An ugly, lopsided loss.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
After a very strong road trip had people questioning where the Oklahoma City Thunder stood, the team got a nasty reminder in the form of a 128-99 loss from the reigning champions: There’s a massive expanse between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Thunder of OKC.
Beyond the simple fact that the Lakers are the best team in the league, there’s a big difference in age and experience between these two teams. The Thunder only had three active players tonight with more than three years of experience. The Lakers are the oldest team on average in the league.
Wing LeBron James has made the NBA Finals in more seasons than any Thunder player except guard George Hill and center Al Horford, the latter of whom did not play tonight, have even been in the league.
“I was watching those guys playing like since I was 10 years old,” rookie forward Aleksej Pokusevski said. “Those are good players, you just gotta keep fighting against those players.”
Then, without Horford, the size difference was exacerbated. The Lakers have gone against “small ball” yet managing to keep the versatility and playmaking that makes that trend so successful.
Thunder forwards/bigs Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby, Mike Muscala and Aleksej Pokusevski were tasked to defend the Lakers bigs led by Anthony Davis.
The results weren’t pretty.
Davis, who was questionable to play earlier in the day, scored 18 points on 13 attempts. Backup big Montrezl Harrell had 21 points in 25 minutes. Forward Marcus Morris scored 11 and hit three 3-pointers off the bench.
James, the 6-foot-9 primary ball handler, had a casual 26 points with five 3-pointers, seven assists and six rebounds in 27 minutes of play.
“LeBron is a great player, you gotta go out there and just compete. You can’t look at him as LeBron, you gotta go out there and look at him as your opponent,” forward Kenrich Williams said.
Oklahoma City’s defense couldn’t get a stop, as the Lakers hit 49.5% of their field goals and 45.9% of their 3s. The Thunder, by comparison, made 43% of their shots and converted only 32.3% of their 3s.
“Try to play faster, be more aggressive, be more physical than (them),” guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Nobody’s, obviously, perfect and unbeatable, there’s things that every team has flaws on. We didn’t execute them tonight and we didn’t get the W.”
Williams said he thought the Thunder contested a good number of shots, but the Lakers were making them. Head coach Mark Daigneault said the goal against intangibles like size and athleticism is to limit mistakes.
“Let’s have them score on us because they’re big, not because of a mistake we make,” Daigneault said. “Let’s make a team like that make shots, let’s not allow them to get out in transition … let’s not allow them on the glass.”
Gilgeous-Alexander had a team-high 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting while no one else on the team scored more than 11.
Oklahoma City fell behind by 24 in the second quarter but ended it on a 14-2 run to make the deficit manageable.
Well, it would have been manageable. They were outscored by 10 in the third quarter, at which point the Lakers could coast to victory.
“With those types of teams … you gotta play every minute,” Pokusevski said. “If you just stop playing for a minute, they’re going to take the lead.”