Shorthanded Lakers Cannot Keep Pace with Young Thunder
Down five rotation players and on the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers closed out their four-game road trip with a 133-110 loss to the Thunder on Thursday night. The loss sends them home with a 2-2 record on their trip and an 11-9 record overall.
This was the third consecutive week the Lakers faced this exact circumstance of playing a mid-week back-to-back against a team that had not played the night before, and for the third time they lost, the 2nd time by double digits. Each time the Lakers have been down multiple rotation players, leaving them fewer options should they try to shake up the rotation or seek out an alternative in case the coaches wanted a different look.
The Lakers did their best to battle early on, building as much as a 15-point lead in the 1st quarter on the strength of Anthony Davis’ ability to control the paint defensively while also working the interior of OKC’s undersized front court on the other end. Davis scored 15 of his team-high 31 points in the 1st quarter, playing with force around the rim and really looking to get inside vs. Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren.
Davis would add 14 rebounds for the game while doing his best to stay connected to Holmgren on the perimeter, help on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the mid-range, and still try to protect the rim when other OKC players attacked the rim.
Beyond AD, LeBron James had another efficient scoring night and did good work on the backboards, scoring 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists. LeBron did well to leverage his physicality when defending down low, attacking in transition offensively, and when going to the glass on both ends of the court.
The Thunder, however, proved the fresher and deeper team in this one, and used a variety of tactics — playing zone, swarming the ball whenever it went into the paint defensively, pushing the pace, and attacking the offensive glass — to force the Lakers into playing in a crowd and exerting extra energy throughout possessions to track down loose balls or just to catch the ball cleanly in the first place.
And then, on the other end, they used their ability to space the floor and timely shot making as a perfect complement to the overall offensive repertoire of Gilgeous-Alexander to take back control of the game after the Lakers early lead, and then never loosen their grip. Gilgeous-Alexander was the catalyst with his 33 points, seven assists, and four rebounds on 11-18 shooting, but six other Thunder scored in double figures, led by Jalen Williams 21 points on 8-13 shooting and then Holmgren’s 18 points on 8-15 shooting.
The Lakers, then, simply did not have enough in this game to really stay connected in the way they would have liked. Their fast start fizzled out as their compromised depth and fatigued legs proved too much to overcome against a young, athletic, and talented Thunder team that played with discipline and focus all night.
The Lakers will now head home for a couple days off before returning to action Saturday in a matchup against the Rockets.