In their third consecutive overtime bout, the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the plucky fight of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although he played for over 40 minutes in these games, forward LeBron James does not mind competing.
“Being tired is just in your head, if you put your mind to it, you don’t really see yourself being too tired,” said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma. “That’s always been [James’] mindset through his unbelievable career.”
With Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso out for their second straight game, Kuzma and guard Wesley Matthews stepped up in the contest.
“We got a lot of people who can put that ball in the basket,” said Lakers guard Dennis Schröder. “We’re playing good basketball and we got so many people and it’s great.”
James led the Lakers with 25 points and seven assists. Kuzma grabbed a team high of nine rebounds in his sixth season. Center Al Horford scored 25 points and eight assists; guard Hamidou Diallo made 13 rebounds.
Schröder noted how important Kuzma’s rebounding ability is to the team. The Flint, MI native is currently averaging 5.9 rebounds per game.
“Him being aggressive defensive and offensive rebounds, getting us extra possessions,” Schröder said. “I think he’s doing a great job just fighting for those rebounds and even tipping it in or throwing it back out.”
Like their game on Monday, the Lakers were slow to score. This gave the OKC a sturdy lead in the first quarter. Pushing the pace did not help the Lakers’ early shooting troubles. Oklahoma shot with accuracy while the Lakers did not to go for second-chance points.
“We just took a little while each game to figure out our opponent,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re not worried about being tired, we’re known as a no-excuse team.”
Al Horford was leading the OKC offense in the second phase. Guard Talen Horton-Tucker was subbed in an initiated the Lakers scoring rhythm. As the Lakers found points through paint penetration, they did not have the defensive intensity to stop Oklahoma City. The OKC shot as high as 56 percent from the field.
Early in the third, the Lakers made a small six-point run and grabbed rebounds. Yet they continued to trail, with OKC looking for the open man on possessions.
“OKC is a very vibrant team, they’re really helter-skelter from an offensive standpoint,” Kuzma said. “They really tried to break it down off the dribble, hoping we made mistakes.”
Horford and James traded shots to begin the fourth quarter. The Lakers slowly created a consistent defensive effort, after scoring a three-pointer, Markieff Morris took a charge. LeBron forced a turnover and sent a dime to Kuzma for a layup. The shot gave the Lakers their first lead of the night.
Although Morris has not been getting as many minutes as he did last year, he was still prepared to compete.
“[Morris] is a really good player, helped us win a championship last year,” Vogel said. “He’s making the best of it with the minutes that he’s getting.”
James hit a three to give the Lakers a four point lead, but the Lakers went on a offensive hiatus that lasted for two minutes. The OKC made a four-point run in that time. With a three-pointer, James tied the game at 105 and the Lakers went into overtime.
After tying twice, Wesley Matthews hit a clutch three-pointer to secure the Lakers’ victory. The Lakers will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday at 7:00P.M.