Staples Center was rolling, Lakers fans standing and crooning.
It had nothing to do with Kobe Bryant. It was for Lou Williams.
As nobody predicted, Williams scored 44 points, more than Russell Westbrook (36 points) or Kevin Durant (24 points).
But as everybody predicted, the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-113, Friday.
It was surprisingly close, a much better effort than their other two games against the Thunder this season.
Williams almost made the upset happen thanks to a career-high night. He scored 23 fourth-quarter points, making three-pointer after three-pointer while being serenaded with “Loooouuu” from Lakers followers.
Bryant, however, couldn’t convert a driving hook shot from the right side that would have tied the score with 3.2 seconds left. Westbrook made two free throws and the game ended.
“I told them I’m proud of them . . . the way they’ve been fighting the last couple of games,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “I told them we’re growing.”
The possession that could have tied the score was designed for either Bryant or Williams. It was up to rookie Anthony Brown, Scott said. He inbounded the ball to Bryant.
“I’m not mad either way,” Scott said, adding that he wasn’t so happy with the outcome of Bryant’s attempt while guarded by Durant. “I thought he was fouled before he even shot the ball.”
Bryant felt he was fouled while shooting, or just after.
“He hit me right on the forearm after the release,” he said of Durant.
That it was close was almost a victory for the Lakers (8-30). They were crushed by 40 last month in Oklahoma City, followed by a 35-point loss to the Thunder four days later at Staples Center.
The Lakers needed just a few more points Friday. They wouldn’t come from two of their young players.
“He’s just struggling. And he’s frustrated,” Scott said. “He wants to do so well so badly that he presses at times.”
D’Angelo Russell played only eight minutes before leaving because of discomfort from the sprained right ankle he sustained Thursday in Sacramento.
Even though Russell didn’t make an impact Friday, there was plenty of pre-game chatter about his career-high 27 points Thursday. Russell, always ebullient and typically self-assured, said he could have probably won that game had he not been injured.
He added, “Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet.”
To which Scott, with his old-school mind-set, actually didn’t balk.
“I don’t mind it. Sounds like a lot of confidence that he has in himself,” Scott said Friday. “Now he has to do the work. You want to be able to back it up. The kid is getting better and better. He’s starting to be in the right places on the defensive end as well as the offensive end.”
Russell dutifully went through pregame warm-ups and decided he could play but it was obvious he wasn’t 100% when Westbrook stepped in front of a pass for him and dunked easily at the other end. Russell didn’t give chase.
Bryant followed up a 28-point effort Thursday with 19 points and six assists Friday.
Williams was the hot shot. He replaced Nick Young as the last Laker not named Bryant to score 40-plus points (Young had 41 in April 2014 against Utah).
Williams said he started strong and “things kind of snowballed from there.”
Unfortunately for the Lakers, it didn’t roll into a victory.