It wasn’t the massive season-ending recreation the Lakers have been hoping for as soon as the schedule was introduced final summer season, however right here it was Friday in Los Angeles nonetheless.
The Lakers, desperately making an attempt to succeed in .500 for the primary time all season and regain beneficial floor within the Western Convention playoff race, had one other probability to construct momentum.
The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder stood in his method, one of many youngest groups within the NBA, enjoying with relentless effort and loads of confidence.
It was a fantastic recreation, one of many largest of the Lakers season, and after 48 minutes, it was additionally a deserved 116-111 victory for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis completed with 37 factors and 15 rebounds and Dennis Schroder scored 21 within the win.
“Kudos to our guys, simply staying the course, being frequently aggressive,” Darvin Ham stated.
The Lakers bombarded the Thunder early on, constructing a 17-point lead led by Davis’ dominance and lightning-fast ball motion. They made six of their first 13 3-pointers, inflicting a beating.
However after that scorching begin, the Lakers cooled off. Shai Gilgeous-Alexanderone of the quickest rising stars within the NBA, and Josh Gidey continued to assault the within of the Lakers, whereas the Oklahoma Metropolis shooters confidently hit open 3-pointers.
The Thunder scored 41 factors within the second quarter and held the Lakers to 19 within the third, utilizing runs late in every to shut the hole. They lastly tied the rating for the primary time for the reason that first quarter halfway via the quarter when a Gilgeous-Alexander jumper made it 102–102.
The Lakers, nevertheless, battled it out, Davis and Schroder making massive performs down the stretch on each ends, struggling to get to sufficient saves.
The Lakers are actually tied for seventh within the West with Minnesota. It additionally gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker of the season with Oklahoma Metropolis.
The final time the Lakers have been .500 was on January 25, 2022.
All of it got here with them, as soon as once more, shorthanded and compelled to make use of their next-man mentality.
With D’Angelo Russell (once more) the most recent Laker to seem on the damage report, a possibility offered itself for the not often used Lonnie Walker IV.
So when the ball handed Walker in entrance of the Lakers’ bench, the place he’s spent every of the final three video games, he didn’t hesitate.
The hope, Ham stated earlier than the sport, is that the soreness in Russell’s proper hip is an on a regular basis damage.
“It’s not too dangerous,” Ham stated, “however dangerous sufficient to deal with.”
With backcourt minutes abruptly accessible, Ham turned to Walker and the previous starter responded with 15 factors in 11 minutes of the primary half.
He ended up with 20.
“He didn’t need to go on the market and fear about preparing,” Ham stated after the win. “He has saved himself prepared.”
Walker began every of his first 32 video games this season earlier than a knee damage sidelined him for a month. He slowly misplaced minutes within the Lakers’ rotation as Austin Reaves took on a much bigger function and after the group added Russell and Malik Beasley on the commerce deadline.
His first half Friday in opposition to Oklahoma Metropolis was essentially the most he’s scored in a recreation this month. Ham caught with Walker on the vital second, the place he made one other large three and grabbed a game-sealing rebound.
Russell’s damage occurred within the Lakers’ win in opposition to Phoenix on Wednesday, a recreation wherein he scored 26 and energized the group.
“It’s unlucky, for positive, however it’s knowledgeable sport and it’s a actuality of our enterprise right here within the NBA. So it’s a must to handle it the very best you may by way of rearranging your rotation, however we’ve succesful guys,” Ham stated.
Main that line has been Reaves, the most popular participant within the locker room barring Davis. In his final 9 video games earlier than Friday, Reaves averaged 19.8 factors and 6.1 assists on 57.3% taking pictures from the sphere. On Wednesday, Ham positioned him in Beasley’s beginning line-up.
“He’s clearly a fantastic point of interest for them, which makes him a fantastic point of interest for us,” the Oklahoma Metropolis coach stated. model daigneault he stated earlier than the sport.
That meant the Thunder used Dort de Luguentz as the principle defender in Reaves for lengthy durations. Dort, a stocky 6-foot-4 guard, locked up Kawhi Leonard and prevented him from making an attempt a game-winning objective within the Thunder’s win over the Clippers on Tuesday night time.
Reaves struggled to attain effectively Friday, a trademark of his offensive recreation early on, a development that began when he needed to parry to power a contested 3-pointer with Dort masking him to beat the shot clock on the Los Angelesies’ second possession. lakers. the sport.
“I wish to say that Austin is a child who could be very good and simply minds his personal enterprise,” Ham stated. “He is not going to power, he can be aggressive, however he is not going to power himself to make a foul transfer.”
Nonetheless, Ham didn’t deny that Reaves was going to see completely different seems to be from the opposition.
“It’s going to be a precedence, for positive,” Ham stated. “But it surely all comes right down to enjoying the correct method, and as we noticed with (Anthony Davis) a few nights in the past, groups simply double him on the move, double him on the dribble, double him from above and base. He simply frequently made the correct play, he didn’t attempt to power the problem.
“And that’s all it’s a must to do.”