The Thunder stepped foot onto the Staples Center with one thing one their mind— revenge. For the Thunder, they were seeking a victory after narrowly falling to the Lakers on Monday, though this game may have been even more gut-wrenching. Despite the absence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (knee), Oklahoma City hung with the Lakers for all five rounds, but ultimately fell just shy of victory, losing 114-113.
Oklahoma City started the night guns blazing firing off a quick 12-4 start in the first 4 minutes of play. The Thunder continued to rack up bucket-after-bucket outscoring the Lakers 37-23 through the first twelve minutes off of 55% shooting and going 44% from deep (4-9 FG.) The Thunder’s unique mix of shot variation came though the team’s attention to finding the open man as 11 of their 15 first quarter field goals came assisted. Kenrich Williams rose to the occasion early, as in his promotion to the starting unit he compiled 11 points (4-5 FG) on all 3-levels of scoring while sneaking in for a quick deflection on defense.
The Thunder continued to assert themselves in the opening stages of the second, jumping out to a 20-point lead via two quick fire threes from Al Horford and Darius Miller, but a quick 8-0 Lakers run trimmed the deficit into a 12-point-tug of war for the majority of the period. After multiple series’ of runs the Lakers appeared to have the last laugh, shriveling the Thunder’s lead to just 6 with 3.2 seconds to go— but a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope flagrant foul (grade one), and buzzer beating layup pushed the Thunder back up to double-digits entering the second half 67-57.
A key factor in Oklahoma City’s sizable lead came from the passing game, the Thunder continued to rack up assists, with 18 of their 27 field goals coming off of assists, while stretching the floor out with 6 triples, clearing the paint out for 30 points in the paint.
Los Angeles left a fruitful portion of points on the plate in the first half struggling from distance going for 25% making just 4 of their 16 attempts. The charity stripe became their safe haven as they made 15-of-19 attempts to the Thunder’s 7-of-7 outing.
The third quarter saw the Lakers take a quick 8-2 run and erase the Thunder’s 10-point lead to just 4 by the quarters closure. Los Angeles refocused their intentions to the inside game, scoring 16 of their 23 points in the period from the paint. One mainstay in their offense was completely iced in quarter number three as the Thunder’s defensive composure put the Lakers to line just once.
Montrezl Harrell repeated his success in the fourth quarter as his 6 quick points left the Thunder on their heels. Oklahoma City handed Los Angeles their first lead since the opening stages of the first with 5 minutes to go as the Thunder fell into a five-shot cold-spell. Lu Dort put laid some salt into the ice scoring a go ahead transition layup and converting on an and-one to put his team up one with under a minute to go. Kyle Kuzma attempted to return fire—freeing himself up with a baseline jumper—but the shot pushed too strong. Al Horford came down his the board, being hoisted at the line for a dyad of free throws— he cashed in on both. In the Lakers last shot at staking themselves in the game Lebron James strolled up for a go-ahead left wing triple as Lu Dort got caught in Montrezl Harrell’s screen. Lu Dort attempted to recreate James’ jumper— ticking away at the game clock before setting off a long ball as time expired—no good.
Just as Monday’s game panned out, this game was to be determined after regulation and neither side showed any give. There was little separation amongst these two teams until Lebron James tee’d up a Wesley Matthews triple to put the Lakers up 3 with 41.4 seconds to go. Upon the Thunder’s new mountain to climb, Lu Dort popped in a quick layup to add onto his six overtime points, and bridge the gap to just one.
Lebron James took the task of inserting the dagger into the hearts of the Thunder. Lebron, isolating himself right-baseline with Lu Dort, eagerly watched time wilt away before he rose up for an 21-foot jumper— air ball. Kenrich Williams’ took no time corraling James’ loose change, but what did take time— getting off a timeout. Williams, upon getting the board dribbled up the floor, in doing so the Thunder were not allowed to advance the basketball, as you can only advance the ball if a timeout is called before a pass or dribble.
In the Thunder’s final shot at knocking down the Lakers, they needed to inbound the ball from the Thunder sideline and travel across court for a shot in 4.3 seconds. Kenrich Williams had minimal options in his peripheral, having to rocket a pass through Lebron James to reach Al Horford— the ball never reached Big Al as Lebron tipped the pass and by the time OKC had the rim in their sights— the game was over.
The Thunder have lots of great takeaways and individual performances from Wednesday’s night, and the latter could not be any father from the truth than with guard Kenrich Williams.
Kenrich Williams posted a career-high of 24 points on an uber-efficient 11-of-14 shooting from the game. Williams’ offensive prowess stretched out from the three (2-3 FG) all way into the interior, as his wide variety of moves in the post made Lakers defenders flummoxed all game. The 26-year-old’s defensive insights also made him a prominent figure on the night as his 3 steals were good for the second most on the team.
Al Horford served up 25 points (11-18 FG), 8 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals in his 34 minutes— and he could not have looked any better. The 34-year-old took advantage of Marc Gasol, likely the only starting center more immobile than himself, early and often. Horford heavily relied on baseline turnaround jumpers to kick off the night, an aspect of his game hardly shown to the public, and it opened up a multitude of pathways. He became a trusty threat being used as a roll-man in the pick-and-roll, and posting up down low became a top-play late. The big man’s help in kickstarting the offense also carried over to defense as he was the lone defender to out-steal Kenrich Williams, finishing with four swipes.
Lu Dort made the most of his moments in the clutch as though he shot 0-5 from deep, his 7-12 (58%) shooting around the basket more than covered the cost. Dort scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth and overtime periods in the game becoming a weapon attacking inside, but also fortifying himself on defense. Dort took Lebron in every big moment in the game, including James’ potential game winner. What you will not see in the box-score was his activity in the play, as his hands were twitching all around the 16-time all-star up until the final release.
Hamidou Diallo impressed yet again for Oklahoma City finishing with 15 points (5-13 FG), and a game-high of 13 rebounds. This game notched the 11th straight game he reached double-figures, while also tabbing his 3rd double-double in the last 4 games.
Darius Bazley had brief stints of success, but he showed some signs of struggle in his 4-15 performance that ended with 9 points. The bench mob of Justin Jackson, Darius Miller, and Mike Muscala posted 9, 8, and 6 points respectively while Moose slipped in his season-high of 7 assists.
Oklahoma City (10-14) will face their next test as they head off the the Mile High City as they will take on the 13-11 Denver Nuggets.