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Thunder overcome Lakers 107-104 as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander delivers in clutch

After sealing the deal on a 26-point, franchise-setting comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers last week, the Oklahoma City Thunder entered the Staples Center Thursday evening with a target pinned on their back. With the additional pressure — the Thunder made diamonds — surmounting a double-digit deficit to top the Lakers 107-104. For the Thunder, their victory marks a 2-6 record thus far, both of which coming versus the Lakers, while in the Lakers’ camp, their slip up drags them a game shy from .500, now at 5-4.

Los Angeles opened Thursday’s contest in a similar fashion to the last clash, stacking an 8-0 run behind pullups from Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley, and two interior looks from Anthony Davis. Though Oklahoma City found some traction through five Darius Bazley points and a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stepback, the Lakers found safe haven in Anthony Davis. Davis, defended by Derrick Favors, took right to the Thunder’s frontcourt tallying 12 of the Lakers’ first 16 points in a 16-8 opener in the first six minutes. A play later, a Russell Westbrook 26-footer stooped the Thunder down double-digits. Oklahoma City found an unsung hero in the eleven-point plunder as Darius Bazley stepped up for his second mini-run of the frame connecting on an alley-oop jam and a driving layup to dwindle the game down to six. By the time of Baze’s swappage to the bench, a band of Thunder members placed seven-points unanswered, highlighted by a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pull-up three. Wayne Ellington ultimately got the last say in the period, nailing a triple to keep Los Angeles afloat 25-21 though one. The first quarter hosted a platform for one-man offense as Anthony Davis notched 14 points (7-of-8 FG) in the frame while Darius Bazley (9 points) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6 points) canned six of the Thunder’s eight made baskets through twelve.

The Thunder’s bench unit struggled to surface production for the second quarter’s onset, kicking off a 1-of-8 spell that left them in a 14-point hole just inside three minutes of play. Kenrich Williams gave the Thunder a small remedy, sticking a 12-foot turnaround to stop the Lakers’ streak, however, it added fuel to the flame as an Austin Reaves three coupled with two pull ups propelled a 19-4 opening run, and a 19-point, 44-25 lead through six minutes. Both sides took off the accelerator until the final four minutes of play in which Ty Jerome added five points in what became an 8-1 Thunder push to slice the game to 11. The pairing of Josh Giddey and Shai GIlgeous-Alexander unleashed a floater-oriented attack in the winding moments of the second, but it was Ty Jerome who emerged from the pack, canning two three-point baskets in the final 45 seconds to steer a 12-2 closing run, and a respectable 52-48 deficit by half. 

Oklahoma City shot a weary 37.0 percent (17-of-46 FG) from the floor through two quarters, though an uptick in threes jolted a 7-of-22 clip — and life heading into the third frame. Ty Jerome starred in the Thunder’s first half as the third-year guard downed 4-of-6 shots for 13 points and 2 points in 9 minutes. 

Los Angeles’ interior presence softened in the second quarter, however, their shooting splits were still respectable. The Lakers shot 44.9 percent (22-of-49 FG) in the half going a tick above the 30-mark from downtown, canning 5-of-16 attempts. Anthony Davis had his imprints all over the first 24 as the big dropped an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double in a matter of 18 minutes. As for Russell Westbrook, he hit his stride tallying 14 points and 4 rebounds.

The Thunder instilled some nerves into the Staples Center to kick off the second half, shrinking the game to a single possession, however, the Lakers didn’t let them seize the moment. Los Angeles proceeded to stick a 10-2 run in a two-minute span, utilizing two Russell Westbrook pull ups, among other conversions, to hoist a double-digit lead once again. Off a timeout, Josh Giddey reinvigorated the Thunder on the ensuing possession rifling a right-handed inbound pass cross-court to a wide open Darius Bazley at the left corner — bingo. Giddey’s passing array translated to the 19-year-old nailing a floater on the next possession and hitting Derrick Favors on a dump off pass immediately following. By the end of the Aussie’s reign, Oklahoma City had latched onto an 8-0 stint. The Lakers wavered around a 2-to-4 point lead for the draining moments of the third though a 7-0 run inside two minutes stooped them up 79-70, holding on for a 80-72 lead entering the fourth.    

Oklahoma City took to the three-point line to open the fourth quarter, hammering home two threes to counteract two baskets from Anthony Davis. After an exchange of free throws, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tapped into the perimeter with a 26-foot stepback to whittle the game to one point. The Thunder snagged their first lead of the game at the 5:27 mark as a Kenrich Williams backdoor cut netted a dunk, and a one-point lead. Following a missed Austin Reaves three, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander extended the lead to four off of an and-one reverse layup. A four-point run from Russell Westbrook evened the score to 88-all, however, five points from Mike Muscala reverted the bleeding with under four to go. With pressure at an all-time high, Avery Bradley nailed a key triple to tip the game to two, and following a missed Muscala three, Russell Westbrook made change at the charity stripe tying the game with three to-go. In Oklahoma City’s scramble to regain possession, Darius Bazley squandered a pass out of bounds leading to Los Angeles garnering the opportunity to take the lead — with Anthony Davis around the paint — they did just that. 

As the game approached two minutes, all eyes were on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to make a play. Upon SGA crossing the timeline, he was met with a sweltering presence up top, he made due, slashing inside for a pair of free throws, canning both. On the other end, Carmelo Anthony looked to insert a dagger launching a triple not even ten seconds into the shot clock, it was no good. On the other end, Josh Giddey surveyed the floor, hitting Kenrich Williams for an open trifecta — good. Carmelo looked to seize the moment yet again on the other side with a layup, but after a faulty roll, Oklahoma City had a shot at taking a two possession lead. After a Derrick Favors rebounds, the ball was entrusted in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s hands, the 23-year-old stalked up the floor allowing for a fully set offense in the halfcourt — he didn’t need it. As soon as Shai crossed the timeline he locked his crosshairs at the basket, heaving a 34-foot bomb from the logo — SWISH — Thunder on the high side 101-95. As Frank Vogel clammored for a timeout, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander revveled in emotion as the guard roared in emotion, even jumping up with Ty Jerome as he made his way to the clipboard. 

With 80 seconds left on the clock, Los Angeles played a round of hot potato before finding rookie Austin Reaves at the right wing, the former Sooner lunged forward with a three-point attempt, finding the money for a three point game, 1:08 remaining. As Los Angeles looked for a stop, Austin Reaves got too feisty with Lu Dort, leading to a pair of free throws, both connecting, for a 102-98 Thunder lead with 53 seconds remaining. With no timeout at disposal, Los Angeles looked to spark similar success to their last drive passing the ball at will for a jumper, off a Russell Westbrook kickout, Carmelo Anthony sized up a shot from 27-feet deep — one-point game. In Oklahoma City’s shot to put a lid on the contest, Lu Dort drove inside for a layup, falling short of the mark. In a scramble of a fastbreak, Russell Westbrook shifted into sixth gear, slashing in from the right wing for a potential game-winning layup. The issue, Westbrook’s right knee clashed right into the ball as he skied up, essentially kicking the ball out of bounds with 21 seconds to go. Needing a stop, Los Angeles pranced into an advanced inbound pass desperate for some light, but after an off-ball screen, Shai was open at the top of the key. In need of a turnover, four members of the Lakers’ group hovered towards, and in some cases, dashed at SGA — one of those players being Russell Westbrook. With Russell leaving hit assignment, Lu Dort, SGA threw an overhead jump pass to a slicing Dort, and with no one in the vicinity, he threw down the Thunder with 17.0 seconds left. After Vogel burned his final timeout, Carmelo Anthony had been hit in stride again for a jumper, it’s good — chaos is in the Staples Center. With 9.6 seconds left, Lu Dort snagged an inbound pass, immediately being hacked by Anthony Davis. At the stripe, Dort walked up for shot number one, good, shot number two, good. Heading into Los Angeles’ final burst, the score rested at 107-104. With no timeouts for LA, havoc reaped the hardwood as Russell Westbrook gunned out with the ball, stopping-and-popping at the right wing for a triple, too strong. Thunder win.

The Thunder’s victory on Thursday marked the second occasion in which they have defeated the Lakers by double-digits this season as with last week’s 26-point comeback, they have managed to douse the Lakers twice — this time surmounting a 19-point deficit. 

For the Lakers, their loss on Thursday leaves a gaping hole in their current plans as though they shot a sturdy 41.5 percent (39-of-94 FG) overall and 36.4 percent (12-of-33 3PT) from distance, their mid quarter falters left a major mark. Anthony Davis steered the Lakers ship amassing 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting while also dropping an 18-rebound egg in 38 minutes. As for other large contributors, Russell Westbrook chipped in with 27 points (10-of-23 FG), 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Carmelo Anthony logged 21 points (8-of-18 FG) in 32 minutes. 

Oklahoma City fought tooth-and-nail for their victory shooting 42.5 percent (37-of-87 FG) in all while splotching in 36.6 percent (15-of-41 3PT) of threes. The Thunder made the Lakers pay at foul line Thursday as they attempted 26 tries (18-of-26 FT) at the stripe across the evening. Despite a height discrepancy, Oklahoma City managed to win the rebound battle 50-49 in play, even corralling 12 boards on the offensive glass. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tied down the Lakers in the clutch, logging 11 points and 4 assists in the final frame of play. Overall, the 23-year-old hoisted 28 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists across 39 minutes, finding his stride from all three levels. Gilgeous-Alexander shot an astute 9-of-17 in his play, however, he ramped up even more so from distance shooting 4-of-7 to pair along with a perfect 6-of-6 time at the stripe. The raw emotion from SGA was placed on a whole new level on Thursday as with each big play transpiring in the clutch, he turned into the vocal leader for the group — especially following his major halfcourt jumper.

“[It was] just a momentum shot,” said Gilgeous-Alexander. “I was feeling good. I usually don’t shoot that in a game. We shoot that shot at the end of every practice, though. I felt confident to shoot the ball.”

Lu Dort added 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists Thursday, finding his touch late in the contest. Dort struggled from the floor shooting a mere 4-of-14 and 3-of-11 from downtown, however, the third-year guard worked himself inside for six attempts at the charity stripe, converting on each of his tries. 

Darius Bazley posted 14 points (6-of-12 FG), 5 rebounds, and 1 assist in 24 minutes. Bazley’s been tabbed as an inconsistent cog in Mark Daigneault’s system to this point, however, Bazley proved to be one of the Thunder’s only constants through the first half of play. The forward had been pulled down the stretch for Kenrich Williams in the late stages, though he did place an early building block for the Thunder’s comeback.

Derrick Favors stood the test of Anthony Davis Thursday steaming out 10 points (5-of-5 FG) and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes. Favors couldn’t close the lid entirely on Davis’ outburst, but he did do a solid job accruing boards while shooting a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor. 

Josh Giddey was a nonfactor as a scorer shooting 2-of-9 for 5 points, but the Aussie made up for it with 8 rebounds and 8 assists in 32 minutes. Giddey’s passing palate unleashed the Thunder’s highest assist total for the second-consecutive contest, sizzling out a plethora of drive-and-dish passes while working with his floaters.  

Ty Jerome and Kenrich Williams tacked on double-digit performances Thursday, finishing the night with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Jerome entered the year as the unanimous third-string point guard, though the 23-year-old made a strong case for a positional battle hitting 3-of-8 threes while adding a trio of assists. Williams garnered late-game minutes from Bazley for the night, and made the most of them, hitting two major fourth-quarter shots while splicing in 8 rebounds and 2 assists to his point total.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (2-6) will take a two-day hiatus before returning to the Paycom Center to face the San Antonio Spurs (2-6) in an inter-conference battle. 

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