The Big Picture
Just eight days removed from its historic comeback victory over the Lakers inside of Paycom Center, the Thunder earned yet another resilient win over the purple and gold this time in Lakers’ territory. Six players scored in double-figures as the Thunder battled back from down 19 points in Staples Center to end its West Coast road trip on a high note.
Moments from the 48
Another Close Battle For the second-straight contest, the Thunder found itself in a late-game, clutch time matchup. Just three days prior in the same arena, the Thunder dropped its game to the Clippers who cashed in timely buckets in the final moments to take the lead and the win. It was a lesson for the Thunder in the different type of effort and physicality required to contain a team when the contest turns into a possession-by-possession grind.
OKC watched film on those closing minutes against the Clippers in practice and against the Lakers on Thursday, put those lessons into action. Despite late 3-pointers by Austin Reaves and Carmelo Anthony that brought the game down to one possession, the Thunder remained poised to hold onto its lead through the final buzzer.
“We were better in it tonight. We also kept the scoreboard moving a little bit tonight,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “This is a group that grows through every experience and improves regardless of how the games turn out. We’ve had some good moments, we’ve had some tough moments, but we’ve grown through all of them.”
“That’s what this season is about – going through experiences, learning from them and applying them to get better for the next experience,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “It just so happened that it was back-to-back games. But we learned, we got better, and we got a different outcome.”
Shai in Closing Time The Thunder balanced a small lead heading into the final two minutes of the game. With a three-point buffer following a triple from Mike Muscala, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander walked the ball across the half court line. His defender, Avery Bradley, hung back expecting to meet him near the 3-point line.
Having already cashed in eight points in the quarter up to that point, Gilgeous-Alexander had settled into his offensive rhythm. Without hesitation, the fourth-year guard stopped at the “L” of the Lakers’ half court logo and drained a 34-foot 3-pointer to give the Thunder a six-point buffer with just over a minute to go – its largest lead of the game.
“I just felt it. I usually don’t shoot that shot in the game, but it’s something I practice though,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I felt confident shooting that ball. It was something that I was familiar with, so it wasn’t a crazy shot to me. But, it felt good when I shot it.”
For the night, Gilgeous-Alexander logged 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field and a 4-of-7 clip from the field.
Ty Off the Bench The Thunder received contributions from up and down the roster, but it was Ty Jerome in the second quarter who gave the Thunder the boost it needed heading into halftime. After playing just five minutes against the Clippers on Monday, Jerome checked in during the second quarter and cashed in five straight points to help spur the 15-6 run that cut the Thunder’s 19-point deficit down to just four heading into halftime.By the end of the night, Jerome tallied 14 points including three made triples.
“I think more and more, what stood out to us is [Jerome’s] readiness,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “He's always there for us, he’s a good teammate and he’s ready when his number was called. He contributed big tonight and helped us get a W.”
Baze out of the Gates Over the last three games, Thunder forward Darius Bazley has logged a trend of getting out to strong starts offensively as he averaged 6.3 points while shooting 50% from the field coming into Thursday night’s game. To open up the Lakers game on Thursday, Bazley scored the Thunder’s first five points on the way to a nine-point frame. By the end of the night, Bazley racked up 14 points, five rebounds and a 6-of-11 performance from the field.
Balanced Scoring In an example of sticking together, the Thunder had six players score in double-figures against the Lakers. In addition to Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome and Bazley, Thunder big man Derrick Favors logged 10, Lu Dort added 17 and Kenrich Williams chipped in 13 off the bench.
Dort was responsible for the Thunder’s final six points including a perfect 4-for-4 clutch performance from the free throw line in the final 50 seconds of the game.
“It just says that we all can play. It’s always the next man up,” said Williams. “It’s a team sport so if one guy doesn’t have a good one one night, then it’s the next man up. That’s expected of the group, to step up and play.”
The Last Word
Derrick Favors on what he’s seen from the resilience of the team…“I think just how individually tough every guy is on this team. We know it's not going to be easy. It's a long, hard road for us but every guy on this team just wants to come out and play hard whether they play one night or not play. Some guys didn't play last game. Like Ty [Jerome] for instance he came in and had a great night for us and I really gave us a lift off the bench. Guys just play together, play hard, tough-minded, and we don't really play the score. We just go out there play hard, have fun and look up in the fourth quarter see it's a close game that we try to dial in together as a team. Overall, we just play hard.”
After a week in California, the Thunder returns to Oklahoma City to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. It will be a brief trip home as the Thunder will have a day of practice before setting out to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Wednesday.