LOS ANGELES — What a difference 48 hours makes.
After trailing for much of the first half, Los Angeles came alive offensively in the third quarter behind Meeks’ 20-point output that gave them a double digit lead after a 29-7 run to end the quarter. The Lakers made seven 3-pointers in the quarter that included four made by Meeks, who recorded nine assists on 11 made field goals.
The Lakers continued to bottle up the Thunder offensively to begin the fourth quarter as they increased their lead to as much as 18 points. It did not last long as Oklahoma City made things interesting late as they closed the margin to just to three points at 110-107 with under a minute left in the game after a made jumper by Russell Westbrook.
On the next Lakers’ possession Kent Bazemore responded with a layup to put the Lakers back up five points. The Thunder quickly answered with a 3-pointer by Westbrook that trimmed the deficit to just two points after Kendall Marshall missed a pair of free throws. However, it would not be enough as Pau Gasol made a pair of free throws to seal the win.
“It was just one of those games. It was fun out there,” Meeks said after Sunday’s win. “The most important thing is that we got the win. It was close at the end but I am glad we pulled it out.”
Meeks’ 42-point effort was not only the most points scored in a game by a Laker this season but also the first by a Laker other than Kobe Bryant since Andrew Bynum scored 42 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 21, 2009. Meeks also set a career-high at the free throw line as he went 14-for-14, which was the most by a Laker without a miss since Bryant went 18-for-18 on April 10, 2013 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
For head coach Mike D’Antoni, Meeks’ performance wasn’t a surprise as he feels the four-year veteran has been one of most consistent players on the team this season.
“(Meeks) got on fire and mixed up going to the basket, which he has been doing (well),” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He has really improved his game. Defensively he was out of sight and on Russell Westbrook the whole time. He put out a lot of energy this game, but he has been doing it on a pretty consistent basis.”
Gasol felt that it was Meeks’ consistent hard effort in each game that helped him have a career-best outing.
“He is a great shooter and he competes no matter what,” Gasol said, who recorded his 27th double-double this season with 20 points and 11 rebounds in Sunday’s win. “He always plays hard and gives everything that he has got. He is always up for the challenge, and he is always aggressive trying to find his rhythm.
“Some nights he finds it and some nights he doesn’t, but today is a game where he definitely found his rhythm.”
As for their opponent, Durant stated that Meeks’ performance was due to a combination of a lack of defense and easy looks.
“He got some easy looks,” said Durant, who had a triple-double of 27 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds. “We’ve got to do better than this. I looked up and he had 30 points. It happened so quick.”
With the win, the Lakers snapped a three-game losing streak on the season and also to Oklahoma City. In the loss, the Thunder also received standout performances from Serge Ibaka, who had a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds, and Westbrook with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
In the first half, Oklahoma City got the ball rolling from the get-go as they quickly took control of the game behind 57 percent from the field and a combined 25 points from Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka in the first quarter
The Thunder remained hot to start the second quarter as they raced out to as much as an 18-point advantage, but the Lakers closed the gap to just three points at 50-47 in large part due to a 21-5 run that included all 10 of Meeks’ points for the quarter.
For the quarter, neither team shot the ball particularly well as Los Angeles shot 33 percent from the field. Oklahoma City did not fare much better as they shot 38 percent.
Photo Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press / March 9, 2014
Here is video of Meeks’ press conference following the game:
Bob Garcia IV
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