Turnovers Early, Late Lakers Second Chance Creates Tough Loss

Nick Gallo

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter & Digital Editor | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Game Recap: Thunder 107, Lakers 112

For the second straight night the Thunder gave itself a chance in crunch time against one of the best teams in the West. Again though the Thunder fell short by just two possessions, its sixth loss by five points or fewer this season.

Game Flow

Early on it looked like it might be a road rout, a classic second night of a back to back against the top team in the West. The Lakers ripped off an 8-0 run early, while the Thunder couldn’t convert near the rim and had a hard time keeping possessions secure. In fact, in the first quarter alone the Thunder had nine turnovers that led directly to 18 Lakers points.

Dennis Schröder had four of the Thunder’s first quarter turnovers but made up for it by starting 5-for-5 from the field for 14 points including two three-pointers to keep the Thunder’s offense afloat.

“Dennis was amazing,” Paul said of his fellow point guard who scored 31 in the game. “Kept us in it all night.”

“Dennis was an offensive spark for us and a bright spot,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said.

Schröder’s aggressiveness kept the Thunder in it long enough for the turnover problem to subside and the Thunder surged with an 8-0 run capped by a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander three-pointer. To start the second half the Thunder again rallied, racking up 10-straight points behind back-to-back three-pointers by Danilo Gallinari and Terrance Ferguson.

The Thunder stayed within arm’s reach for much of the second half by not turning the ball over, but a four-point possession by Anthony Davis, who finished with 34 points, put the Thunder on notice. Yet Donovan’s club pressed on, as Schröder got two layups goaltended to make it just a six-point game entering the final frame.

The Lakers rattled off six straight points to start the fourth, and a LeBron James step-back three-pointer on the left wing made it an 11-point game with 3:19 to go. The entirety of Staples Center thought it surely would be the backbreaker. Not for this feisty Thunder club though.

Immediately after Donovan’s timeout the Thunder ripped off nine-straight points with four free throws from Gallinari, a lob from Chris Paul to Nerlens Noel and a fast break and-one bucket from Gilgeous-Alexander. That made it 109-107 with 90 seconds to go, setting up the final sequence.

“Just compete, play hard. We knew we would eventually clean things up and give ourselves a chance to win,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We have a bunch of guys who want to win, and when you have that, anything can happen.”

Decisive Moments

On the Lakers’ ensuing possession after the Thunder’s 9-0 spurt, Davis lined up a three-pointer that clanged high off the rim. James rose up and slapped the ball out to no one in particular, but the ball zoomed around quickly enough to find Kentavious Caldwell-Pope alone in the corner. The Lakers’ shooting guard made his third three of the night, giving the Lakers its final margin of victory with 55.3 seconds remaining. Neither team could score the rest of the way, sending the Thunder back to Oklahoma City with another tough loss.

Play of the Game

With just under 10 minutes to go in the third quarter, Gilgeous-Alexander drove baseline, drawing the attention of the defense and turning Lakers’ heads. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Danilo Gallinari cutting from the top of the key straight down the middle of the lane. A slick, decisive pass by Gilgeous-Alexander hit Gallinari right in stride for a two-handed dunk to keep it a two-point game.

“He’s got a lot of different stuff that he can do. He can play make. I tonight he really played a good floor game. He made some good passes,” Donovan said.

Stat of the Night

30 Fast break points for the Lakers on the night, including 23 in the first half alone. Coming into the game the Thunder was the best team in the league at preventing transition scoring by its opponents, but tonight the Lakers’ speed, length, disruptive defense and lightning-quick outlet passing got the ball out ahead of the Thunder’s unit before it could get set.

Quotes of the Night

Chris Paul“We couldn’t get stops. They were getting out in transition, getting lobs… We just dug ourselves too big of a hole and never really got back into it.” – point guard Chris Paul

“If we compete every night and play at a high level, we can play with anybody in this league. It’s just about us figuring it out down the stretch.” – point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“I just don’t think we probably did enough in the game… Some things happened just in different segments of the game that probably added up over 48 minutes.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

Looking Ahead

The Thunder (5-9) will square up for 48 more minutes against this (12-2) Lakers team all over again on Friday, but this time back in Oklahoma City. It’ll be a one-game home-stand for the Thunder before shipping back out to the West coast next week to take on the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers.


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