The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 116-95, showing off roster depth and cohesiveness on the floor.
LeBron James led the way with 33 points, shooting 4-for-6 (66.7%) from behind the 3-point line. But many of the Lakers’ role players stepped up as ankle soreness ruled Anthony Davis out of the game.
Avery Bradley turned into a lethal sharpshooter, ending the night 6-of-8 from the 3-point land and with 22 points to his name. Meanwhile, Austin Reaves and Talen Horton-Tucker chipped in 13 and 11, respectively.
After the game, head coach Frank Vogel praised his players for trusting each other with the ball and embracing unselfishness in their game.
“It’s not about who’s going,” Vogel said. “It’s about the ball finding the open man. Everybody out there can score.
“I tried to give the message of the balance of these players we have on this team, it’s going to come down to everyone trusting each other and not worrying about who’s performing at a high level on given night. It’s going to be a different guy every night, but the trust to become a team.”
Vogel then said that “the open man is more talented than any individual on our squad…” before retracting the statement promptly to make an important correction.
“Except for maybe LeBron [James],” the head coach said. “LeBron just mentioned that in the back (laughs). He corrected me on that.”
The night before, Vogel pointed out the Lakers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in big part due to turnovers, caused by ignoring “the open man” and driving with the ball into the crowd instead. The coach said he was happy to see L.A. make adjustments overnight, leading to a better ball movement against the Thunder.
“I’m proud of our group for just taking the lessons of last night’s game where we failed to make the simple play to see the open man in front of us and try to force things to certain guys,” Vogel said.
“We really bought into that morning film session and tried to have carryover into tonight’s game. Moved the ball beautifully and as a result, the shot quality was high. We had a great shooting night from the perimeter. I’m really proud of our guys for applying the lessons of last night.”
Vogel explains dip in Reaves’ minutes in recent games
Vogel gave Reaves a much bigger role to play on Friday compared to his plan for the rookie in the last few games. After the 23-year-old guard came back from a hamstring injury in late November, he averaged just over nine minutes on the floor in four appearances.
Vogel explained he held off on entrusting Reaves with more game load until he shook off the rust caused by his 10-game absence, which the head coach noticed in the guard’s first two games following the break.
“I think tonight was what you see of what he’s capable of and what he does on both sides of the ball and that’s the performance I was looking for from him to have confidence that he’s back from his injury and to continue to give him a bigger role,” Vogel said.
Commenting on Reaves’ performance on Friday, Vogel said: “He was spectacular tonight.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!