The Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s depleted roster to land a 106-81 win.
“Now that they have won some [games], you can see the confidence in what they are doing, they are calling plays, the way they are stepping their game up defensively in the fourth quarter,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. “It is part of the process.”
The contest was less than 18 hours after Los Angeles traded guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland for NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas and forward Channing Frye and a first round pick. The new additions did not compete in the contest.
“No matter how long you’re in this league, it’s always gonna be a tough day because it’s so chaotic,” rookie guard Josh Hart said in terms of going on with out Clarkson and Nance Jr. “It’s tough, but it’s a business, you have to go out there and be professional.”
Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony were out due to ankle sprain injuries. All-Star reserve Paul George carried the team with 29 points and tied with center Steven Adams with nine rebounds.
Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gave the Lakers 20 points, forward Kyle Kuzma and center Brook Lopez grabbed nine rebounds each.
It was another strong defensive performance for the Lakers as the team made five steals and seven blocked shots.
“We go in with defensive pressure,” said forward Brandon Ingram. “We try to battle as soon as we get on the floor.”
The Thunder went on a 11-4 run in the first four minutes of the contest. Paul George was shooting the lights out, only missing one of 11 shots in eight minutes, resulting in 15 points. The Lakers found a means of scoring through cutting layups, the outcome was 26 fast break points. The defensive efforts of forward Julius Randle and Hart helped L.A. climb out of a 11-point deficit to end the first quarter ahead 30-27.
“[Paul George] did what he does, he got loose for a couple threes,” Randle said. “After that, we kind of buckled down and really tightened it up.”
The Laker’s defensive energy waned in the second quarter, but that did not hinder their shooting. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope protected the Lakers’ dominance with a diverse shot selection and had 10 points by halftime. The Lakers had an intermission lead of 52-46.
Ingram and Caldwell-Pope kept shooting accurately as George’s three-pointers were beginning to miss the mark. The frontcourt of the OKC was strong, but Randle found ways to make shots. Steven Adams kept the Thunder offense alive, but it was not enough to fill the Oklahoma deficit.
No OKC player scored over five points in the third and was shooting at 10 percent from behind the arc, they scored a collective 20 points.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well as a team,” George said. “I felt once [the Lakers] took that lead, we was playing behind.”
After a dunk from Ivica Zubac and a layup from Ingram, the Lakers’ lead was up to 21. George and Adams earned more points, but the Thunder could not force many turnovers as the game neared the end. Gary Payton II and Thomas Bryant got a chance to reach the hardwood, Bryant landed two points and one assist.
The Lakers play the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, February 10 at 5:30P.M.