Alex Caruso and Dennis Schröder

Lakers at Thunder: Three Things to Know (1/13/21)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (9-3) play their third back-to-back set of games of the young season on Wednesday night in Oklahoma City (5-5) against a young Thunder team, with a 5 p.m. tip on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

When LeBron turned around to accept Dennis Schroder’s bet immediately after releasing a corner three in the second quarter against Houston, it of course didn’t really have anything to do with the next night’s game in OKC. Except, perhaps, that it was a statement of chemistry, cohesion and fun that’s represented on a Lakers roster of players that is really enjoying playing together. That’s something that does carry through a regular season, especially when a bit of extra energy is required – like on a back to back.

The Lakers thoroughly dominated Houston for eight straight quarters, outscoring them 120-102 and 117-100. The Rockets just weren’t competitive. They clearly have their own issues to deal with James Harden’s much-reported trade request weighing on the franchise.

OKC, in contrast, is just going out and playing hard every night, and it’s been enough to produce a .500 record despite their use of several players with limited experience and production over the years, particularly off their bench. Their starting lineup does boast some real experience, with George Hill and Al Horford anchoring things alongside still-young Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And then Lu Dort and Darius Bazley, who flashed some promise next to Dennis Schroder in last year’s 7-game series against Houston, have been playing well.

The Lakers re-established their defensive identity in Texas, but will need to bring it across the border to Oklahoma, because the Thunder are good enough to beat them on a given night, if not.

The most direct way for the Lakers to carry their strength over from Houston is to keep swarming around defensively, as witnessed not just by the inefficiency and lack of scoring for the Rockets, but by the stocks.

Steals + Blocks
Sunday: 13 + 8
Tuesday: 10 + 12

That’s a whopping 23 steals 20 blocks in two games, with Alex Caruso’s six swipes and Anthony Davis’s eight swats leading the way. The Lakers now rank 3rd in the NBA in blocks (6.7 per game, tied with last season) though still only 24th in steals (6.8). The Thunder come in at 13th in blocks (5.2) and 28th in steals (6.4).

More broadly, through 10 games, OKC has struggled on offense, ranking 29th in the NBA with an OFF EFF of 103.3, compared to LAL’s No. 6 ranked group (113.5). But they’ve been effective defensively, ranking 13th (108.2) to LAL’s No. 2 (104.7).


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