Here’s what we learned from the Lakers’ 114-90 loss in Oklahoma City:
The Lakers miss Lonzo Ball
Wednesday’s loss was incredibly predictable based on one indicator — the Lakers don’t win when Lonzo Ball doesn’t play. Now, to be fair, they don’t win a lot when Ball is on the court, but when the Lakers are without their rookie point guard, they really have no shot.
The talent gap was painfully obvious Wednesday against the star-loaded Oklahoma City Thunder. Ball wouldn’t have made up for it — and in reality, probably wouldn’t have made up the 24-point difference, but the Lakers would’ve looked a lot better than they actually did.
The Lakers shouldn’t miss Ball as much as they do
One of the most pronounced places where the Lakers needed Ball on Wednesday was on the defensive glass, helping battle a big, physical Oklahoma City frontline that pushed the Lakers around for the entire night.
That Ball, a 6-foot-6, 20-year-old guard, is so critical to a team’s ability to rebound is a bit of an indictment of the other players on the floor.
Of course, the Lakers will miss Ball on offense — he’s their point guard, the player who sets the tempo and who injects unselfishness into their style of play because of his pass-first mentality.
But to miss him on the defensive boards? Other players need to step up.
The Lakers need someone who will push back
Oklahoma City center Steven Adams is gigantic — like a walking, talking boulder that rolled through every player who dared get in his way.
After the game, Lakers coach Luke Walton said Julius Randle has to be the bully for the Lakers to answer an opponent’s physicality. Wednesday, he had just one rebound.
But Randle isn’t alone.
Where was Brook Lopez, the Lakers’ biggest player?
Wednesday, he was completely out-muscled by Adams, made to look like a non-factor by a bigger, younger center.
When the Lakers are down bodies, they need guys like Lopez and Randle to play well. And on Wednesday, neither did.
They’ve got some bad luck
As part of the physical beating the Lakers took, they left the arena with a handful of new injuries.
Most notably, guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has played well since his jail sentence ended, suffered an Achilles strain when Russell Westbrook dove for a loose ball, rolling up on Caldwell-Pope’s leg.
The hope is that he escaped serious injury.
Rookie Kyle Kuzma had a joint on his left pinkie hyper-extended, an injury so painful that he was still trying to shake the pain away during postgame interviews.
Add in Ball, who will miss Friday’s game, and Brandon Ingram, who is still dealing with a sore ankle, and the Lakers are coming home in worse shape than they were in when they left a week ago.
Paul George would look good in purple and gold
You can file this under “obvious,” but it’s clear why George would be a positive addition to any team that can land him this summer in free agency.
The most impressive thing about how he looked on Wednesday was how quickly his focus shifted from offense to defense after it was clear he wasn’t having his best night.
George is one of a handful of elite two-way wing players in the league, and he seems like he’s the kind of player who would do his part to make sure the growth of young players like Ingram and Ball isn’t too badly stifled.