3 things to know lakers at thunder 11-30-23

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Thunder, 11-30-23

The Lakers (11-8) wrap up a 4-game trip with a contest at Oklahoma City on Thursday night, on the second night of a back-to-back in what’s been a B2B heavy schedule of late. The game tips off at 4:00 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

The Lakers have not been at their best this season when they’ve been at a rest disadvantage. That certainly isn’t unique to them, but it’s more of an issue this season, because the Lakers have 15 back-to-backs, relative to 12 in both of the previous two campaigns. LAL have the NBA’s oldest player, LeBron James, and a second star in Anthony Davis who is asked to do more than almost any other player on the defensive end, while still being counted upon for a large share of offense. It’s simply a more challenging ask for those two to play about 20 hours after they did the night before.

Furthermore, the Lakers this season are at a rest disadvantage more often than their opponents. In fact, they’re noted as the “fresh*” team seven times, the “tired” team 12 times, and even with their opponent 61 times, for a total net of -5. Last season, they were “fresh” six more times than they were “tired.”

*Fresh is when the your team didn’t play the night before but the opponent did; tired is when you played the night before but your opponent did not.

L.A. actually started well in this context, beating Orlando, on Oct. 30, 106-103 a night after losing at Sacramento. But then they got blown out by the Kings on Nov. 15 after beating Memphis on Nov. 14, and were beaten again by Dallas on Nov. 22 after playing Utah on Nov. 21. Neither Sacramento nor Dallas had played the night before their Lakers matchup, and were thus the “fresh” team. 

And so will OKC be on Thursday night, setting up a third straight week where LAL are at a rest disadvantage on the second night of a B2B. This one is particularly stark as the Lakers had a long flight from Detroit to Oklahoma that didn’t deliver them to the team hotel until about 2 a.m. local time. But hey … that’s the NBA!

When the Lakers pounded the Pistons in Detroit behind D’Angelo Russell (35 points, 9 assists) and Davis (28 points, 16 boards, 4 assists, 3 blocks), they employed what’s been a strength all season: contesting shots without fouling, and thus, not giving up many free throws. 

The Pistons managed to reach the charity stripe just 14 times, below their average of 20.9 per night. 

Davis is the biggest reason for this, as there’s no better big man at contesting nearly everything in his vicinity, but not committing a foul. Davis is averaging just 3 fouls committed per game, only 0.2 above his blocks per game average of 2.8, and that doesn’t count all of the shots he deters or discourages in the first place. Thus far, opponents are shooting 56.2% from less than six feet on Davis.

OKC’s best drawer of fouls is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His 7.3 FTA’s per game almost doubles teammates Jalen Williams (4.1) and Chet Holmgren (4.1). OKC as a team are in the middle of the pack, attempting 23.3 per night. That’s below L.A.’s own average attempts of 25.2, led by AD’s 6.2, and LeBron’s 5.8.

Alas, on a night where the Lakers won’t have the rest advantage, they’ll need to make it up in some other areas, and the free throw line would be a good place to start.

The Lakers got good news on the injury front when Cam Reddish made his return to the court in Detroit after missing the previous three games, and all but five minutes of a fourth due to groin soreness. He played 19 minutes off the bench, and missed all three of his FG attempts, but was active defensively and grabbed three boards with a pair of assists.

Nonetheless, Reddish is one of eight Lakers on the injury report for the OKC game:

  • Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm): Probable
  • Max Christie (left calf contusion): Questionable 
  • Jaxson Hayes (left elbow soreness): Questionable
  • LeBron James (left calf contusion): Questionable
  • Cam Reddish (right groin soreness): Questionable
  • Rui Hachimura (nasal fracture): OUT
  • Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis): OUT
  • Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion): OUT

Christie and Hayes are the two new additions to the report, having suffered respective ailments at Detroit. 

Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has yet to debut this season, suffered the heel injury in the first preseason game back on Oct. 7 at Golden State. Vanderbilt has been working his way through injury protocols, and “progressing according to plan,” via Darvin Ham, including conditioning drills, basketball drills and 3-on-3 throughout the road trip. He won’t play against OKC, but he’s clearly nearing a return, making the team’s return to Los Angeles on Saturday against Houston a possibility that has yet to be ruled out.

Since the team won’t hold shootaround due to the B2B, we’ll have to await a potentially lengthy update from Darvin Ham during his pregame press conference at the arena.