Luke Walton likes what he sees out of Lakers despite loss

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers lost on the road to the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-96 at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday, but that didn’t stop first year head coach Luke Walton from being impressed in his young team.

“I told our guys that I loved the way we competed tonight,” Walton said. “The fact that we cut it to four with just four minutes to go, to me it shows our growth. The reason we lost wasn’t the last four minutes. (Oklahoma City) scored 60-something points in the paint on us, and the game plan going in was to take away the paint. Make them hit shots. We’ll even live with 3-point shots. We didn’t really follow that game plan. And then we had 23 turnovers for 34 points on the road in the NBA. That’s tough. We did a good job of not sending them to the line too much tonight, but the game wasn’t won or lost in the last four minutes.”

Nick Young hit a three point shot to cut the Thunder lead to 95-91 with 4:44 to go in the fourth quarter. The Thunder then went on an 8-5 run to end the game.

It looked like Russell Westbrook’s coronation as the true king of Oklahoma City. A running dunk, a pull-up jump shot for three points, even a mid-range shot was met with thunderous applause.

And Westbrook was there to soak it all in, asking the crowd to give him more as if he was their champion gladiator.

“He had a masterful game tonight,” Walton said. “Getting everyone involved. Shooting when the shots were there. Play-making for teammates. When we were aggressive on him, he showed today why he’s one of the top point guards in the world.”

Westbrook finished the game with 33 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds. It was his second triple-double in the first three games of the regular season.

“It’s hard,” Lakers forward Julius Randle said. “He is aggressive at all times so it’s extremely tough.”

“Just the non-stop, one man fast break,” Lakers guard Nick Young said. “He is constantly on the go, constantly moving, puts a lot of pressure on the defense, the bigs and the guards. He’s an all-star.”

julius-randleThe Lakers are in their first season of the post-Kobe Bryant era. The Lakers went through a similar process as the Philadelphia 76ers but disguised it to seem like they were just being like the New York Knicks for three straight seasons.

Each season-long failure brought them a high prized prospect. The Lakers now have a season to see which of them establishes themselves as the next Lakers superstar.

For their sake, it’s more than one.

“We continue to get better,” Walton said, “and like I said before, winning in this league is hard, and learning how to win especially on the road is a skill. You can’t afford to turn the ball over late. You’ve got to get those defensive rebounds when you’re making runs, but I’m confident we’ll get there.”

Randle and D’Angelo Russell each scored a team leading 20 points. Russell currently leads the Lakers with 14.5 points per game and 4.0 assists per game.

After wowing the home crowd in Staples Center with a 120-114 season opening victory over the Houston Rockets, the Lakers are 0-2 on the road and have two more games at Indiana and Atlanta before returning home on Nov. 4 to host the Golden State Warriors.

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About: Tony Capobianco

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Sports Kave senior writer

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