The Oklahoma City Thunder are emerging as the Los Angeles Lakers’ nemesis of the 2021-22 season, beating L.A. again on Thursday for the second time in eight days.
Once more, the Lakers started the game on a high note and then squandered a huge first-half lead. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander again showed off his shooting skills and playmaking prowess, ending the night with team-high 28 points — going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc — and adding six assists.
Anthony Davis had a monster night, scoring a game-high 29 points in addition to collecting 18 rebounds. But his stat line combined with Russell Westbrook’s 27 points couldn’t make up for L.A.’s chaotic defense — particularly in the absence of the injured LeBron James.
In the end, Oklahoma City won 107-104 and left Staples Center with just its second win of the season — both over L.A. Davis paid his respect to the Thunder for finding the way to humble the Lakers twice in a short period of time.
“They made shots. Defensively, we were all over the place,” he said. “I feel like they were waiting on our coverages. Shai was just picking us apart whether with his jump shot and then toward the end just his passing to the right guys. For some reason, this team comes in every time and make shots against us, 15 threes again tonight, like they did the first game.”
The 28-year-old All-Star praised Oklahoma City for tailoring its game-plan just enough to neutralize L.A.’s defense, allowing Gilgeous-Alexander to capitalize on his versatility and cause a great deal of damage on offense.
“Yeah, I mean they knew what we were doing, kind of did the entire second half,” Davis said. “Their coach or Shai, whoever it was, made adjustments to put their players in the right spot.
“[Gilgeous-Alexander] made us pay for trying to double-team him to get [the ball] out of his hands. And even when we did that, they did some swing action, guys hit shots. Mike Muscala hit one on top of the key, Kenrich Will hit one in the left corner, Dort hit an open three.
“We live with those shots. Like I said, against us they make them. We had our rotations but them guys made shots.”
The Thunder have now split two Lakers winning streaks, dealing a loss to L.A. after three consecutive wins this time around.
Davis: Lakers need to win games even without James
Davis conceded that James’ absence is a huge blow to the Lakers considering his output on both ends of the floor. But the All-Star forward said that with its depth of the roster, L.A. should be able to garner wins even without the four-time NBA champion.
“He’s key to our team but we’ve still got to play,” Davis said. “I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. … I mean, you can’t control him playing or not but what we can control is going out there and winning basketball games and with the guys that we have.
“And we have enough pieces to still win basketball games.”
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