Short-handed Thunder Falls in LA – OKC 81, LAL 106
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | email@example.com
LOS ANGELES – Paul George had the Thunder rolling in the first eight minutes on Thursday night, ripping off 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting to start the game. As the first quarter began to wane, however, the absence of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony began to show, and the Thunder lost its mojo.
Both Westbrook and Anthony missed the Thunder’s 106-81 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers due to sprained ankles they sustained in the team’s win over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. As a result, the Thunder’s lineups and rotations were just a bit off, and so was the execution on both ends.
Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club rolled out to an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter, but suddenly the offense ground to a halt when George and Raymond Felton checked out of the game. Without a true point guard, the Thunder’s offense sputtered and didn’t score in the second quarter until the 7:38 mark.
"Some of these guys were in situations for the first time in a lot of ways so it was different for them," Donovan said. "I thought we actually created and generated some pretty good looks, we just couldn’t make any shots."
After starting 0-for-7 from three-point range in the first quarter, the Lakers made 6-of-9 threes after that in the second quarter, creating some separation on the scoreboard.
Our turnovers and a couple transitions of not getting back allowed them to get out and get some of those quicker threes. Those were the ones where I think we could have done a better job.
The starters, including George (29 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and Steven Adams (13 points, 9 rebounds) along with Josh Huestis, Patrick Patterson and Felton helped pull the Thunder back within six at halftime, but the Lakers ran away in the third quarter.
Between turnovers, missed jumpers and a lack of finishing around the rim, the Thunder’s offense just couldn’t produce enough to keep pace with the Lakers. For the night, the Thunder shot just 35.6 percent, including 8-for-34 from three-point range, in addition to committing 14 turnovers.
"We didn’t shoot the ball well as a team. We came out in a nice little rhythm. I know me personally I should have kept that rhythm and kept the same shots I was getting," George noted. "Credit to them, they made adjustments after our hot start. They got the game going in transition. They played a little faster. I felt once they took that lead, we were just playing behind."
"It was just one of those nights. I’m a firm believer in the law of averages," Huestis added. "There’s going to be nights like this. It just happens.
On the other end of the floor, the Lakers got much higher percentage looks, and that started early on with 26 points in the paint in the first quarter alone. For the night, the Lakers racked up 58 points in the lane, while also knocking down 10 three-pointers and scoring after offensive rebounds to the tune of 21 second chance points.
"Once we get our defense set, it’s trapping the box and trapping them outside the paint," Adams explained. "More than likely we were late on a lot of those, a couple of offensive boards here and there."
Donovan was able to get extended minutes for some youngsters and veterans alike, including Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Dakari Johnson and Daniel Hamilton. In addition, rookie two-way player PJ Dozier got his first career NBA minutes, and even scored on a nice driving layup late in the fourth quarter.
The Thunder will play next on Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Highlights: Thunder at Lakers
By the Numbers
2 – Minutes for rookie two-way player PJ Dozier, who scored 2 points and grabbed a rebound
29 – Points for Paul George, including five made three-pointers, in addition to 9 rebounds and 3 assists
58 – Points in the paint allowed by the Thunder on the night, including 26 in the first quarter
The Last Word
“We played good defense. They shot 43 percent. The problem was we had some turnovers and some of the misses that we had gave them leak outs and transition baskets.” – forward Paul George