The Oklahoma City Thunder did not end 2017 quite like they wanted, and despite the consecutive home losses to finish out the calendar year, they still had the third-best record in the NBA in December. Even still, starting off 2018 strong seemed like a focal point of the night, and the Thunder bounced back strong with a 133-96 win over the Lakers in Los Angeles.
The Thunder looked pretty awful to start as multiple turnovers and bad defense helped the Lakers to a 10-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. Oklahoma City quickly started to turn it around, however, led by Carmelo Anthony’s quick shooting. Anthony scored nine of the Thunder’s first 12 points, and Russell Westbrook added eight points and four rebounds as the Thunder was able to end the first quarter tied with the Lakers at 26-26.
The second quarter was a different story, and four minutes into the period, the game was all tied up at 35 apiece. The final eight minutes of the first half, however, fell in favor of Oklahoma City as the Thunder outscored the Lakers 28-9. At the half, the Thunder’s Big 3 were all in double-digit scoring. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 21 points on 8/12, Paul George had 17 points on 6/9, and Russell Westbrook had 14 points on 7/11 as Oklahoma City led 63-44.
The third quarter has been the Thunder’s weak spot too many times this season, but that was far from the case tonight. Oklahoma City took their 19-point halftime lead and pushed it to 24 before Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony joined Paul George on the bench with 2:34 left in the period. Westbrook would finish the night with 20 points on 10/17 along with 12 assists and six rebounds, while Anthony would tally 21 points on 8/14 and six rebounds, but it was Terrance Ferguson who stole the show in the third quarter.
In the first half, Ferguson missed his only shot, which was a three, but in the third quarter, he lit it up by shooting 4/6 from three to give him 12 points. Steven Adams would add eight points on 4/4 shooting in the third, and at the end of the quarter, the Thunder held a commanding 96-70 advantage over the Lakers.
The fourth quarter should have been pretty uneventful, but the Thunder backups continued to add insult to injury. Paul George was the only member of the Thunder’s normal starters to see the floor, but only for a few minutes, and he finished the game with 24 points on 9/14 along with three steals. Terrance Ferguson continued his domination on the court as he knocked down two more threes as well as two thunderous dunks. He would finish the game with 24 points on 7/10 from the floor, including 6/9 from deep, and his teammates were about as excited as anyone.
In the end, the Los Angeles Lakers stood no chance, and the Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of opportunity to come away with a solid win to kick off 2018.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Sharing is Caring: The Thunder racked up a season-high 36 assists tonight led by Russell Westbrook’s 12 and Raymond Felton’s 10. Daniel Hamilton also picked up four quick ones in just five minutes of play. Oklahoma City has an 8-1 record when they tally at least 25 assists, and perhaps the most important part of tonight’s season-high was the fact that Russell Westbrook was responsible for only a third of them as opposed to when he normally is picking up at least half of the team’s total. While the Lakers are not exactly a formidable foe, the Thunder’s ball movement was on point tonight, and it led to a lot of great looks. The offense has improved dramatically over the last month, and it looks like it’s only getting better.
- Defense Doesn’t Get Enough Credit: Without a doubt, it was the Thunder’s offense that stole the show tonight, but much of what the offense was able to do was directly due to what Oklahoma City did on defense. After falling behind 10-0 early, the defense started to put together some stops, and that allowed the offense to get the Thunder back in the game. Oklahoma City finished the game with forcing Los Angeles into 17 turnovers which led to 21 points. The Thunder racked up 12 steals, led by Paul George and Terrance Ferguson, who had three apiece, as well as five blocks, three coming from Steven Adams and two from Josh Huestis. The defense had struggled in the last few games, but they appear to be getting back on track, despite Andre Roberson out for a few more games with injury. The Thunder appear to be clicking in every area of the game, and it could not have come at a better time considering their favorable January schedule.
- A Night of Season-Highs: I’m just going to leave this here
Another Night at Staples Center
As if one game at Staples Center wasn’t enough, the Thunder will play the Los Angeles Clippers tomorrow night, which means another late-night tip-off for Thunder fans. The Clippers are 17-19 on the season, but they have won four games in a row and their last six in Los Angeles. The game will tip at 9:30 CT and will be televised on TNT and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to check out our latest episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.