With the Los Angeles Lakers habitually struggling out of the gate without LeBron James and Rajon Rondo, head coach Luke Walton inserted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tyson Chandler into the lineup and stuck with them for a second consecutive game.
While the new-look lineup managed to generate some traction against the Chicago Bulls, that did not carry over as the level of competition increased in Thursday’s matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Turnovers hurt the Lakers’ effort but they nevertheless managed to pull to within four points. However, that was followed by the Thunder going on an 11-0 run and stretching their lead to as many as 17 points.
Upset with how his starters performed, Walton benched them in favor of an all-reserves unit to start the second quarter. He acknowledged the drastic decision stemmed from frustration, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I was a little on edge after the first quarter. I felt like we weren’t competing hard enough, which is not who we are as a group. So I think I was probably a little trigger happy and on edge when I thought guys weren’t competing at an acceptable level. I was going to find people that were ready to get it done. Like I said, every did at different times, which is what we want. … We were just looking for groups that could keep the fight going in a building that’s really hard to win.”
While Walton may have been quick to sit every starter down, the decision ultimately paid off. He praised the Lakers as a whole for pulling out a 138-128 overtime win:
“That was a really nice, big win for our group. We got contributions from everybody. This is a really hard place to win at, it’s a playoff team, and for our guys to keep coming in and different people making plays, that’s how we have to compete. … I’m really proud of the way our guys just fought and fought and found a way to win that game.”
Led in large part by Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac, the Lakers began to chip away at their deficit. A 22-5 run to start the second quarter gave them their first lead of the game. Zubac went on to finish with a career-high 26 points.
Hart pulled in 10 rebounds, several of them in late situations, and also converted clutch free throws. While the 61 points from the Lakers bench were significant toward their comeback effort, it also put Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma in position to secure the win.
Reminder: Vivid Seats is the Official Ticket Reseller of LakersNation.com. New Customers use “LAKERSNATION” (all CAPS) in the Vivid Seats App on your phone and get 10% off any Lakers home game ticket order for the remainder of the season.