Lakers bounce back with win over Thunder

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers take three out of four games this season against the Thunder and move up to the nine seed with a big win over OKC.

LOS ANGELES — This was as good as a scenario as it could get for the Los Angeles Lakers.

After Denver landed a haymaker in the last few minutes against them, the Lakers came back against a possibly tired Oklahoma City Thunder team (who played on Sunday against Phoenix) with a W, 116-104. The score was honestly closer than the game indicated as the Lakers really whooped that (radio edit!) against OKC.

And it looked bleak early. Thunder doubled up on the Lakers, 22-11, as L.A. kept giving the rock away like they’re Santa Clauses on the court. But three straight threes (courtesy of Austin Reaves and Taurean Prince) got the motor started for L.A. Spencer Dinwiddie (only known for his offense) blocked a shot by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and then converted a lay-up to make it 11 straight for the Lakers. The game was tied at 25 after the first but the momentum was clearly on L.A.’s side.

Lakers scored another 12 unanswered early in the second. The Lakers really broke it open with this defensive effort by Davis that led to a pretty fast break that ended with a touch pass back for a LeBron lay-up.

Lakers took a 52-43 lead into the second half. From there, OKC did cut it to a 67-64 deficit before the Lakers went off and scored 14 straight. The Thunder couldn’t get anything going and it was basically a wrap when D’Angelo Russell made three straight difficult threes.

Just ridiculous. OKC would only make the score closer during garbage time but otherwise, this was a shellacking by the Lakers as they knocked the Thunder off the West mountaintop for the time being. The Lakers have actually taken three out of four this season against the Thunder and this might be a preferred match-up should the Lakers get into the postseason (9th place now with the win).

Let me get the negative out of the way first. In other games, Lakers were likely doomed for giving their opponents 20 extra possessions. They cannot turn the ball over that much and expect to win. The Thunder only had half of that but the Lakers defense was so good (OKC only shot .394) that the advantage was basically nullified.

But it has been a while since we saw the Lakers play well on both ends. Well, let’s discount that 22-11 hole the Lakers fell into. But we saw great passing and ball movement by L.A. (29 assists) that led to better shot selection. They wouldn’t have gotten set (halfcourt and transition) if it weren’t for excellent rebounding by the Lakers (55-38 in favor of L.A.!). And the Lakers refused to give anything to the Thunder. We even saw Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell make some really good defensive plays and they’re not exactly known for being lockdown defenders.

They did so well that Anthony Davis got to sit the fourth quarter out. LeBron James has been playing with some extra spring in his legs as of late. It was nice to see Taurean Prince make some shots. Jaxson Hayes brought the energy from both ends. And when D’Angelo is on fire, it’s hard to put him out. Really one of their better games this season. Great way to rebound from their loss against Denver.

D’Angelo Russell’s heat got him to 26 points. And how’s this for D’Lo? He got four steals in this game. Anthony Davis in three quarters got 24 points and 12 rebounds while LeBron James nearly got another trip-dub with 19-11-8. As for OKC, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got limited to 20 points (still led the team, though). Chet Holmgren and Lu Dort each had 15 and it’s notable that OKC’s second-leading scorer, Jalen Williams, only had 7 points.

Lakers are 10-4 in their last 14. We’ll see if they can avoid them laser beams against Sacramento on Wednesday.