Austin Reaves layup vs OKC

Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Thunder - 4/8/22

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (31-49) are home for their final regular season game, with OKC (24-56) in town. The contest tips at 7:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

As has been the case far too often in 2021-22, we start with an injury update, with the headline being: LeBron James is out for the remainder of the season.

As such, LeBron’s season concludes with 56 games played, the eighth most on the Lakers, and the third fewest of his career, behind only his 2018-19 season in L.A. (55) and the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 regular season (45).

LeBron averaged 30.3 points per game on an efficient 52.4 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from three and 75.6 percent free throws, as he increased his scoring average by 5.3 points from the prior season, taking advantage of additional space in the middle of the floor with L.A. more often playing small ball units.

Joining him on the bench will be several other vets who also missed Thursday’s game at Golden State: Carmelo Anthony (non-COVID illness); Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain); Russell Westbrook (right shoulder soreness); and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise).

With those aforementioned vets out, it meant more usage for several of L.A.’s younger players, and Talen Horton-Tucker took full advantage from a scoring standpoint.

THT, whose previous career high was 28, exploded for 40 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter alone. He took a lot of shots – 28 – but made 15 of them, an efficient 53.6 percent, and also converted eight of nine free throws. He wasn’t looking to make as many plays, finishing with three assists to two turnovers, emblematic of the team’s 14 total assists, relative to Golden State’s 39. Part of that discrepancy was L.A.’s aggressiveness getting to the bucket and the foul line, where they attempted 38 shots, to GSW’s 10. THT also added a team-high four steals.

“Talen was great tonight," said Frank Vogel. "Really just had a look about him that he was going to attack his game, played with a great deal of determination, it put more pressure on the paint and the rim. We’ve seen it in a lot of our games this year, just the downhill nature of his game was really good. But he's a guy that he’s got to—you know, at his best, the best fit for him is with the ball in his hands, with shooters around him and we haven’t been able to create that type of role for him but you can see what he can do when he has that type of setting. Really proud of his performance tonight.”

The Arkansas pairing of Austin Reaves and Malik Monk were productive as well in increased roles, combining for 36 points (24 for Monk), six boards and four assists. Stanley Johnson added eight points, six boards and two steals, though he did turn it over six times.

On Friday morning, there was Lakers news on yet another young player:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed Wenyen Gabriel to a standard NBA contract, it was announced today. Gabriel originally signed a two-way contract with Los Angeles on March 1, 2022 and has appeared in 17 games (four starts) for the Lakers this season, averaging 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14.6 minutes. Gabriel has averaged 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 75 career games (five starts) for the Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Kings.

Gabriel has been coming off the bench behind Dwight Howard, trying to hold down the center position with a very small group of players around him, with Kent Bazemore playing the four, and Wayne Ellington the three in Golden State, plus PG D.J. Augustin. His energy has been helpful, while he continues to work on his foul rate, and discipline with assignments.

As new as Gabriel is, having played in just 17 games, he’s a long-tenured vet compared to several of OKC’s current players.

In fact, one of OKC’s expected starters, Lindy Waters III, will be starting just his second game. Two more, Georgios Kalaitzakis and Zavier Simpson, will be starting their third game. Jaylen Hoard’s looking at start No. 4, with Vit Krejci on No. 7, and Isaiah Roby anchoring the group, starting his 26th game.

There aren’t many NBA games where THT, Reaves, Monk, Gabriel, Johnson and Co. would have more experience than their opponent, but that’s certainly the case on Friday night.

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