February 25, 2024

There’s the truth and then there’s the truth the Lakers believe.

Thursday against the Thunder was the fourth and final game on a trip that lasted less than a week, but the way their bones creaked and their eyelids hung heavy, it felt like much longer.

The 133-110 loss meant the team finished .500 on the trip, the accepted measure of success for any NBA trip. But after getting smoked in Philadelphia and blitzed against the Thunder, it’d be hard to qualify this as success.

And then there’s the vibes, the immaculate ones that began in Cleveland giving way to overt frustration in Philadelphia and visible annoyance Thursday against the Thunder.

The lesson, if any, has been this: Through 20 games, the Lakers have been good enough more than half the time. But they’ve rarely, if ever, been great.

Anthony Davis had 31 points and 14 rebounds, LeBron James had 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves combined for 30 points, but the Lakers never consistently got stops against a team that played faster and harder.

They had moments Thursday, playing on the second night of a back-to-back.

Davis attacked Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren from the jump, Russell probed the defense and the Lakers built a double-digit lead.

But whether it was fatigue or the problems that have surfaced frequently throughout the year, the game violently flipped.

The Lakers couldn’t contain Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cam Reddish unable to play one game after returning from a groin injury. And while coach Darvin Ham has been optimistic about Rui Hachimura (recently fitted for a protective mask) and Jarred Vanderbilt (ramping up toward his season debut), neither player was available Thursday.

Jaxson Hayes also couldn’t go thanks to an elbow injury he suffered Wednesday.

Short-handed and short-winded, the Lakers again got beaten on the glass and again got beaten in transition, multiple possessions ending with James failing to cross midcourt as he grabbed at oxygen.

All five Thunder starters scored at least 12, with Gilgeous-Alexander finishing with 33 points thanks, in part, to 10 free throws.

Their two worst games, in terms of points allowed, occurred on this trip — allowing Philadelphia to score 138 before giving up 133 to the Thunder.

The schedule, thanks to the in-season tournament, turns a little in the next week, with the Lakers playing just once, on Saturday against the Rockets, before they host Phoenix in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

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