Game Recap: Thunder 113, Lakers 114 (OT)

In a second consecutive hard-fought battle, the Thunder took the NBA’s reigning champions into overtime yet again with just eight active players. It took a collective team effort and an incredible defensive performance for the Thunder to put itself in a position to win in the final seconds.

Game Flow

It was déjà vu for the Thunder and the Lakers on Wednesday, they had both been in this situation just 48 hours ago.

After four quarters of play, OKC and Los Angeles were tied up for the second straight night and heading into overtime. For the Lakers, it marked the third consecutive game that required extra time. For the Thunder, it was the third straight opportunity they had to come back and win a game after dropping the first matchup against the same team.

There was, however, one major difference between Monday’s matchup and Wednesday’s. OKC was without its primary playmaker and All-Star contender in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who sat out of the game with a left knee sprain. In his absence, the Thunder found itself without a true point guard on the floor, but this wasn’t entirely new territory for the Thunder. In these situations, OKC looks to flex its versatility and the functionality of its perimeter players while giving every single player on the floor a chance to contribute offensively and step up to the challenge.

In the first quarter, that’s exactly what the Thunder did. Out of the gates, the Thunder’s offense fired on all cylinders shooting at 55 percent from the field and 44 percent from the 3-point line. Kenrich Williams contributed heavily to the hot start, dropping 11 points in the first frame on 5-of-6 shooting. By the end of the night, the man known for his hustle and knack for the intangible efforts would be in the spotlight for racking up a career-high 24 points offensively making him one of three undrafted players to score 20 or more in a game in OKC history.

“It just felt good coming off,” said Williams. “They kind of gave me some space and whenever you see the first one go in, it kind of opens everything up.”

“He just understands what the team needs,” said Thunder center Al Horford. “It's just impressive. For him tonight, he was in such a good zone. It was very impressive to see.”

After opening up the game on a slow start shooting a bleary 1-for-8 from the 3-point line and just 30 percent from the field, the Lakers’ offense slowly started revving up through the next two quarters. OKC built up as large as a 20-point lead in the second quarter, but by the half that margin was cut to 10.

Behind trips to the free-throw line and the cooling off of OKC’s offense, the Lakers continued to chisel away at the Thunder’s lead in the third quarter. Midway through the fourth, a string of empty possessions and turnovers by the Thunder gave the Lakers their bread-and-butter fast break opportunities to take its first lead of the game with five minutes to go in the fourth.

The Thunder remained poised. Lu Dort, who has found himself in a shooting slump over the past couple of games, generated much-needed buckets with drives to the paint and aggressive attacks at the basket. Dort finished the game with 17 points, but the buckets he made were at critical junctures of the game and were hard earned at the basket.

For instance, it was a steal and a dunk from Dort that put the Thunder back within a one-possession ball game after Los Angeles took the lead. Then it was an and-one with 47 seconds left in regulation that allowed OKC to regain its lead.

“I thought tonight offensively he had different sources of offense,” said Daigneault. “He really drove the ball. He got fouled he was fearless. He didn't allow mistakes or missed shots to get in a way of his aggressiveness and his competitiveness.

After a pair of free throws from Al Horford, the Thunder led by three points with just 24 seconds left on the clock. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel called a timeout to draw up a play and advance the ball. On the inbounds, the ball found its way to LeBron James who drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game at 105 with just 17 seconds left to go. The Thunder wouldn’t be able to answer and once again, the two teams were forced to duke it out in overtime.

Decisive Moments

Overtime went back and forth between the two groups and it came down to the final seconds to determine the victor of this matchup. With the game tied at 111 with just under a minute left in the game, James drove the lane and kicked the ball out to Wesley Matthews for a 3-pointer to take a 114-111 lead.

Lu Dort immediately answered on the other end of the floor using a dribble-hand-off from Al Horford to get downhill and finish at the rim. Now trailing by just one point, the Thunder had the opportunity to get a stop with 30 seconds left and potentially score on the other end.

Dort matched up with James on an isolation play and put on an incredibly disciplined and focused defensive effort to force James into a contested, 17-foot fadeaway jumper that didn’t make it to the rim. This gave OKC a chance to answer with just 4.3 seconds left. However, after a timeout to draw up a play, LeBron James deflected the ball on the inbounds that nearly fell out of bounds. By the time OKC recovered the ball, the interference had taken up too much time for the Thunder to get off a shot in time.

It was another 53-minute performance by the Thunder while playing with only three substitutes off the bench. There were no excuses made, just pure effort and will to give itself a chance to win against the number one team in the Western Conference.

“It's getting old, but I just have to commend them for their effort and competitiveness,” said Daigneault. “On a short turnaround after a tough loss the other night we dusted ourselves off, we made the adjustments and most importantly, we showed up to compete and we competed for 53 minutes. We left it on the court again. These ones sting because you want to come away with a win when you put that sort of effort forward, but we're focused on progress. These are certainly games that we continue to show progress and we continue to strengthen our muscles competitively as a team.”

Play of the Game

There’s an exclusive list of defenders in the NBA who can offer up resistance against the 6-foot-9, 250-pound point-forward LeBron James. Lu Dort is on that list.

After making the bucket to put his team within one point of tying the ball game, Dort now had to defend the 16-time All Star with just 30 seconds left in the game if his team were to have a chance to win.

James received the ball on the left side of the floor and immediately, the distracting, waving hand of Dort tracked his face and would remain there for the entire time James had the ball. With active hands and a locked-in, disciplined defensive stance, Dort forced James into a one-dribble, contested, fadeaway deep-two that fell entirely short of the rim.

“I wanted to get a stop, that was the main thing,” said Dort. “I put my hands in his face to mess up his vision. I just wanted to stay in front of him and contest the shot and that’s what I did.”

“He’s as good as I’ve seen anyone defend LeBron,” said Horford, the 14-year veteran.

Stat of the Night32

In keeping with its recent trend of constant ball movement, the Thunder recorded a season-high 32 assists on Wednesday. The last time the Thunder notched a season high in assists was against Minnesota, when the Thunder was once again without a true point guard on the floor. It was critical for the Thunder, without its primary playmaker on the floor in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to be able to generate offense by committee. In order to do so, the ball had to move in the half court and the dimes had to stem from multiple players, including the Thunder’s bigs. Mike Muscala and Al Horford led the assisting effort for OKC with seven and eight dimes respectively.

“When you're without a guy like Shai and without primary ball handlers you have to do it with the team and I think 32 assists are indicative of us doing that tonight. I thought we did a great job of playing through our bigs. Those guys make great decisions,” said Daigneault. “The guys, they trusted each other, they kept the ball moving, nobody cared who scored and I thought we had a really, really good team effort on the offensive end again.”

Quotes of the NightAl Horford

“I felt like we really took on the challenge. They're obviously a very tough team, the defending champs and our guys didn't shy away from the challenge. I feel like both games we competed at a high level. We played hard. We tried playing the right way. We were just a play or two away from winning the games.”

-Al Horford “Just our fight and the way we competed coach, Coach always emphasizes to play for the whole 48 and we had a little extra time more than 48 tonight but, I'm just proud of our guys when we came out and competed.”

–Kenrich Williams

Looking Ahead

The Thunder have one more matchup before returning back to Chesapeake Energy Arena. After a day off on Thursday, the Thunder will return to action in the Mile-High City against the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokić. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. CT and will air on FOX Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder radio network.