The Thunder’s recent defensive struggles continued on Thursday night in Oklahoma City, as the LeBron James-less Lakers overcame a 17-point first quarter deficit to take a 138-128 overtime victory. Los Angeles shot 19-of-40 (47.5 percent) from long range and dominated OKC 56-24 in the paint, continuing a concerning trend for the Thunder defense. Paul George led the way with 27 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Russell Westbrook added 26 points, nine rebounds, and 13 assists — but shot just 7-of-30 (23.3 percent). Kyle Kuzma went 7-of-12 from three and paced the Lakers in scoring with 32 points.
The Thunder appeared dominant in the first quarter, scoring 39 points on 58.3 percent shooting. George and Terrance Ferguson both knocked down a pair of three-pointers and OKC went 6-of-9 from long range as a team. The Thunder built a 17-point lead when George’s second deep ball at the 2:22 mark put his squad up 37-20. The Lakers turned the ball over seven times but closed on a 10-2 run to make it 39-27 OKC after one.
Opening the second quarter with a lineup of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Josh Hart, Lance Stephenson, Moe Wagner, and Ivica Zubak, Los Angeles raced out to a 10-3 start against the Thunder reserves and forced Billy Donovan into an early timeout. However, the flood gates remained open when the starters returned — as L.A. went on to outscore OKC 40-24 across the 12 minutes of play. The Lakers shot 54.2 percent in the second and went 5-of-10 from long range. Westbrook shot just 1-of-8 in the quarter and the Thunder went 9-of-27 (33.3 percent) as a team. Los Angeles led 67-63 at the halftime break.
The Thunder opened the second half with a three from Westbrook, followed by a jumper from George and 1-of-2 from the line from Ferguson. The quick 6-0 burst in the first two minutes of the third put OKC up 69-67. Things looked to be turning around — but the Lakers offense kept rolling and the teams exchanged the lead for the better part of the quarter. George and Westbrook combined for 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the frame. The Thunder outscored L.A. 33-28 in the third and held a 97-96 lead with one quarter remaining.
Much like the third, the teams rode the seesaw in the fourth quarter — exchanging the lead nine times and finding themselves tied on seven different occasions. Despite George not attempting a field goal and Westbrook going 1-for-9 in the fourth, the Thunder went 11-of-14 from the free throw line to stay in it. With the Lakers leading 122-119 in the final seconds of regulation, Westbrook was fouled on a three-point attempt with 2.9 seconds to go. He knocked down all three (7-of-10 for the game) and sent it to overtime tied 122-122.
Overtime belonged to Los Angeles, as the Thunder offense stumbled to a 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) shooting effort in the extra five minutes. George, Westbrook, and Steven Adams all failed to score in OT, combining to go 0-of-6 from the floor. Zubac put the finishing touches on his career-high 26-point effort, tacking on four points and two rebounds in overtime to help seal it. The loss sends the Thunder to 26-18 on the season and makes them losers of five of their last six games.
The Defense. After giving up 142 points to the Hawks on Tuesday, the OKC defense responded by coughing up 138 to the Lakers tonight. The Hawks hit 18 three-pointers. Los Angeles hit 19 tonight. Atlanta scored 68 points in the paint. The Lakers outscored OKC 56-24 down low tonight. Nothing about these developments has been pleasant.
The Thunder are giving up an average of 130 PPG to opposing teams over the last six games — so it’s no wonder the team is 1-5 over that stretch. The PnR defense has looked atrocious, teams are getting what they want in the paint as a result, and everyone — everyone — is lighting OKC up from long range. It’s an unfortunate scene.
The Long Ball. The Thunder set a franchise-record with 22 made three-pointers, going 22-of-54 for a 40.7 percent success rate. However, the team hit 3-of-10 in the fourth quarter and just 2-of-12 in overtime (all but one attempt in OT was a 3P, by the way). The team was 17-of-32 headed into the fourth quarter and combined to shoot 5-of-22 in the 17 minutes after that. Was fun while it lasted — but it ended too soon.
Missed Opportunities. For one, the Lakers were without LeBron James — so this game is a giant missed opportunity for simply having happened. However, there were a number of times the Thunder had a chance to pull away. The blown 17-point first quarter lead is a tough pill to swallow, but the third and fourth quarters were especially frustrating. There were 16 lead changes and 11 ties in the third and fourth quarters alone. Every time OKC seemed ready to take over, the Lakers offense roared back to life.
Free Throws. Speaking of missed opportunities, OKC went 24-of-36 from the free throw line — good for 66.7 percent. The Lakers went 19-of-21 for 90.5 percent.
Some Thunder Stats:
- Paul George had 27 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and three steals — but went a combined 0-of-5 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Failing to take a single shot in the fourth is an inexcusable level of passiveness. Regardless, he was a +4 in his 44 minutes.
- Russell Westbrook dropped 26 points, nine rebounds, and 13 assists — shooting 7-for-30 in the process. He was shockingly efficient from long range, hitting 5-of-12 from deep. Though he was +5 in his 43 minutes, he was 1-of-9 in the mid-range and 1-of-9 at the rim. It was nice to see him enjoy a good night from three-point range — but still very rough overall.
- Terrance Ferguson was a bright spot, going 6-of-12 from long distance to register 21 points — his second 21-point effort in four games. He’s now shooting 19-of-34 (55.8 percent) from deep over the last five games.
- Steven Adams was solid with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four steals. Jerami Grant added 14 points and three blocks. Patrick Patterson scored nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from deep in 10 minutes of action.
- The Thunder bench had a tough night in the plus/minus department: Nerlens Noel (-20), Hamidou Diallo (-14), Dennis Schroder (-12), Patrick Patterson (-11), and Abdel Nader (-10). The Lakers reserves outscored OKC’s by a final tally of 61-23.
The Other Guys. Kuzma led the way for L.A. with 32 points on 7-of-12 from three. He was joined in double-figures by a dominant Zubac (26 pts, 12 reb), Lonzo Ball (18 pts, 10 ast), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13 pts), and Josh Hart (12).