Lakers Flex in Most Physical Game of Season
Bodies were flying, players went scrambling for the ball, and the Super Bowl was still four hours away from kickoff.
The Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder might as well have worn shoulder pads to Sunday’s game, as they engaged in the most physical contest of L.A.’s season.
The line of scrimmage was wherever Julius Randle and Carmelo Anthony decided to lock horns, as the Lakers’ power forward took his game right to the future Hall of Famer.
Randle absolutely bullied the matchup, finishing the Lakers’ victory with 19 points while Anthony shot just 3-of-13 from the field.
Randle’s dominance was most obvious in the post, where his combination of power and speed was too much for the 33-year-old.
Keeping with the football tone, Randle uses a swim move on that first play to get into position. He then finishes with an easy floater, which he breaks out again on the second clip.
And then the third play is just sheer strength. He begins with the ball in the mid-range before getting low and backing Anthony all the way into the restricted area. Randle gives Melo one last shot to the chest as he turns over his shoulder for the layup.
Josh Hart also contributed in Anthony’s no good, very bad day.
Twice, the former scoring champion tried to post up the rookie, and twice Hart won the battle.
One saw Hart put a swat on Melo’s shot, and the other was a good contest at the rim followed by a tough scrap for the rebound.
If there’s one player that can be counted upon to bring the physicality, it’s Hart, who had another huge day on the boards, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Hart also whithstood several shots from the league’s best screen-setter/leader of the Dothraki Steven Adams.
Below, he gets blasted by an Adams pick, but still flies in to beat Russell Westbrook for the rebound. He adds a pretty touch pass on the other end for good measure.
Josh Hart just plays, man.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 4, 2018
Gets blasted by the Adams screen but still flies in for the board. Nice touch pass on the other end. pic.twitter.com/8Xu9j9mYM3
Recently, Hart has also been instrumental in keeping the Lakers’ transition offense afloat without Lonzo Ball (sore left knee).
After hunting down rebounds, Hart has continuously bolted down the court looking for opportunities to get to the cup or find a teammate.
That last play was made possible by a good challenge at the rim by Brook Lopez, who was excellent on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, he provided valuable spacing by hitting four 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 20 points. The Lakers also largely ran their offense through him, as he touched the ball 72 times (one fewer than point forward Brandon Ingram) and had five assists.
Defensively, he sat on Adams all day, holding the NBA’s best offensive rebounder (5.3 per game) to only two offensive boards and five total. Lopez had just five rebounds himself, but the tape shows him constantly boxing Adams out of the play, allowing Hart and others to get the ball.
This last sequence is one of Lopez’s best of the year. It begins with him setting a screen that flypapers Josh Huestis.
Ingram misses at the rim, but Hart is there to clean up and kick to Lopez, who drains the triple.
Lopez, Hart and Randle put their bodies on the line for this win against one of the NBA’s most physical teams.
They’ll need to ice up and get ready for another bruiser. The rematch with OKC is just three days away, as the Thunder come to Staples Center on Thursday.