The Los Angeles Lakers again were saddled by poor shooting from deep and it amounted to a 105-86 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the first night of back-to-back.
The Lakers’ habit of slow starts in the bubble continued against the Thunder, but great defense managed to keep them in it. Five minutes into the first quarter, L.A. managed just seven points to OKC’s 10.
The starting lineup of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee has struggled mightily in the bubble to get points early on. The initial substitutions remained the same as usual, with Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso replacing James and McGee, coming at the six minute mark with the Thunder leading 13-10.
Dion Waiters later came in for Green, who continued his 3-point struggles by starting 0-for-4. With just under three minutes left in the first, the Thunder led 20-14.
Markieff Morris saw rare first-quarter minutes with Dwight Howard out, but it didn’t help the Lakers’ abysmal offense, as they trailed 26-18. L.A. shot 28.6% from the field and were just 1-of-12 behind the arc.
The second quarter began with a lineup of JR Smith, Waiters, Morris, Kuzma and James. The poor scoring from the first continued. The Thunder capitalized and extended their lead to 34-21. However, four quick points brought the Lakers within nine, leading to a Thunder timeout with 8:10 remaining in the half.
While the energy picked up with a new lineup featuring Caruso, Davis, Caldwell-Pope, Green and James, the shotmaking was still lacking for a majority of the second quarter.
Scoring did pick up on both sides over the final minutes, with the Thunder getting several foul calls to help maintain their slight lead. L.A. trailed 52-45 at the half, shooting 34.9% from the field and 16.7% from deep. Nine Thunder turnovers allowed the Lakers to stay within single digits.
Early in the second half, Caldwell-Pope had to leave the game after taking a hit to the ribs from Chris Paul while both went for a loose ball. Quinn Cook took his place for his first appearance of the game.
Both teams began the half on a sluggish note — with the exception of Paul and Steven Adams — giving the Thunder a chance to extend their lead to 15 points halfway through the quarter. With 5:23 to go in the third, the Thunder held a comfortable 67-52 lead.
Things only got worse for the Lakers as 3-point shooting and foul trouble plagued their third quarter. Davis was forced to exit the game with five fouls, and Thunder again took advantage, this time breaking the game wide open with a 20-point advantage.
However, fortunes turned slightly with some aggressive play from James down the stretch. Going into the fourth quarter, L.A. had their work cut out for them as they trailed 81-66.
James, Morris, Caruso, Waiters and Kuzma began the fourth quarter, where a 5-0 run cut the deficit to 10 before an Adams three-point play killed their momentum. Adams was able to overpower Morris, causing McGee to check back into the game with the Lakers down 17.
The Thunder were in the bonus by the nine-minute mark, allowing them to further build on their already large lead. Waiters got his offense going during the fourth quarter, which at times kept the Lakers somewhat competitive in what otherwise was a blowout loss.
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