Lakers Top Thunder on Second Night of Back-to-Back
Game Recap: Thunder 99, Lakers 128
Despite a surge to cut the Lakers’ lead in half going into the third quarter, the Lakers outpaced the Thunder offensively, carrying a lead all four quarters. Even then, Wednesday’s game offered valuable experiences for the Thunder’s young contingent.
The reigning NBA Champions used size and physicality to their advantage in their win over the Thunder. Forward Anthony Davis spearheaded the effort by putting up a quick eight points in the opening four minutes. Muscling his way inside and knocking down a pair of shots in the midrange, Davis opened up with a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
On the other end of the floor, the physicality of the Lakers initially took the Thunder out of its rhythm offensively which opened the door for Los Angeles to get out to an early 24-point lead.
The Thunder, who prides itself on its ability to calibrate and adjust in-game, began to find ways to manufacture points midway through the first. With spurts early on matching the physicality of the Lakers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander surgically drove the lane and got buckets at the basket to put up eight first quarter points. Hamidou Diallo checked into the game and dropped four points in four minutes to close out the quarter.
“There were a lot of possessions…where I thought we were able to generate some pace and get away from them and get them behind the ball,” said Daigneault. “You've got to be able to sustain that against a team that's big and physical like that.”
The Thunder settled down in the second quarter offensively and generated consecutive buckets coupled with stops on the defensive end. Isaiah Roby, who started in the place of Al Horford (rest), kick started the effort scoring on a finger roll in the lane on one side of the floor, then grabbed a defensive rebound on the ensuing possession and kicked it ahead to Lu Dort for his second 3-pointer of the night. This was the start of a Thunder 14-2 run that would cut the Lakers 24-point lead in half going into the locker room at intermission.
“I thought that that group that closed out half did a really good job getting us back in the game and got us within striking distance,” said Daigneault. “That's a good example of those guys just continuing to play.”
After OKC cut the lead to 12 points going into the half, the Lakers erupted out of the half with a 16-2 run of its own to once again tip the scales heavily back in its favor. Behind the efforts of Lebron James who poured in 11 points in the third stanza, the Lakers outscored the Thunder 35-25. The effort was matched in the fourth quarter as Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris combined for 17 points in the fourth en route to another 35-point quarter by the Lakers to seal the game.
“They were just the better team tonight. We didn't have our greatest night,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “We'll watch film, try to get better from it and get ready for the next game.”
Despite the loss, every moment on the floor serves as a valuable touchpoint for this young Thunder team. Going up against the league’s reigning champions only added to its catalogue of experiences to extract lessons from as it continues to grow and develop throughout the season. Players like 19-year-old rookies Théo Maledon and Aleksej Pokuševski took advantage of the valuable opportunity and both chipped in five points in the final 12 minutes.
Pokuševski finished the night by recording first double-digit game of his young career with 10 points while also adding three well-timed blocks to his stat line. The Thunder coaching staff has applauded the 7-foot-2 forward’s approach to his development so far this season by taking lessons from each game and working to build a solid foundation with each experience.
“These are all touch points for him. Every minute out there, he's learning and figuring things out,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “There's a lot coming at these players really fast when they're rookies, and you can tell he's starting to get a little bit more comfortable, especially in the offensive end.”
“Poku does a great job of being in our shell. He’s long so he’s able to get those blocks. That’s the main thing,” said Thunder guard Kenrich Williams after the game.
Play of the Game
There are no wasted minutes on the floor in the NBA, and Kenrich Williams knows it. In the fourth quarter, the scrappy, hard-working guard defended Alex Caruso near the half court line. Caruso crossed over the ball a little too casually in front of a high-energy player they call Kenny Hustle. Williams poked the ball away and accelerated up the floor before dumping it off to Pokuševski who elevated for an easy one-handed slam.
Stat of the Night17
The Lakers came into Wednesday’s game sixth in the league in 3-point percentage shooting 38 percent on average. Against the Thunder, Los Angeles knocked down 17 3-pointers at a scorching 45-percent clip. Nine different Lakers cashed in at least one 3-pointer , but it was James who led the way with a season-high five-made triples.
Quotes of the Night
“It's one of 72 games, and they're all opportunities to compete and then they are opportunities to learn and we just got to continue to use every experience to continue to grow and move forward.”
“Absolutely beautiful.” –Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the Thunder's 2021 City Edition uniforms
After a tough back-to-back the Thunder will have a day to rest before gearing up for an action-packed weekend inside of Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder will host the Chicago Bulls on Friday before welcoming the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff.