, the game did too.
Dwight Howard’s one-for-seven first half included an air-ball left-handed hook shot and a missed alley-oop dunk attempt. It also pretty much doomed his second half. He had no shots after halftime and finished with six points and 16 rebounds before fouling out with 2:24 left.
It bothered him, the no-shots part.
“Uh, yeah,” said a subdued Howard. “But we’ve got to play through it.”
Adding injury to an insulting final six minutes, Metta World Peace hobbled out of the locker room afterward and needed X-rays after rolling his right ankle. They were inconclusive, but he said he would play Wednesday against New Orleans.
“I was doing the ‘Harlem Shake’ and I twisted my ankle,” said World Peace, who actually came down on what was believed to be Serge Ibaka’s foot while pursuing a fourth-quarter rebound.
The Lakers trailed at halftime, 71-55, and it was a wonder it wasn’t worse. Steve Nash matched Howard with one-for-seven shooting and the Lakers committed 11 turnovers.
Nash recovered to match his season high with 20 points.
Bryant was hurt when Thabo Sefolosha banged into his elbow early in the first quarter. He bent over and flexed his right hand, trying to get feeling back into it.
He injured it again a few minutes later by fouling Kevin Durant immediately after Durant stripped him of the ball. That’s when he left the game.
“I just got popped right on that button,” Bryant said. “Every time you try to bend your elbow, extend it with resistance, it’s a lot of pain. You’ve just got to adjust the mechanics. I wasn’t able to hold my follow-through too much.”
Bryant returned with 4:01 left in the first quarter. He had trouble all night against Russell Westbrook, who scored 37 points. Durant added 26 points for Oklahoma City (44-16).
Meanwhile, the Lakers tied another NBA record by failing to get any steals. They also fell to 10-20 on the road, one of many concerns facing them with nine of their next 13 games away from Staples Center.
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