LeBron James leads Lakers to another overtime win over Thunder

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Dan Woike
·4 min read
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LOS ANGELES, CA. - FEB. 10, 2021. Lakers forward LeBron James goes to the basket against a trio of Thunder defenders in the first quarter of a game at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, Feb. 10, 2021. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward LeBron James goes to the basket against a trio of Oklahoma City Thunder defenders in the first quarter at Staples Center on Wednesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

This sound familiar?

The “Fast and the Furious” movies have been less formulaic than the Lakers over the last three games — so-so to subpar efforts against vastly inferior teams only to come back and win it in overtime.

It took the Lakers two extra periods to do it against Detroit on Saturday and another against Oklahoma City on Monday. And somehow, working with the same script, the Lakers found themselves in extra time Wednesday against the Thunder, having to claw back from 20 down to force the extra period against a team down to eight players.

It wasn’t pretty — the team once again was atrocious from deep — but three-pointers from LeBron James at the end of regulation and one from Wesley Matthews in overtime nudged the Lakers to their sixth consecutive victory with a 114-113 win at Staples Center

It’s the seventh time in NBA history a team has won three overtime games in a row.

Ultimately, the Lakers wanted to avoid asking James to do it all, trying to find ways to keep him fresh during a stretch where he’s averaged 40 minutes per game during the Lakers’ winning streak.

“We’re going to be responsible and try to win the game,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his team’s plan for James. “That’s the best thing I can tell you.”

They got the win, but James’ minutes once again extended north of 40, a worrisome sign.

There’s a feeling that James gets, a vibe from the game he’s about to play, whether it’s a night where he needs to take over or if it’s one where his teammates need him to get them going.

Captaining a team that’s in a bizarre position — the Lakers are both winning and doing so unimpressively — Wednesday was a night where James decided he’d try to rely on his help.

Down Anthony Davis for the second straight game against the Thunder, the Lakers’ star led the team in shot attempts but was much more active as a facilitator, trying to find the hot hand that would get the Lakers going.

The search was harder than anyone would’ve liked, the Lakers hunting for someone consistently in an offensive rhythm.

Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points, Dennis Schroder had 19 and Kyle Kuzma added 15 points and nine rebounds.

But in the end it was James — 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and a key deflection on the final play of the game — that kept the Lakers winning.

Three Observations

The archer was the first one to shoot

Matthews, whose shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Thunder on Monday night, reached back into the imaginary quiver, pulled an arrow and quickly loaded and fired — his signature celebration after draining a three.

He was one of the only Lakers able to celebrate from deep, the team’s rotten shooting from the last two weeks continuing to cause them problems against the league’s lesser teams.

The Lakers opened Wednesday’s game by making just two of 13 from distance before Matthews drained back-to-back three-pointers to inject some life into the scuffling Lakers.

In their last five games before Wednesday, the Lakers made only 31.1% from three-point range, with only Washington and Cleveland having worse luck from deep during their last five.

In their first 20 games this season, the Lakers were hitting 38.8% from three-point range, fifth-best in the league.

Wednesday, they made 10 of 35 (28.6%).

Slow start

The Lakers looked exactly the way they wanted to avoid, another slow start that had them in a quick hole to an inferior important.

Before anyone could even break a sweat, the Lakers were down 13-4, the team missing six of its first eight shots while James got off only one attempt.

The Lakers would end up trailing by 17 in the first quarter, as the team barely made 30% of its shots.

It’s the fifth straight game the Lakers were outscored in the opening quarter.

AD sits again

For the second straight game, the Lakers played without Davis.

“He was hopeful to play,” Vogel said before the game. “He warmed it up this morning … still has some soreness there. So, again, we’re being cautious with it, and it’s not a long-term concern.

“But with him still having discomfort, we’re going to hold him out again.”

It’s the fifth game this season Davis has missed and the first time he’s had to sit two in a row.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.