A night after winning without Anthony Davis, and in the absence of him, Danny Green and LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to be heading for a schedule loss in Oklahoma City. That couldn’t have been further from what actually happened, however, as Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers to a 125-110 walloping of the Thunder that showed this team might have a bit more depth and resiliency than previously thought.
The story of the game was Rondo, who dropped 21 points, 8 assists and 12 rebounds while starting in James’ place. The veteran guard has been a lightning rod for criticism this season (some of it warranted) but that also means that the praise has to be as loud as the critiques were.
Rondo channeled his hatred of Chris Paul into a transcendent performance, keeping the Lakers composed for the second night in a row, pushing pace, scoring and making plays for teammates in order to help the Lakers stomp the Thunder right from the jump.
Even when the Thunder pushed back, Rondo and the rest of the team counterpunched, showing the value of veteran experience. If Rondo starts playing with the level of effort and focus he has the last two nights somewhat consistently, there will be a lot less complaining about his presence on the roster moving forward.
Some homework for our staff tonight. pic.twitter.com/GAr1NNsjpe— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) January 12, 2020
Kuzma also continued rolling for the second night in a row, coming up big for the purple and gold. With trade rumors swirling around his name and after declaring that he plays better when he gets more minutes, Kuzma played through the noised and backed up his big talk, going for 23 points in the first half before finishing with a season-high 36 points in a season-high 39 minutes.
But it’s not just those two. Basically every Laker that played tonight gets some degree of credit for this win. Quinn Cook, Dwight Howard, Troy Daniels, JaVale McGee, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, they all deserve to have their names in the recap for making timely plays and stepping up when called upon, as does Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel, whose coaching staff and team all saw that they’d be missing their two stars, and showed up ready to dominate anyway. That’s an admirable mindset that allowed them to steal a game that most didn’t expect them to have much of a chance in, and it’s a quality that will serve this team well during times when adversity hits in the postseason.
This win moved the Lakers to 32-7, and they’ve now won eight games in a row. They’ll have Sunday off before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. While they should probably expect to have at least one of James or Davis back for that one, tonight’s win showed that these Lakers are a bit more than just those two stars.