The Los Angeles Lakers shook off a slow start, turned up their defense late but still needed overtime for a 119-112 win in the first of consecutive games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With the absence of Anthony Davis, Markieff Morris — who had played in the last four games — got the nod in the starting lineup. Alex Caruso also being out led to a return to the rotation for Wesley Matthews.
The Thunder got off to a hot start offensively, making six of their first eight shots. A deep Shai Gilgeuous-Alexander 3 led to the game’s first timeout, with the Lakers trailing 14-7 at the 7:47 mark.
Interior defense was a major issue without Davis’ presence. Fourteen of the first 22 Thunder points came in the paint, which was a problem when paired with the three offensive rebounds in eight minutes.
However, a few good defensive possessions allowed the Lakers to keep it close at 22-15 with 3:58 to go in the quarter. The remainder of the opening period was clouded by sloppy play by the Lakers.
Eight turnovers and a general lack of defensive intensity gave the Thunder a 33-26 lead after one.
Montrezl Harrell established dominance early on in the second, scoring four straight to bring his total to 10 points on 5-of-5 from the field. The unit of Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker, Matthews and LeBron James re-ignited L.A., starting a comeback and eventual 42-42 tie.
L.A.’s defense tightened up considerably near the end of the first half, allowing just nine points in the final 5:22. However, a near six-minute scoring drought made it impossible to take a lead. The Thunder led the Lakers 60-56 at halftime.
The purple and gold shot just 39.1% from the field in the first 24 minutes, while also allowing 40 points in the paint. They were able to stay in it by blocking shots (eight), winning the rebounding battle 30-26, and giving up zero turnovers in the second quarter.
Dennis Schroder, who was unable to get a field goal in the first half, began the third quarter on a mission. He hit three consecutive shots to reach double figures, giving the Lakers their first lead since the 10:33 mark of the first quarter.
The same lineup that closed the gap for the Lakers in the second quarter was walked all over towards the end of the third. That group allowed a 16-2 run in the final four minutes, as the Thunder went into the fourth with an eight-point lead, 84-76.
While L.A. played a mediocre quarter, James did notch his third triple-double of the season, reaching 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists before the beginning of the final quarter. Meanwhile, Kuzma secured a double-double early in the fourth quarter with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
At the 7:04 mark of the final frame, the Lakers trailed by just five, 94-89, thanks to the incredible work of Harrell. Back-to-back scores forced a Thunder timeout. The Lakers continued to chip away at their deficit by attacking the basket.
Schroder’s layup pulled the Lakers to within a point with just under five minutes remaining. Gilgeuous-Alexander responded with a 3-pointer, but James bullied his way to the rim on the next possession to keep the Lakers close.
The teams traded 3-pointers down the stretch of the game, then Matthews forced a turnover that led to a James layup in transition to tie the game. The Lakers got another stop and took the lead on Schroder’s jump shot with 34.6 seconds remaining.
After a foul call on Schroder was overturned and resulted in a jump ball at center court, the Thunder retained possession and Gilgeuous-Alexander drew three free throws by getting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the air.
He remained perfect at the charity stripe by knocking down all three to tie the game. James’ double-clutch 3-pointer fell short and the Lakers went into another overtime.
Baskets by Harrell and Schroder were followed by a Matthews 3-pointer to help L.A. take control in overtime and effectively put the game away.
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