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3 reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers should be in panic mode

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Playing the second half of a back-to-back against the hapless Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers laid an absolute egg.

Without LeBron James in the mix due to a minor ankle injury, Los Angeles opened up a 26-point lead against the previously winless Thunder. Taking on his former team, Russell Westbrook nearly had a triple-double for the Lakers at halftime.

That’s when the wheels started to come off for this team — almost literally. Oklahoma City outscored Los Angeles 41-23 in the third quarter and 26-20 in the final stanza to pull off the historical upset. Now 2-3 on the young campaign, here’s a look at why the Lakers should in fact be in full-blown panic mode.

Related: Find out where the Los Angeles Lakers stand in our NBA power rankings

Even without LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers should have handled OKC

los angeles lakers struggles are concerning
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder entered Wednesday’s game at 0-4 on the campaign. It ranked 29th in scoring and 20th in points allowed per game. The Thunder were outscored by an average of nearly 20 points per outing during that four-game span and just recently blew a 17-point lead against the Golden State Warriors Tuesday evening.

There was absolutely no reason for Oklahoma City to even be in this game. Once it fell down by 26, the team should have just packed it up and called it a night.

Instead, Oklahoma City came out of the halftime playing inspired basketball. On the other hand, the Lakers were an absolute mess. After hitting on 4-of-6 shots in the first half, Westbrook nailed 2-of-14 after intermission. Anthony Davis was minus-seven in his 37 minutes of action. That’s just not acceptable. These are two factors that led to Los Angeles’ ugly loss in OKC.

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Russell Westbrook is a problem for the Los Angeles Lakers

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Just look at what the former NBA MVP has done in his five games with the Lakers. With an exception of Tuesday’s narrow win over the San Antonio Spurs, it’s been absolutely ugly.

  • VS- Golden State Warriors: 4-of-13 shooting, eight points, five rebounds, four assists, four turnovers (-23)
  • VS- Phoenix Suns: 6-of-15 shooting, 15 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, four turnovers (+4)
  • VS- Memphis Grizzlies: 5-of-15 shooting, 13 points, seven rebounds, 13 assists, nine turnovers (-8)
  • AT- San Antonio Spurs: 15-of-27 shooting, 33 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, three turnovers (+1)
  • AT- Oklahoma City Thunder: 8-of-20 shooting, 20 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 10 turnovers (-12)

A total of 30 turnovers in five games. That’s giving away six freaking possessions each game. Again, this isn’t going to cut it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Russ fits in with what the Lakers do. That’s not going to change even if he gets more comfortable in this atmosphere. Primarily, he excels in transition and on the fast break. That’s not the Los Angeles Lakers’ MO with LeBron James and Anthony Davis being iso-heavy. It’s going to be a continued issue this season.

Related: Everything you need to know about the 2021-22 NBA season

Western Conference is absolutely stacked

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

An argument can be made that Los Angeles has not improved despite its roster overhaul behind James and AD. The same thing can’t be said about other conference title contenders.

As evidenced by their win over the Lakers in Southern California to open the season, the Golden State Warriors are deep as they’ve been since Steve Kerr took over. The Dubs won that game by seven despite the fact that Stephen Curry shot a mere 5-of-21 from the field while Andrew Wiggins added just 12 points. Golden State will get deeper as the season progresses with Klay Thompson, James Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga set to return from injury.

The Phoenix Suns added a ton of bench options following their shocking run to the NBA Finals a season ago. That was highlighted in their win over the Los Angeles Lakers last Friday.

None of this even takes into account the presence of the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets — two teams who have proven they can run with Los Angeles in the past.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves are coming off a statement win over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and sit at 3-1 on the campaign.

The moral of this story is that Los Angeles should be in full-blown panic mode right now. It doesn’t even look like a top-five team in the Western Conference. That’s the cold-hard truth.