The Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder went into Friday night’s game with identical 36-37 records and 1-1 in head-to-head matchups, which is the postseason tiebreaker.
That meant that the stakes were at an all-time high, even though the Lakers were without two key pieces in LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell. A win would go a long way in L.A. making the playoffs, and they were able to clutch up down the stretch to come away with a 116-111 victory to get back to .500 on the season.
Austin Reaves and Anthony Davis got going early, combining for the team’s first 13 points to take an early 13-6 lead. Lu Dort eventually got the Thunder going with a pair of 3-pointers, keeping things close.
Early on though the Thunder had no answer for Davis as he had 15 first-quarter points. Troy Brown Jr. and Wenyen Gabriel also got in on the action from deep, extending L.A.’s lead to double digits for the first time.
The Lakers bench continued what the starters had going with Malik Beasley and Lonnie Walker IV draining triples of their own, giving the Lakers a 41-25 lead at the end of one quarter. The 41 points were a season-high for the Lakers in the first quarter.
After the Thunder cut their deficit to 11 early in the second, Walker had five straight points for L.A. to quickly get it back to 16.
That was answered by another Thunder run though to get their deficit down to six before Davis came back in and responded with a three-point play. The Lakers eventually went into the halftime locker room with a 74-66 lead.
After a quiet first half, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got going early in the third quarter with some crafty buckets. Dort also stayed hot from deep and all of a sudden the Lakers’ lead was cut to just two.
Davis continued to be efficient for the Lakers on offense, but L.A. allowed the Thunder to stick around with some poor defense. After a rough end to the quarter, the Lakers’ lead was just 93-92 going into the fourth with Lindy Waters III beating the buzzer with a 3 for Oklahoma City.
Dennis Schroder had five straight points for the Lakers to begin the final quarter, which was huge with the momentum beginning to shift the other way.
The young Thunder continued to scratch and claw to stay in it though and finally tied it at 102 after a jumper by Gilgeous-Alexander midway through the fourth.
Walker continued his big game with a 3 and then Schroder connected from midrange to put the Lakers up by five.
Giddey cut the Thunder’s deficit to four in the final minute, but Davis came up with a big offensive rebound and iced the game with a free throw to seal the victory for L.A.
Davis would finish the night with 37 points and 15 rebounds in what was a dominant overall performance.
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