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Los Angeles Lakers ‘picked apart’ in second collapse against Oklahoma City Thunder

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LOS ANGELES — If the Lakers had managed to protect two massive leads against the Oklahoma City Thunder — up 26 on the road last week and up 19 at Staples Center on Thursday night — they would be sitting pretty with a 7-2 record and OKC would be winless at 0-8.

Alas, that isn’t the case. The Thunder outscored the Lakers 35-24 in the fourth quarter and won 107-104 Thursday for their second come-from-behind win against L.A., leaving the new-look Lakers, once again, scratching their collective heads about what happened.

“Defensively we were all over the place,” said Anthony Davis, whose 29 points, 18 rebounds and 5 assists weren’t enough to lift L.A. to the win. “I feel like they were waiting on our coverages and were just picking us apart. … For some reason this team comes in every time they make shots against us, they made 15 3s again tonight.”

The Thunder went 15-for-41 from 3, this after going 15-for-37 from 3 in their win last Wednesday. The Lakers’ defense, ranked in the top three each of the past two seasons under coach Frank Vogel, continues to lag. After the Thunder loss, L.A. is allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions, putting the Lakers in the bottom half of the league (17th).

Davis, when asked about the defensive miscues, made it clear that the Lakers were executing the schemes that were asked of them, but the Thunder were prepared to break them down.

“I mean they knew what we were doing, kind of did that entire second half and their coach or Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], whoever it was that made the adjustment to put their players in the right spot,” Davis said. “And they made shots.”

In the last couple of minutes, the game came down to the shot that Gilgeous-Alexander hit — a 34-footer from the logo with 16 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:18 left in the game clock to put the Thunder up by six — and the shot that Russell Westbrook missed.

After Carmelo Anthony hit two late 3s to make it a one-possession game, Westbrook pushed the ball up the court and missed a 3 from the wing with 3.5 seconds remaining, rather than working to find the hot hand.

“Not good enough,” Vogel said of Westbrook’s decision to shoot it. “We want to get a better shot than that. The spacing wasn’t great. We were trying to get Melo to the top of the floor, but the spacing wasn’t great.”

While the Lakers have had more than their fair share of injuries bogging down their fresh beginning — LeBron James missed his third game of the season already, this time with an abdominal strain that is expected to keep him out at least another week, and Davis suffered a sprained right thumb in the first half but played through it — there’s something else working against them.

Teams, no matter their record, seem to bring the competition to L.A., with a rigor that the Lakers seem ill-equipped to meet at the moment.

“It’s something that we discuss. We talk about it all the time. Just understanding and owning the fact that guys will play, teams will play differently when they play against us,” said Anthony, who scored 21 and saw L.A. lose for the first time in four games that he has scored 20-plus. “So that’s [not] the elephant in the room. That’s not something that we don’t speak about. We know that, we talk about it, we discuss it.

“I mean, you look at like tonight for an example, [Darius] Bazley, right? I don’t want to say his stats, but we go over that stuff, we scout that. But he comes against us and he makes most of his 3s against us. So, it’s going to happen. We just got to own that. We got to accept that and just make sure we cut people’s water off when that time comes.”

Bazley was 8-for-37 from deep coming into Thursday and went 2-for-3 against the Lakers.

From targets on their backs, to finger pointing, to a broken thumb for Talen Horton-Tucker and now sprained thumb for Davis, and a handful of other injuries to expected rotation players, the issues are mounting for a Lakers team clear in its intention to win a championship this season.

It’s been an uneven start at best. But there’s plenty of basketball to go before the finish line.

“It’s interesting,” Westbrook said when asked about the injury woes. “But you know … I’m a person that you play the cards you’re dealt. Whatever it is, whatever that’s available, that’s what we work with. We haven’t had our full team one time — not even close actually.

“So, we just got to take whatever it is that we have and make the best out of it and compete to the best of our abilities.”

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Lakers superstar LeBron James doesn’t feel suspension was warranted for altercation with Isaiah Stewart

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Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James doesn’t believe a suspension was warranted for his involvement in the altercation with Detroit big man Isaiah Stewart.

James made a dominant return to the lineup against Indiana, pouring in 39 points to go along with five rebounds and six assists in the 124-116 OT win.

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Postgame, he gave his account of what happened in the incident that incensed Stewart.

“It was a box out in the free-throw line. His elbow got kinda high, if you watch the film it got me off-balance a little bit,” James explained.

“I tried to swimdown on his arm and when I swung down on his arm he got off-balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face. I knew right away, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head so I went over to apologize to him and obviously you guys seen what happened after that. Definitely accidental.”

Stewart made repeated attempts to get at James, requiring multiple staff members to hold him back as blood streamed down his face. Stewart received a two-game ban for the reaction, while James was sidelined for one game.

The Lakers would lose that one game without James, 106-100 at Madison Square Garden to the New York Knicks. LeBrondoesn’t believe he should have missed the contest.

MORE: LeBron James gets couple ejected in Indiana

“I’m definitely not that type of player. I hate to see that, what escalated after that.

“I didn’t think itwarranted…I thought it warranted an ejection because of what happened after that. Having me in the game, the excitement from the fans, what could possibly happen after that, but a suspension I didn’t think was warranted but the league made that call.”

Los Angeles climbed back to .500 at 10-10 on the season with the win against the Pacers, as they try to shake off a slow start to the season. Fellow star, Anthony Davis missed the game against Indiana with a fever.

Davis will have one night to recover before the Lakers host Sacramento at STAPLES Center – tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson cleared for full team activities; still no return timeline

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson has been cleared to participate in full team activities, the team announced on Friday evening.

Williamson, who is recovering from a fractured right foot, had his latest set of scans on Wednesday. They were evaluated by Pelicans team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Montgomery and by Dr. Richard Ferkel, a surgeon who has worked on NBA players in the past.

“It’s been a long road to get him to this point,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Anyone that’s ever dealt with any type of injury like that, it’s hard to come back from. It’s hard mentally. He’s done a great job pushing through. Z has an opportunity now to be a full go in practices, and we’ll have a practice soon. Hopefully that’ll add some juice to our team. He’s a huge part of what we do there.”

The Pelicans said Williamson went through 4-on-4, full-court work on Friday while the team is in Utah for a back-to-back. New Orleans plays Utah on Friday and Saturday before heading to Los Angeles to play the Clippers on Monday. The team will travel back to New Orleans on Tuesday and then play the Dallas Mavericks the following day.

Because of the team’s schedule, it’s likely the Pelicans won’t have a full practice for Williamson to participate in until Thursday.

In a news release, New Orleans said it has yet to determine when Williamson will return to game action.

“It’s more about how he responds to practices,” Green said. “How he responds to the physicality of playing against his teammates. How he responds to getting up and down. Just giving a timeline is tough on that. We want him back as soon as possible. But it’s all predicated on how he feels after workouts, and the medical team will work diligently with him and we’ll go from there.”

Williamson has yet to play in a game this season because of the fractured foot. In his absence, the Pelicans have gotten off to a 4-16 start.

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‘Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you’ — How Brooks Koepka routed Bryson DeChambeau

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After months of feuding, trading jabs during interviews and on social media, then seemingly making up at the Ryder Cup — there was even a bro hug! — until that unraveled earlier this week, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka finally had a chance to settle this on the golf course.

This installment of “The Match” wasn’t much of a match. It was a rout.

The drama might not have been there, but the storytelling and trash talk didn’t disappoint — from Koepka and/or from commentators Charles Barkley and Phil Mickelson.

Here’s how it happened:

Scoreboard: Koepka wins 4&3

No. 1: Par 4

And we’re off at the Wynn Golf Club, with DeChambeau passing out cupcakes for Friendsgiving on the first tee, which drew a slight grin from Koepka.

DeChambeau found trouble from the start, with his opening tee shot landing behind a small bush in the pine bark. Fortunately for him, he got a free drop because the sprinkler system was in his line of play. He knocked his second shot into the greenside bunker. Koepka’s drive also went way right in the rough, but he was able to hit the green.

Koepka two-putted, and DeChambeau got up and down to tie the hole.

Result: Tie with pars.


No. 2: Par 4

DeChambeau might want to dial it back a bit. His second tee shot was even farther right than his first. Then he once again landed in a greenside bunker. Koepka hit the fairway again and took advantage with a 15-foot birdie putt to take a 1-up lead.

Mickelson correctly had the putt falling right because of the grain, and Koepka responded, “Oh, Phil, good call,” while grabbing his ball out of the cup.

While walking off the green, Koepka looked back.

“Bryson, that’s good,” he said.

It’s about to get chippy.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie


No. 3: Par 3

On the closest-to-the-pin hole for charity, Koepka’s ball ended up in the deep rough to the right, while DeChambeau’s was just about perfect, landing pin high and about 8 feet from the hole.

Koepka hit a nice chip to about 2 feet.

Before DeChambeau attempted to make his birdie putt, Mickelson asked him what was going through his head. His answer was about what you would expect — a thorough, 40-second explanation.

“It’s pretty simple: It’s 11 feet [with the uphill], 2% straight putt over here and to be honest, 10 or 11 feet straight putt,” DeChambeau said, in part.

Of course, he left the putt low and let a good opportunity go to waste.

Result: Hole tied with pars.


No. 4: Par 4

Koepka’s tee shot went way right. Mickelson said what many weekend hacks would have said.

“Aren’t paralleling fairways the best, though?” Mickelson said. “I’m a big fan of those.”

DeChambeau hit a fairway off the tee for the first time. After Mickelson bragged about DeChambeau’s wedge play, he missed his number and hit his ball over the green. Koepka’s second shot landed on the green, but he left another putt short on his birdie try.

“I would make snarky comments on that, but I’ve still got to make a par putt,” DeChambeau said.

He did.

Result: Tied with pars.


No. 5: Par 5

On the lone par 5 of the match, both players carried the fairway bunker. DeChambeau’s shot, though, went a lot farther. Mickelson was impressed.

“I mean, that is so attractive,” Mickelson said. “I don’t even know what to say about that.”

“Phil, you like that?” DeChambeau asked.

“I love that,” Mickelson said.

“I hit that good, man, just for you,” DeChambeau said. “Hey, I’ve still got to finish out the hole, though. It’s never guaranteed, just like the last hole. We talked about this length all of the time. It’s great, but I’ve still got to get it in the hole.”

The conversation proved to be prophetic. Koepka, who complained of missing his second shot, found the green and had an eagle look. DeChambeau’s second shot clipped a tree and came up short.

DeChambeau chipped up to about 6 feet. Koepka two-putted from about 40 feet for birdie. Then DeChambeau, inexplicably, missed his birdie putt to fall 2 holes down.

As the broadcast went to commercial, Brian Anderson, doing play-by-play on TNT, reminded viewers it was a 12-hole match.

Koepka, because has an earpiece in and can hear Anderson, Mickelson and Barkley, grinned.

“It won’t go 12,” he said.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 6: Par 3

Koepka’s putts are starting to fall, and the four-time majors champion is threatening to run away from DeChambeau with a 3-up lead after six holes.

On the second par 3 of the match, Koepka hit a safe shot, with his ball landing about 11 feet from the hole. DeChambeau’s ball landed right, but spun back below the hole to about 14 feet. DeChambeau missed his putt; Koepka drained his.

“Any questions?” Koepka said.

“Man, I haven’t seen a beatdown like this since me and Phil put it on [Peyton Manning] and Steph [Curry],” Barkley said.

“A focused Koepka is a tough Koepka,” Mickelson said.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 7: Par 4

With the match getting away from DeChambeau, Mickelson, a U.S. Ryder Cup co-captain at Whistling Straits, tried to encourage him before DeChambeau’s tee shot on No. 7.

“Bryson, same thing we talked about at Ryder Cup off No. 9,” Mickelson told him. “Get your brain in theta.”

“Yep, right in that sweet spot between parasympathetic and sympathetic,” DeChambeau said.

“Chuck, you get that?” Koepka asked Barkley.

“Hell, no,” Barkley said.

DeChambeau’s drive went way left, hit a tree, bounced off the cart path and landed in an adjoining fairway. After DeChambeau explained the difference between alpha, beta, delta and theta brainwaves, Barkley told Mickelson, “Man, I’m telling you, I’ve got to keep you two guys apart. You two together are dangerous.”

“How about a cross-country drive with us?” Mickelson said.

DeChambeau’s brain apparently remained in beta mode; he missed a good look at birdie to get one back.

Result: Tied with pars.


No. 8: Par 4

While Koepka waited to put the finishing touches on this one, he shared a tremendous story about bringing the U.S. Open trophy to Las Vegas after winning his first major at Erin Hills in 2017.

His caddie, Ricky Elliott, wanted to take the trophy out on the town. A restaurant wouldn’t let them bring the trophy inside — only the big ones like the Stanley Cup were allowed — so Koepka left the trophy in a drawer in the host stand.

When Elliott went back to his room that night, he left the trophy outside the room. They didn’t discover it was missing until the next day.

“We were in a panic because we didn’t know where it was,” Koepka said.

DeChambeau missed his birdie putt on No. 8, Koepka made his to go 4 up with four holes to play.

He’s probably going to have another trophy to lose.

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


No. 9: Par 3

And that will do it. DeChambeau conceded the match after missing a birdie putt on the ninth hole, giving Koepka a 5&3 victory in a 12-hole match.

You could sense DeChambeau’s frustration on the tee box.

“Where is this on the PGA Tour, man?” DeChambeau asked Koepka. “You play so good right now.”

“It’s kind of like my major right now, right?” Koepka said.

“I guess it is,” DeChambeau said.

“I don’t play again until April,” Koepka said. “Not going to lie, I just wanted to spank you.”

“Does this want to make you play with [Bryson] more?” Koepka was asked. “Nah, I’m good.”

Result: Koepka wins with birdie.


Before the match

Let’s compare what the two have done:

And what they’ve done when in the same group:

Let the trash talk begin

PGA Tour officials don’t want fans taunting DeChambeau with shouts of “Brooksy” at its events, but that rule apparently doesn’t apply to Koepka. His ride for Friday’s match includes many of his favorite verbal jabs toward DeChambeau:

  • “2 short of a 6 pack”

  • “Let’s go Brooksy”

  • “There’s an ant”

  • “Sorry bro.”

Let the insults begin.

Just say ‘Brooksy’

In an otherwise mundane prematch news conference — actually, it was fans sending in questions during a livestream event — about an hour before they teed off, Koepka and DeChambeau were asked what they would whisper to their opponent if the other had a putt to win on the 12th hole.

‘”Brooksy’ seems to get to him quite a bit,” Koepka said. “He had to go to the Tour to get them to stop.”

“It’s simple: I’d just be walking on the cart path in spikes,” DeChambeau replied.

Of course, the sound of DeChambeau’s spikes were what sent Koepka’s eyes rolling during a post-round interview at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in May. Even Koepka admitted on Friday that the incident sent their beef to another level.

“The spikes drowned out the sound of his mouth,” Koepka said. “I enjoyed hearing the spikes.”

Tom Brady has thoughts

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who played with Phil Mickelson against Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning in the event a year ago, has already chimed in about his former partner, who is offering TV commentary with Charles Barkley.

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