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Player grades: Thunder struggle against Lakers again in 116-104 loss

Pulling up from deep, D’Angelo Russell swished in a 3-pointer to give Los Angeles an insurmountable 24-point lead with nine minutes left. It was the third straight 3-pointer for Russell in one minute.

The outside shot invoked a loud celebration by the crowd as OKC was forced to call an early timeout.

It was that type of night for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their lackluster 116-104 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. OKC wrapped its four-game season series against Los Angeles by losing the last three contests.

“The start was good offensively but our overall sharpness just was there, even during that stretch,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on the loss. “I thought we tried to drum that up a couple of different times but weren’t obviously able to do it offensively… Certainly not our fastball tonight.”

Following a hot start, the Thunder quickly built a 12-point lead over the Lakers in the opening minutes. After that stretch though, they never looked comfortable the rest of the way.

The Lakers scored 11 straight points and exited the first quarter tied at 25 points apiece. The Thunder couldn’t recover with the break. They were outscored by the Lakers in the second quarter, 27-18, to enter halftime with a 52-43 deficit.

The halftime break didn’t help the Thunder look sharper as the third quarter saw them get outscored by the Lakers, 37-29. This included a 23-8 run to push their lead to double-digit points.

The Lakers entered the fourth quarter with an 89-72 lead. Any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed for OKC as Los Angeles went on an 11-2 run in the opening three minutes to push its lead to a game-high 25 points.

“They caught some confidence and caught a rhythm in the second half and we had a hard time turning them off,” Daigneault said. “Some of those shots were really, really tough but there were some controllable stuff prior to that I wish we took care of.”

Playing on the second night of a road back-to-back, the Thunder looked exhausted and signs of fatigue grew the deeper the game unraveled. Overall, they shot an ugly 39% from the field and went 15-of-39 (38.5%) from 3.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had one of his worst games of the season with 20 points on 13 shots. Jalen Williams was limited to seven points. Chet Holmgren only had 15 points and seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, the inconsistent Lakers look their best each time they match up against OKC. That was the case again in their final matchup of the regular season. They shot 51% from the field and went 16-of-34 (47.1%) from 3.

The Lakers also had distinct advantages with 48 points inside the paint and a 18-of-25 night from the free-throw line. For comparison, the Thunder had 36 points in the paint and just 16 free-throw attempts.

Anthony Davis dominated with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. LeBron James recovered from a slow start and tallied 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

“He’s a load, he’s obviously a very good player,” Daigneault said on Davis. “For us to neutralize him or do a good job on him, we got to have high, high energy and intensity and I didn’t think we had that tonight.”

The Lakers’ role players also had a hot night — Austin Reaves had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Russell scored 26 points and shot 5-of-11 from 3. Taurean Prince totaled 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from 3 off the bench.

It seems like the Lakers have the Thunder’s number — at least in the regular season. They never looked comfortable throughout most of the night. OKC has looked uncharacteristically lethargic in three of its four matchups with them this season.

Let’s look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: C

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The usually consistent MVP candidate couldn’t muster any juice against the Lakers, who had one of his worst outings of the season yet.

In 30 minutes, Gilgeous-Alexander had 20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. He shot 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.

He was limited to 11 points in the first half. The 25-year-old only played in the first three quarters as he didn’t suit up in the final frame with the game being out of reach. A rare misstep for Gilgeous-Alexander, whose consistency is arguably his biggest strength.

Lu Dort: B

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the few positives for the Thunder in this ugly loss, Dort showed out against the Lakers.

In 24 minutes, Dort had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, two rebounds and two assists. He shot 5-of-7 from 3. He scored 12 points in the first half as OKC’s offense struggled to generate buckets.

It was one of Dort’s better outside shooting games of the season. The outside shot helped the Thunder stay in it until the Lakers pulled away late in the second half. He also didn’t play in the final frame.

Chet Holmgren: C-minus

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For a second straight night, Holmgren struggled to contain his matchup against a beefy big. The rookie center finished with 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds and one block. He shot 2-of-6 from 3.

The 21-year-old only totaled 28 minutes. He played just three minutes in the fourth quarter before the Lakers pulled away.

A large reason for this is Davis, who has had OKC’s number this season — averaging 27 points on 58% shooting, 13 rebounds and 4.5 assists in his four games.

The 30-year-old has been dominant against the small Thunder and proves to be a real mismatch for them. The 6-foot-10, 253-pound center could be a major problem for OKC if matched up in the playoffs.

Jalen Williams: D

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Just an extremely quiet game for Williams. He finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, three assists and two rebounds. He shot 1-of-3 from 3.

Williams played 26 minutes and only three minutes in the fourth quarter before he was subbed out for the final time.

This was the second-lowest scoring outing of the season for Williams, who was a nonfactor in this loss. The second-year wing has to do better considering he’s blossomed into OKC’s second-best scorer.

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Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire