OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook said, “It’s my fault, it’s on me,” when asked about his double-digit turnovers in the Lakers‘ 123-115 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday. But he stood by his actions that led him to be ejected in the final seconds, marring his return to OKC.
“How I play the game, I’m more old-school,” Westbrook said, explaining why he took issue with the Thunder’s Darius Bazley for scoring on a breakaway dunk with 1.5 seconds remaining, rather than dribbling out the clock. “And when s— like that happens, I don’t let it slide. … In the game of basketball, there’s certain things you just don’t do. Like in baseball, you don’t flip the bat. There’s certain things you don’t do in sports when the game’s already over. And I didn’t like it. Simple as that.”
Westbrook pointed at Bazley and repeatedly yelled, “Don’t do that,” before teammates came between the two and Westbrook received a technical foul — his second of the night, resulting in the ejection.
It was the final dismal scene in a disaster of a night for the Lakers as they failed to protect a 26-point first-half lead and went 0-for-3 on potential game-tying 3s in the final 30 seconds, losing to a Thunder team that came into the night 0-4.
“A disappointing loss, but a lesson learned,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “An NBA season is a long season and a lesson for our group that you can’t ever take your foot off the gas against anyone.”
As much as growing pains could be expected for a Lakers team that is integrating 12 new players and juggling a handful of injuries with LeBron James, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington all sidelined, Anthony Davis didn’t accept that crutch.
“This ain’t no adjustment period at all,” said Davis, whose 30 points and eight rebounds went for naught. “Not this game. That’s just straight on us. … This isn’t an adjustment game where I feel like it’s, ‘Oh, we’re still learning each other.’ … Nah. Not this game.”
Two disturbing early-season trends continued for L.A.: too many turnovers and not enough defense.
The Lakers have now allowed 115 points or more in all five of their games through their 2-3 start, which is the longest such streak to start a season in franchise history, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information.
And Westbrook turned what was his first triple-double in a Lakers uniform (20 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists) into a quadruple-double by turning the ball over 10 times. This after committing nine turnovers against the Memphis Grizzlies just a few days ago.
“I got to take care of the ball,” Westbrook said, taking the blame. “Too many mishaps allowed. It’s my fault. It’s on me. But I’m going to take care of it. I know that. And keep the game simple. Because we need those possessions, especially in games like this.”
Since 1985, Westbrook has the most quadruple-doubles (including turnovers) in the NBA with six, according to Statmuse. The next closest player is his former teammate, James Harden, with three.
Despite all of that, L.A. still had its chances to escape with a win Wednesday.
With the Lakers trailing 118-115, Westbrook’s pull-up attempt from the top of the key clanked off the back rim with 27.3 seconds remaining.
Then, after forcing the Thunder into an 8-second backcourt violation, it was Malik Monk‘s turn to try to tie it up, and he shot a step-back air ball from 27 feet out that sailed out of bounds with 12.4 seconds remaining.
L.A. got one more bite at the apple when Carmelo Anthony stole rookie Josh Giddey‘s inbounds pass that was intended for Kenrich Williams, who slipped to the floor. Like Monk, Anthony’s 3 found nothing but nothing, as he too shot an air ball with 5.7 seconds left.
“It came right to me, man,” said Anthony who scored 13 points off the bench. “I didn’t have full control of it, though. I tried to shoot it without having full control of it. My footing wasn’t right. I just saw daylight.”
Now the Lakers are trying to see a silver lining in what has been a rocky beginning for a group that has made no secret of its championship expectation.
“It’s not fun in the moment when you lose a game like that,” Vogel said. “But I think at the end of the day, if we’re pushed every night like this, it’s going to sharpen us. It will be good for us in the long run, but you’ve got to play through that and find a way to win.”
L.A. will return home to host the Cleveland Cavaliers and could still be without James when they face his former team, as he is considered day-to-day as he recovers from a sore right ankle that has kept him out of the past two games.
“S—, we better leave it here,” Anthony said. “I mean, this is a tough one to lose. … But we better leave that one here and get ready for Friday.”