Lakers continue home stand as they face first place Thunder

The Lakers have beaten OKC two out of three times this season.

LOS ANGELES — The last time the Lakers played, LeBron James reached a milestone that no one else has been able to touch. LeBron was the first to get to 40,000 career points in the NBA. And whether or not someone else surpasses it, what matters is that LeBron James got to it first and that will never be taken away.

Unfortunately, the Lakers didn’t get the overall job done as they lost to the defending champion Denver Nuggets. Denver broke away in the final few minutes of the game, which has been the script for these Nuggets/Lakers match-ups. The Nuggets have won 8 in a row against the Lakers and that team is the bar all other teams (especially the Lakers) want to achieve.

One of the teams that has been flirting at that bar is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The youthful Thunder sit atop the perch of the Western Conference at 42-18, a half-game over both the equally surprising Minnesota Timberwolves and the aforementioned Nuggies.

The Thunder thought they had to rebuild and get a pick high enough to get that superstar. But all along, they’ve had that superstar on their team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is no longer the NBA’s best kept secret and probably hasn’t been since the season started. Smooth in everything he does on the court, SGA is that three-level scorer teams dream of. He easily waltzes into the paint (5th in points in the paint), is proficient in the midrange (shooting 49 percent with the 8th most attempts), and an increasingly deadlier three-pointer as he is making .382 off 3.4 attempts per. Oh, and he’s averaging 31.2 points per game, which is second in the league. Safe to say that the Lakers have to watch out for him.

Chet Holmgren would probably be a runaway Rookie of the Year every other year. A big man that versatile (17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks, which would be 4th in the league) is the perfect #2 for SGA. Or #3? Jalen Williams is coming into his own as a secondary scorer (19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists per). That trio is as good as it gets in the league.

And as if is wasn’t enough, they still got an excellent playmaker in Josh Giddey, a deadeye shooter in Isaiah Joe, and an elite defender (and can still surprise everyone with his scoring) in Lu Dort. OKC is young, talented, and probably already an elite team. All they need is some playoff experience.

The Lakers have already beaten them twice this season. These wins make us think that the Lakers can still be that team. Their last win on MLK Day showed that if they can bring the energy, things will take care of themselves. There were 6 players that scored in double figs for the Lakers. While the Lakers had 17 turnovers, they did their damage in the paint (+20 for L.A.) and in transition (+10 for the Lakers). L.A. didn’t let OKC get set on defense while also bullying the Thunder inside.

Even though the Lakers lost to Denver on Saturday, they had been playing better as of late. They went 9-3 in February and it’s not like they were lackadaisical against the champions. We still worry about them not bringing it but at least, the team’s been trending upwards.

Still, the fact of the matter is that the Lakers are in 10th place. Every game matters. And a third win over the Thunder would, at least, show the league that the Lakers are still a team to watch out for.