The really painful part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder game? It wasn’t slipping back below .500. And, at least so far, it doesn’t appear to have been Kobe Bryant’s stinging elbow injury.
The Lakers, with Bryant scoring 30 points, are 2-13 against the top five teams in the Western Conference — and they’re 2 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot. L.A. hung in there against OK City, trailing only 110-105 with just over 6 minutes left. But the Lakers missed their last nine shots and lost 122-105. Oof.
Bryant dinged his elbow, which has bothered him most of the season, early in the game. After Thabo Sefolosha smacked into Bryant’s right elbow, Bryant flexed his arm and kept playing. He left the court, though, with his arm dangling at his side after fouling Kevin Durant. Bryant came back after treatment and played through what the team said was a bruised funny bone. (Medical types called it an ulnar-nerve contusion.)
“I just got popped right on that button,” Bryant said (via the Los Angeles Times). “Every time you try to bend your elbow, extend it with resistance, it’s a lot of pain. You’ve just got to adjust the mechanics. I wasn’t able to hold my follow-through too much.”
Bryant wasn’t the only hurtin’ Laker. Metta World Peace rolled his ankle late in the game. X-rays were inconclusive, but World Peace said he would play Wednesday against New Orleans. “I was doing the ‘Harlem Shake’ and I twisted my ankle,” World Peace said.
Like Bryant’s elbow, it wasn’t terribly funny. Nor was the fact that the Lakers are 10-20 on the road, where they’ll play nine of their next 13 as their season on the brink continues. The Lakers’ final 21 games, Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles points out, are going to be … interesting:
The Lakers aren’t out of the woods yet. Even though the storm clouds seem to be clearing up with the Lakers having won 13 of 18 to get back to .500 on Sunday and the prospect of Pau Gasol returning within the next couple of weeks seeming very real, this is a precarious pursuit L.A. is trying to pull off. The Lakers play only eight guys as it is. One injury costing one of their core players a couple of games … and their hill gets that must steeper to climb. Yes, Utah and Golden State have done the Lakers some favors by dropping off a bit, but those teams are still the ones in the driver’s seat along with Houston, while L.A. is coming from behind.
On a more positive note, the Lakers have been through so much negativity so far this season — a coach firing, major injuries, players squabbling, the death of their owner — that they’ve learned to operate in survivor mode. The odds have been against them all season on a macro level, so if they find themselves in a hole in a single game on a micro level, they aren’t about to fold up and accept that fate. “It’s a challenge for all of us to take care of our bodies, wake up and know that we got our back against the wall,” Earl Clark said. Earl Clark said. “We can’t just be nonchalant with the games that we play. We got to take every possession like it’s our last. I think everybody’s got that mindset.”