LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers' season hit rock bottom earlier this week in Memphis, another troubling loss that was preceded by that now infamous team meeting in which grievances were aired and selfishness was supposed to have been checked at the locker room door.
After returning for a brief homestand that leads into the annual Grammys road trip -- seven games in 12 days -- the Lakers finally made a stand Sunday, finally made the effort to play together and go somewhere. It was a 105-96 victory over the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, the cohesive, drama-free team that has passed the star-studded Lakers and become the class of the conference with their simple, effective, blissfully bland way of doing things right all the time.
"Feels good to finally beat a team that's worth a [expletive]," Kobe Bryant said at his locker afterward, on his way to a little league basketball game where the kids probably play better team basketball than the Lakers had for the past two months.
The Lakers actually forged an identity for themselves with consecutive wins over the Jazz and Thunder. The ball moved. The shots went down. The defense was energized by this newfound success at the other end of the floor. And right in the middle of it was not the point guard who was brought here to make it all go -- Steve Nash -- but rather Bryant, who logged his second straight 14-assist game Sunday, prompting Nash to actually say, "He reminds me a little bit of Magic Johnson the way he's playing right now."