Thunder open road trip against Lakers
LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder open a three-game road trip on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
Westbrook has been arguably the NBA's top performer this season, but the Thunder have struggled recently. After a 6-1 start, they have dropped five of their last seven contests, including a 115-111 overtime defeat by the Indiana Pacers in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
“Just wasn't ready tonight,” said Westbrook, who posted his fifth triple-double of the season with 31 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in the loss. “Starting with myself. I was (expletive) tonight. I could have did a lot of things better. I have to come out and be ready to play every night. I feel like I let my guys down and we have to be better.”
Westbrook is averaging 31.6 points and 10.4 assists, both second in the NBA entering Monday's contests. He also is collecting 9.7 boards per outing, which leads the Thunder. Guard Victor Oladipo is second on the team in scoring at 16.9 points.
However, Oklahoma City's defense has been suspect, allowing 103.8 points per game (tied for 14th with Milwaukee) while scoring 105.3. Rebounding, though, has been a strength with the Thunder averaging 46.6 boards (third). The Thunder was 26th in turnovers at 16.3 per game.
The Lakers have experienced trouble handling the ball, too, committing 15.5 miscues (24th). Los Angeles also had trouble containing Jimmy Butler on Sunday as he scored a season-high 40 points in 118-110 win over the Lakers on Sunday. The Lakers have lost their last two games.
“Jimmy Butler had a pretty fantastic game. He's a pretty fantastic player,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “But if he's going to do that, then we have to shut down the rest of the guys. We let him get his, and the role players all chipped in and did their part as well.
“You either have to take away the star or take away the role players. You can't let everyone have a night.”
Defensively, the Lakers are giving up an average of 109.6 points, which ranked them 27th in the league heading into Monday. Lakers' opponents are shooting 47.5 percent from the floor, which puts them last in the NBA.
“Luke came in here and said that's two teams that have shot above 50 percent on our home court,” said Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr., according to the Los Angeles Times after the Bulls hit 51.7 of their shots. That came on the heels of the San Antonio Spurs making 56.4 percent of their shots in a 116-107 win over the Lakers on Friday.
“Our interior defense is something that we've obviously got to get better,” said Nance, who scored a career-high 18 points against the Bulls.
The Lakers will attempt to return to their winning ways despite an upcoming tough stretch. After the Oklahoma City game, they visit the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and play them again on Friday at home. They host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
The Thunder cap their journey at the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday and at the Denver Nuggets on Friday.