The Los Angeles Lakers fell to .500 since entering the NBA bubble, though you could forgive them if they coast to the playoffs after clinching the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Lakers never led during tonight's 19-point loss to the Thunder.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 6, 2020
It was the first time all season the Lakers never led during a game.
The only remaining teams that have led in every game this season are the Clippers and the Nets. pic.twitter.com/BosG0DXTXz
Lakers’ loss doesn’t matter, or does it?
The good news for the Lakers is that the loss matters little in the larger picture of their quest for a title. The team has secured as easy a path in the playoffs as possible, and its priority at this point is simply making sure everyone is as prepared as possible for the first round.
The bad news is that for the second time in three games, the team’s offense sputtered. Anthony Davis posted only nine points on 3-of-11 shooting (with eight rebounds and five assists) in 29 minutes, and the team as a whole shot only 35.6% from the field. That latter mark is their second-lowest of the season, behind only the 35.4% they posted on Sunday against the Toronto Raptors.
Even adding the wins leaves the Lakers in some not great territory on offense. From The Ringer:
The Lakers now have the two lowest scores for any team since the restart. And among all 22 teams in the bubble, the Lakers rank last in offensive rating at 96.6 points per 100 possessions—eight points worse than the Warriors’ league-worst mark pre-bubble. Even LeBron James is struggling, averaging 19.3 points per game on 42 percent shooting in Orlando, as compared to 25.7 points on 50 percent shooting before the lengthy delay.
Another red flag noted by The Ringer: Dion Waiters currently ranks third on the team in shot attempts in the bubble.
The Lakers remain without Rajon Rondo, who is headed to Florida and will rejoin the team as he rehabs his thumb injury. Dwight Howard was also out Thursday with a sore right knee, and starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had to exit the game briefly after taking a shot to the ribs.
Thunder continue to overachieve
A team that just lost its two biggest stars beating the Lakers would have been a surprise entering this season, but you can hardly call a win like this surprising after all the Thunder have done this year.
With all five starters scoring in double-digits on Wednesday (led by Chris Paul’s 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists), the Thunder are now 42-25 and sit in a tie for fifth place with the Houston Rockets, the team that paid them significant draft capital for Russell Westbrook. The Los Angeles Clippers, who gave up even more for Paul George, are just three games ahead at 45-22.
Not much is expected of the Thunder in the playoffs, but it’s clear they will be a dangerous first-round matchup for any contender. And with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plus the monstrous amount of picks coming their way, the Thunder’s new era might only be getting started.
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