Despite missing Anthony Davis due to knee soreness, the Lakers finally held on to a big lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning in a 116-95 blowout to improve to 14-13 on the season. It’s their first win in three tries this season against a rebuilding OKC squad with one of the most talent-deficient rosters in the NBA, a group that lost by the largest margin in NBA history earlier this season.
LeBron James led the way with a vintage performance, scoring 33 points on 13-20 shooting to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Avery Bradley also erupted for a season-high 22 points in addition to swiping four steals and playing key point-of-attack defense on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. On the other end, the Lakers’ ball movement seemed much more crisp than it did in last night’s loss to the Grizzlies, and the stat sheet bore that out as the Lakers had 23 assists compared to just 14 turnovers as a team.
The Lakers built an 18-8 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, leading by double digits the rest of the way. Though the team’s general lack of energy on defense was still evident at times, it helped that the Thunder shot just 22% from 3-point range compared to L.A.’s 45% mark from deep.
With Davis out, the Lakers relied heavily on a small-ball approach as Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan only played a combined 28 minutes (though Howard started in Davis’s place). That stylistic decision to go small more often seemed to both help the Lakers play at a faster pace, and clear the lane for some of James’ trademark drives to the rim, as the Thunder simply had no answer for him in the paint.
Austin Reaves, the most beloved former-Sooner-turned-LA-transplant in Oklahoma these days, also got back into the rotation for the first time in several games. Reaves finished with a 13 points off the bench to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists, and was a +17 on the night, highest on the team besides James and Russell Westbrook. If the Lakers continue to lean on smaller lineups depending how long Davis and Trevor Ariza remain out, Reaves could have made a case tonight for more time in the rotation as an off-ball cutter alongside James and Westbrook.
Speaking of Westbrook, he came close to a triple-double on his old home court but finished with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
After a 1-1 road trip, the Lakers return home to host the Orlando Magic on Sunday. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. PT on Spectrum Sportsnet.