NBA / oklahoma city thunder

LeBron-less Lakers Shock Thunder In Thrilling OT Road Victory
Wait a minute, who? The LeBron-less Lakers? Those same bums that dropped games to the sorriest of sorry squads - the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers? Believe me, I'm as shocked as you are. I've watched these guys game by game during this grueling stretch of offensive basketball vomit. After the Lakeshow barely beat the Bulls, we all looked ahead to the schedule to see how they'd fare without LeBron for a few more games. *Pulls schedule up* "Ok.....Thunder on the road.....Rockets on the road....and the Warriors at home with the whole squad plus DeMarcus Cousins back.....Yep that's three losses. Better savor this Bulls win" That was the mindset of every Los Angelino the last two days, and I don't blame them for a second. After getting their asses kicked in the first quarter and falling behind by seventeen, the Laker's bench unit replaced every starter and invigorated the road team to a surprising second-quarter advantage over the Thunder. Then in the second half Kuzma hooped, Josh Hart and Zubac pounded the glass, Lonzo drained threes/facilitated, and Ingram copped dime after dime while filling the holes on offense and defense as a versatile wing should. Lonzo Ball practically blew the game in regulation by fouling Russell Westbrook beyond the arc when the Thunder were three-points down. I was ready to throw the game away after that. This is how they always lose their close ones! It was just a matter of time until the Thunder escaped with the victory. But Lonzo Ball learned from that brain fart and stepped the hell up to the tune of multiple overtime baskets and steady playmaking to somehow beat the Thunder in their own house, 138-128. LA's huge overtime win over the Thunder tonight was unexpected but pretty significant. It gives them a much-needed win in this continued stretch without LeBron and keeps them in eighth place in the Western Conference. They'll have to win at least one of the next two, maybe both to hold onto that final playoff spot. Whether or not they can win one of their next two is a different conversation, but take a look at the rhythm of the game & takeaways below to see how this crazy game unfolded. Rhythm Of The Game The Thunder led the Lakers after one quarter of play, 39-27. OKC unleashed an unexpected flurry of threes (5-9 3 PT FG) and capitalized off the Lakers silly turnovers en route to their early lead. LA was turning it over every which way: fumbling the ball in transition, while dumping it into the post, or just plain tossing it out of bounds. Kyle Kuzma had a little offensive rhythm going with nine early points, but the Lakers needed much more to stand a puncher's chance. They were lucky that the Thunder didn't have a 20 point lead after the first - OKC got it all the way up to seventeen at one point. This game was going about as well as I expected it to. The pessimism of the first quarter quickly flipped into optimism as the Lakeshow cut the deficit down to five to start the second. Members of the bench unit Ivica Zubac, Josh Hart, and Michael Beasley all displayed a level of focus that had been missing these past few weeks. These bench guys were just playing with way more effort and energy than the starters (sans Kuzma). They were out there straight GIVING a shit and getting buckets! Give these guys the starting job, I don't care anymore (sike)! Tie game after a Josh Hart three, and a four-point Laker lead not long after, 48-44. What was this foreign emotion I was feeling....was it hope? In response, Oklahoma City would try to squash any semblance of that. The Lakers battled for the rest of the quarter and actually maintained the upper hand by the first half's end, 67-63. When Ingram and Lonzo came back in, they actually made themselves useful with clever playmaking to set up teammates for easy shots. Lonzo's stroke was finding it's groove too, he nailed two triples late in the quarter to keep a strangle on that Laker lead. The bench mob set the tone in this second quarter, and the rest of the starters picked up the baton. We were about to see if they could do it for two more quarters and steal one on the road. The Thunder took the lead to kick off the third, but the Lakers starters got their shit together and counterpunched with play after play to regain a six-point advantage, 77-71. Right after that, George and Westbrook started finding their rhythm from deep and tied this thing up on the visiting Lakeshow. OKC was displaying that level of energy that they lacked in the second quarter, hence the tie game in the third. It was a fairly even fight throughout the rest of the third, but the Thunder held a slight advantage at quarter's end, 95-96. Kyle Kuzma was in his BAG for the Lakers, while the Thunder got timely contributions from Westbrook, Adams, Ferguson, and especially Paul George (26 points). Brandon Ingram and his length weren't being tested on defense against Paul George at all, which I wasn't happy about. We were about to find out if they would give him more opportunities in the fourth. The intensity of the final quarter was undeniably present to start things off. The lead changed hands like a package addressed to China as the Laker subs battled the Thunder at the top of the fourth. No team was able to get above a three or four point lead. Both teams were locked in and refusing to stay grounded when down. Westbrook couldn't hit shit, but he desperately tried in spite of his failed attempts. When he finally sank a corner three the OKC crowd went WILD as the Thunder sat up by three, 108-111 with five minutes to play. And the latter half of the fourth quarter was unbelievable - one for the books. Kyle Kuzma was going nuclear from the three-point line! He along with Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac kept the Lakers up by three with only seconds remaining in the entire game. With the Thunder down three and five seconds remaining, OKC had a chance to tie it up with the three-ball. Russell Westbrook took the ball and darted down the court...and then Lonzo Ball FUCKING FOULED HIM AS HE WAS SHOOTING A THREE. Westbrook went to the line and made all his free throws. Tie game, and the Lakers didn't grab the lead with their last-ditch attempt. We were headed to overtime. I was going to be surprised if the Lakers were going to win this in OT after completely blowing it in regulation. After blowing the game in regulation, Lonzo Ball opened up overtime with a deep three-pointer. The opportunity was granted to the Lakers off of a Josh Hart rebound. He was absolutely killing it on the boards for them tonight. Zubac was being a beast on the glass too, keeping possessions alive on the way to a trip to the line where he hit both free throws. The Thunder tried jacking up shots in response but didn't hit. Meanwhile, Kuzma and Lonzo nailed a jumper and layup respectively. akers up six, 131-125 with less than 1:30 to play. I couldn't believe what the hell I was seeing! LA continued to get guys like Ingram and Zubac open off of pretty off-ball action and they hit their free throws in the end - and in this entire game. The Thunder just couldn't make their shots in that overtime period either. It's like everyone adapted Russell Westbrook's shooting slump. Lakers win 138-128! Takeaways What incredible display of effort, and specifically EXECUTION by the young Lakers without LBJ on the road. It all started when the bench guys all came in during the second quarter down by a ton. That fiery intensity set the tone for the whole game, even right as they headed into OT after Lonzo blew regulation for them. I don't know if I'm more shocked or elated right now. Either way, it's an enjoyable emotional conflict to be in. It's like the guys all played to their strengths when it came down to it. Kuzma was just having one of those nights where he was in Kobe mode. Ivica Zubac and Josh Harts were absolute monsters on the boards, Bradon Ingram did some great facilitating and didn't try to do too much on offense in addition to giving Paul George hell defensively with his length and instincts. At this point, I'm not sure Ingram will be the star that he's pegged to be as a #2 overall pick, but I have no doubt that he could be a useful two-way piece with effectiveness in particular offensive actions (cutting specifically). Then again, he could still totally be a more potent offensive threat down the line. We forget that the guy is only in his third year. Him being on the Lakers tends to have people view him with a harsher lens than most. Let's let things unfold a little bit more. All it's going to take is a coaching staff that utilizes Ingram more intelligently on the offensive end, because his defense is normally great. That may happen with the Lakers or it may happen with a different team via trade. Either way, if you put the right people around Ingram I think he'd develop into a force of a player. Getting back to this specific game, I was equally impressed with Lonzo's overtime effort as I was Kuzma's game-wide dominance. Lonzo is young too, so he tends to get rattled in big moments on national TV games like this. We saw this when he gave the ball away on a hair-pulling-out stupid turnover in the middle of crunch time. After that play, I thought he was done mentally. Looking at the rest of the team's body language, tonight's result didn't seem promising on any level. But then overtime came and he beat out a 6'9 guy for a jump ball, drained a ballsy triple, sunk a layup, and assisted to Ivica Zubac on a beautiful play that put the Lakers up eight with a minute to play in OT. The game ball should be cut in half and divvied out to Lonzo and Kuzma in my book. Great performances from the youthful duo. There were a ton of great moments for individual players in this game, but the one crucial stat that the team acquired(that they never ever obtain) was a 90% shooting mark from the god damn free throw line (19/21)! The Lakers are ranked dead last in free throws, and have shot themselves out of so many winnable games dating back to last year because of missed free throws. They were so rock solid from the line I didn't even find myself as worried as I normally am during crunch time free throws. The biggest of props need to be given to the team on that. Not to mention, the Lakers outrebounded the Thunder by a GINORMOUS margin, 63-44. Pat Riley used to say whoever wins the rebounding battle wins the game. That may not always be the case, but tonight could serve as a roaring example to that theory. Lonzo's blunder at the end of regulation may have been a blessing for the Lakers down the road. It put him and the team in a difficult position and forced them to dig themselves out of it. In fourth quarters and overtimes, LeBron is usually a one-man digging crew with the others occasionally coming by with plastic toy sand shovels and buckets. I'd like for LeBron to be out longer if the kids can keep getting victories like these, but the rational fan in me knows they're still a long shot to win over the Rockets and Warriors in the following days. Hopefully they'll prove me wrong. At least we have a little more hope than we did before. Notable stat lines included Kuzma(32 pts, 8 rebs, 4 assists, 3 steals, 11/20, 7/12 from three), Lonzo (18 pts, 6 rebs, 10 assists, 1 steal, 7/17) Ingram (8 points, 5 rebs, 11 assists, 1 block 1/9 FG), Josh Hart (12 pts, 10 rebs, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block) and Ivica Zubac (26 pts, 12 rebs, 12/14 FG). The Thunder got big nights from Paul George (27 pts, 7 reb, 8 assists, 3 steals, 9/19 FG), Tony Ferguson (21 pts, 3 reb, 2 assists, 1 steal), and a bad shooting night, but a lot of points from Russell Westbrook (26 pts, 9 rebs, 13 assists, 1 steal, 7/30 FG)