February 4, 2018, 6:37 pm
The Lakers had been annihilated by the Thunder during their previous two meetings. They came out determined to improve on those performances and played one of their best games of the season to finish their longest road trip of the season with a 108-104 victory in Oklahoma City.
This was their first win in over seven years, a stretch that saw the Lakers drop 11 consecutive games on the road to the Thunder.
The Lakers played the Thunder tough from the onset, doing a better job on their defensive glass and defensive assignments than in the previous matchups with the Thunder. Los Angeles had a 27-18 rebounding advantage at the half and was able to parlay that effort into a 51-49 halftime lead.
They held on tight, fighting the Thunder blow-for-blow and went into the fourth quarter with an 82-79 lead.
For the second consecutive game the Lakers were able to take their defense to another level in the fourth quarter, holding Oklahoma to 25 points, many of which came in the last 2:30 with the Lakers already holding a 10-point lead. Oklahoma City came into the fourth quarter shooting 31-of-60 from the field (51.7 percent), the Lakers held the Thunder to 9-of-29 in the period (31.0 percent) and a final shooting percentage of 44.9 percent.
The Lakers took their decisive 10-point lead on a spectacular defensive play by Brandon Ingram — Ingram blocked a Carmelo Anthony jump shot, grabbed the rebound and hit a streaking Julius Randle for a dunk.
They allowed the Thunder to draw within three points on a series of turnovers, missed free throws and poor decisions before holding on to climactic the win.
After a disheartening loss to the league worst Orlando Magic, coach Luke Walton replaced Tyler Ennis in the starting lineup with Josh Hart and moved Ingram over to point guard. Hart has responded 25 rebounds in his two starts, leading the Lakers to two impressive wins. He played with composure and passion today, accruing 14 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a plus-7 rating on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and a perfect 2-of-2 from the line.
Brook Lopez has responded to his atrocious nine-minute outing against the Magic with two strong performances, earning 35 minutes in arguably his best overall performance as a Laker. He led the Lakers with 20 points, adding five rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers and a plus-11 rating. One highlight on the night was a play when he drew two Thunder defenders before making a gorgeous pass to a cutting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for a left-handed layup and an opportunity for a 3-point play.
Randle continued his great play of late with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block — though he did struggle from the free throw line making only 4-of-8 and missing several free throws that almost allowed the Thunder to pull off an unlikely comeback.
Ingram made several huge defensive plays in the game including the aforementioned block and a beautiful strip of Paul George. Ingram had eight points in the fourth quarter alone to finish with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
Russell Westbrook led the way for the Thunder with 36 points, nine assists, five rebounds and one steal while shooting 15-of-25 from the field. He did however also commit a game-high seven turnovers.
George almost brought the Thunder back in this game with five consecutive points to draw the Thunder within 3-points and tallying 26 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the contest.
Key Stats and Observations
- The Lakers did an excellent job defending the 3-point line as the Thunder shot only 7-of-25 from 3-point range for 28.0 percent. In comparison, Los Angeles knocked down 13-of-30 3-point shots for 43.3 percent.
- Although the Lakers were outrebounded 46-40 overall and 13-8 on the offensive glass, they made a concerted effort to hit the glass as a team and showed a significant improvement from the last time the two teams met when they were crushed on the boards to the tune of a 21-6 disparity in offensive rebounds.
- The Lakers held a 24-17 advantage in assists in the game.
- The Thunder had a significant advantage in fast break points (21-8), largely based on their 13 steals compared to only six for the Lakers.
- Los Angeles almost cost themselves another game with a poor performance at the free throw line, converting only 11-of-18 attempts (61.1 percent) vs. 17-of-25 (68.0 percent) for Oklahoma City. The two teams came in as the two worst free throw shooting teams in the league and did not disappoint.
The Lakers return home to take on the Phoenix Suns (18-36) on Tuesday.
One positive for Phoenix has been the improved play of No. 4 overall pick Josh Jackson who has elevated his game recently. He is coming of a 23-point, five-rebound outing, his fourth consecutive 20-point outing.
For the season the Suns are led by rising-star Devin Booker who is averaging 24.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He was forced to leave Sunday’s loss against the Charlotte Hornets with a hip pointer and did not return. The Lakers would gain a serious advantage if he is unable to suit up for the upcoming matchup.