The Lakers were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell on Wednesday night but still found a way to win a critical game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 123-117.
Scoring was a struggle at times for L.A. but the team spread the ball around and had a balanced attack with six players finishing in double digits.
Dennis Schröder was the best version of himself in the win. Resilant, productive and after dealing with a rolled ankle, proved just how tough (or tuff) he can be. He ended the night with 26 points and 6 assists.
The Lakers improve to 30-33 on the season and are just a half game out of a play-in spot.
With so many missing pieces, Darvin Ham had the challenge of finding a winning rotation from his depleted roster. He ultimately opted to go with a starting group of Troy Brown Jr., Jared Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba, Malik Beasley and Schröder. The early results were positive as the Lakers went on a quick 10-2 run to open the game.
However, like much of this season, the good was quickly followed up by the bad.
Schröder took a nasty turn on his ankle and appeared to be just the latest Laker to suffer an injury. He fortunately was able to finish the game but was clearly affected by the incident. To close out the opening quarter, OKC went on a 14-3 run to make it a one-point game.
Dennis Schroder goes down after suffering a nasty ankle sprain.— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 2, 2023
Hope he's okay pic.twitter.com/wekdY8smTW
For the rest of the first half, the Lakers sorely looked like a team missing their key scorers and shot creators. They struggled to generate good looks and had an even tougher time hitting those shots.
On the defensive end, the purple and gold constantly blew their assignments, couldn't secure long rebounds and left their opposition wide open on the perimeter. The combo of Austin Reaves (who was perfect from the field) and Schröder helped stem the tide however, as the Lakers were fortunate to be down by just three heading into the half.
The Lakers might’ve been shorthanded, but like they have all season, they continued to fight. Bamba helped space the floor and had an incredibly efficient night offensively, scoring 12 points on 75% shooting. Schröder battled through the pain to help organize the offense, finishing the night a team-high +16.
With Austin Reaves making some plays, LAL are up to 15 made 3's tonight, after B2B makes from Schröder (his 3rd) and Walker IV (his 1st).— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 2, 2023
Brown has 4, Bamba 3, Beasley 3, and Reaves 1.
LAL up 86-81 with 1:15 left in the 3rd.
The Lakers saved their best for last when it came to closing things out in the fourth quarter.
Schröder not only got downhill to the basket with ease, but made wise decisions with the basketball after the team’s turnover issues on Tuesday. Lonnie Walker keeps making a case to stay in the rotation as he ended the night with 13 points and his athleticism once again impressed.
And while Rui Hachimura didn't have the flashiest boxscore, he was big in the final frame on both ends. He had an emphatic block on Jalen Williams, then hustled back to dunk the ball on the other side of the floor. The Lakers’ advantage ballooned to 13 and they impressively fended off OKC’s attempts at a late-game comeback.
While every game matters at this stage for the Lakers, contests against teams in direct competition for a play-in spot are even more significant if they hope to claw their way into the postseason. Tonight’s win was huge.
With a five-game home stretch starting Friday, the Lakers will need to do some home cooking and hopefully, get reinforcements in Davis and Russell back as there are now just 19 games left in the season.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.