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Downed by an Early Deficit

Paris Lawson

By Paris Lawson | Digital Content Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Game Recap: Thunder 110, Lakers 125


A hot start from the Lakers coupled with a low-energy jump from the Thunder lead to a margin too large to overcome. The Thunder got back to its game plan later in the contest and cut the lead to 11, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with the high-efficiency offense of Los Angeles.


Game Flow

From the opening tip, the Lakers retained control of the game. It started with a perfect 4-for-4 performance from Rajon Rondo in the first five minutes of play. From there, a mixture of 13 second chance points and an offensive explosion from Kyle Kuzma who caught fire with 14 points paved the way to a 41-point quarter for Los Angeles.

On the other end, the Thunder struggled to strike offensive rhythm. An uncharacteristic 33 percent from the field and 14 percent from behind the arc held the Thunder to only 19 points in the first frame.

“I don’t think we started the game the way we needed to,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. “They jumped on us early and they kind of set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Momentum swayed heavily in the Lakers direction out of the half as they went on a 10-2 run out of the gates on the way to an 85-53 lead at the 9:30 mark of the third quarter. The Thunder generated good looks offensively, but the shots it usually knocks down at a high clip weren’t falling in its direction.

The Thunder, the same team who came back from a 26- and 24-point deficit nearly one month ago, went on a surge in the third quarter. Matching the intensity of the Lakers, the Thunder reeled in rebounds, took away transition looks and found ways to get the ball through the hoop.

In a matter of five minutes, the Thunder cut a 32-point deficit to 18. OKC shot 5-6 from behind the arc thanks to buckets from Chris Paul, Mike Muscala, Danilo Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander in that span aiding the squad to a 20-6 run.

The Thunder continued to claw in the fourth quarter behind Gilgeous-Alexander. The second-year guard went on a one-man 9-0 run late in the fourth to cut his team’s deficit to 11 with three minutes remaining and sparked a glimmer of hope within Chesapeake Energy Arena.

However, Kuzma put a stop to the Gilgeous-Alexander run with a five-point swell of his own to put the game officially out of reach for the Thunder and squash any chance of a comeback.

“I didn’t think it was for lack of effort, I just thought [the Lakers] were the aggressor tonight,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “They had us back on our heels a little bit, and I think our guys were really trying, but there’s just some nights where it’s just not your night and I would say tonight was one of those nights. It just wasn’t our night.”


Decisive Moments

The remarkable shooting performance from the Lakers in the first quarter set the stage for the rest of the game. The Lakers shot 61 percent from the field, 57 percent from downtown, 100 percent from the foul line and racked up 13 second chance points. This level of production lifted Los Angeles to a 41-point quarter while leaving OKC in the dust with only 19 points and a 22-point deficit to come back from.

“They brought the energy and the intensity, and we didn’t match it from the first minute and so they were better than us in any category of the game tonight,” said Gallinari.


Play of the Game

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander assessed the mismatch he had with Dwight Howard in the right corner. He attacked to the middle keeping Howard on his hip. Getting all the way to the paint, the Thunder’s second-year guard came to a stop with his back to the basket while extending his arm as if he was to shoot a reverse layup. This sent Howard completely out of position which allowed Gilgeous-Alexander to spin back to the other side of the rim and finish an underhanded finger roll.


Stat of the Night

28

The Lakers’ size presented itself problematic on the offensive glass. JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard both snagged three offensive boards each lifting LA to a 12-5 advantage on offensive boards. Scrambling in transition and defensive rotations forced mismatches on box-outs against the McGee/Howard presence in the paint. The result, 28 second chance points for Los Angeles and only eight for the Thunder.

“Some of it started in transition and its very similar to what happened last night against Dallas,” said Donovan referring to the 45 first-quarter points that the LA scored on Dallas the day before. “They’re an elite offensive rebounding team, they’re really, really good at that. They obviously have great length and size.”


Quotes of the Night

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“We have a bunch of competitors and no matter what they score is, we’re going to give it our all. Honestly, we just love to play basketball and we just play as hard as we can.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

“Offensively, defensively we just weren’t good enough against the way they were playing to win the game. Everything had to be a lot better on offense and defense.” –Coach Donovan

Looking Ahead

The Thunder will look to put this one behind them as they head to Minnesota on Monday in its lone road trip in this six-game stretch. The squad then returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena to take on the Raptors on Wednesday.


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