Player grades: AD scores 37 points as Thunder lose to LeBron-less Lakers, 116-111

Jogging in transition after a steal, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander navigated his way for a 14-foot left elbow pull-up jumper he swished.

Finally, after trailing for the entire game minus a brief 2-0 lead in the opening minute, the Oklahoma City Thunder were tied with the Los Angeles Lakers with 5:25 remaining.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Lakers steamrolled them, 14-9, in the final five minutes. The Lakers reached .500 for the first time this season as the Thunder lost, 116-111.

The Thunder dug themselves a hole early, trailing 41-25 following the first quarter. After trailing by as many as 17 points, the Thunder used the remainder of the game to play catch up.

“They got off to a really good start,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “We were probably a step slow, but they were really hot and played in a rhythm.”

The Thunder used a 67-52 scoring advantage in the middle quarters to cut the Lakers’ lead to one point entering the fourth quarter. After that, it was a back-and-forth duel before the Lakers pulled away late.

“The fight out of the team, on the second night of a back-to-back, when we fall into a hole like that,” Daigneault said. “It took us a while to get the game back under control and we just kinda kept fighting and clawed back into it.”

OKC’s starting backcourt led the way in this close loss. Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey each scored 27 points, with the latter tallying 17 rebounds.

Without LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Davis carried the Lakers to a critical win that gives them the tiebreaker over the Thunder — something that could definitely come in handy with how tight the standings are.

Using his size against the small Thunder, Davis finished with 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting and 15 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 multiyear All-Star got off to a flaming start with 15 first-quarter points on 6-of-7 shooting.

The Lakers kept going back to Davis with a mixture of lobs and post touches despite facing multiple defenders. He scored 30 points on 15-of-18 shooting inside of the paint.

Like Kawhi Leonard last game, the Thunder couldn’t contain the opposition’s best player in an important game.

“AD made some tough shots. He got hot — early on especially,” Giddey said.

The Lakers’ starting backcourt also played a key role in their win. Dennis Schroder finished with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting and six assists — including 13 points in the fourth quarter. Austin Reaves finished with 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Off the bench, Lonnie Walker IV scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 4-of-8 shooting from 3. Overall, the Lakers’ bench outscored the Thunder’s, 40-28.

After losing both games of this LA, the Thunder look to finish 2-2 on their four-game road trip as they travel to play the Portland Trail Blazers.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: B-plus

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Credit the Lakers; they did as well of a job as any other team this season limiting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back after being questionable with an abdominal strain, Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 27 points on 9-of-22 shooting and went 8-of-9 from the free-throw line. He also added eight assists and five rebounds.

Since the All-Star break, the Thunder have sat Gilgeous-Alexander during one game of back-to-backs to manage his abdominal strain. But considering the circumstances of this game with the tiebreaker on the line, the Thunder opted to play him.

Gilgeous-Alexander had a strong first half, scoring 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting but was limited to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting in the second half.

Josh Giddey: B-plus

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It was evident the Lakers were willing to let Josh Giddey get his and they preferred to focus on limiting Gilgeous-Alexander. That was reflected in his stat line.

Giddey finished with 27 points on 12-of-24 shooting, 2-of-6 shooting from 3, 17 rebounds and seven assists.

The 24 attempts are a career high for Giddey. He did most of his scoring inside of the paint, where he had 20 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

Giddey was also a menace on the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds, which was a game high. An impressive feat considering Davis was on the other side. The 17 rebounds are the second-most of Giddey’s young career.

“When he rebounds like that on the defensive side of the ball, now he’s leading the break and his vision can come into play,” Daigneault said about Giddey’s rebounding. “Great effort by him.”

Lu Dort: B-plus

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After scoring three points on 1-of-11 shooting in a blowout loss to the LA Clippers on Thursday, Lu Dort rebounded with his best outside shooting game of the season.

Such is the volatile life of Dort’s offensive game.

Dort finished with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and went 5-of-8 from 3. He also grabbed six rebounds and blocked two shots. The five-made 3s are a season high for Dort.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: B-plus

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Since returning from an extended ankle sprain, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has played his way out of the rotation.

It’s hard to blame the Thunder for that. The emergence of Jaylin Williams makes Robinson-Earl easier to bench, especially since he has averaged 4.1 points on 35.4% shooting in 12 games between his return and Friday. During that stretch, Robinson-Earl shot 4-of-24 (16.7%) from 3.

This makes his performance against the Lakers that much more encouraging since it was easily his best game since returning from his ankle sprain.

Robinson-Earl finished with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 shooting from 3 in 17 minutes off the bench. He provided OKC with bench scoring as the rest of the reserves combined to score 14 points.

Robinson-Earl helped limit Davis’ production as he scored just 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the second half.

“We thought tonight was a good matchup for him… and he delivered,” Daigneault said about JRE. “… I give him a lot of credit.”


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire