After beating the Warriors on Tuesday night, the Thunder took a short flight to LA to play the Lakers. Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook sat out tonight due to injury, so Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton took their place. Paul George was left to run things on his own. Having Felton and Patterson in the starting lineup took too much away from the Thunder’s bench. It was a rough night where Oklahoma City trailed for a majority of the game and tried to play catch up the entire time.
Paul George got things going early for OKC with a steal on one end and then a three point shot on the other. George took over the first quarter with 16 points. The Thunder jumped out to a 13-4 lead, which is similar to the 12-4 lead that the Lakers jumped out to in the matchup last Sunday. The quick start quickly faded as the Lakers began to go on a run of their own. It seemed like the Thunder couldn’t keep up on the defensive end. The Lakers were scoring at will and transition, as well as getting second opportunities due to the lack of rebounding by OKC. This resulted in the Lakers taking a small lead after the first quarter.
The start of the second quarter was very tough for OKC. The Thunder didn’t score for the first four and a half minutes of the quarter. Oklahoma City started out 3/16 from the field. Lucky, the Lakers were 3/12. However, the Lakers were getting a sleight advantage on the score board due to the Thunder’s lack of offense. Billy Donovan called a much needed timeout halfway through the quarter that refocused this team. The Thunder came out looking a lot better and got a few stops as well as a couple 3’s on offense. Paul George and Steven Adams were leading the way, but it still wasn’t enough to regain the lead. The Lakers led 52-46 at halftime.
To start the third quarter, the Thunder’s defense was looking decent. There simply wasn’t the consistency on offense there to compete with the Lakers. No matter what adjustments were made, the Thunder always seemed to be a step behind. Billy Donovan decided to put Daniel Hamilton and Nick Collison in halfway through the quarter. The two were able to make an impact, but not nearly enough to make up the deficit.
The Thunder simply couldn’t score the basketball. The team had more points in the first half against the Warriors than they did tonight against the Lakers through three quarters. Oklahoma City had no answer in the second half. The Thunder stayed around in the first half, but the Lakers blew the lead wide open in the second. Billy D called off the horses midway through the fourth quarter when he decided not to play Paul George anymore. The Lakers coasted to an easy 106-81 win over the Thunder.
3 Quick Thoughts
- There’s No Doubt Who the Best Player on this Team is.
The Thunder looked like a completely different team tonight without Russell Westbrook. I never thought I’d say this, but the OKC even looked off on defense without the presence of Russ. The offense was running at a slower pace without him, and the spacing communication on defense was non existent without him.
When you look at how this team performed without Russell Westbrook, it puts it in perspective just how much he means to this team. After tonight, there should be no doubt who is the heart of this team. Even with an All-Star in Paul George, this team is nothing without Russell Westbrook.
- Paul George Can’t Do It Alone!
Paul George didn’t do a terrible job tonight, he just couldn’t do enough to get the Thunder a win. This is one of the many reasons I expect him to stay in OKC with Russell Westbrook. George wasn’t able to get it done alone tonight, and I don’t think he will want to go anywhere that he has to do that every game. In my opinion, George is the kind of guy who wants to work alongside someone, that is where he thrives the most.
- Steven Adams Looks More Comfortable with Russ on the Floor.
Besides Paul George, Steven Adams was the only Thunder player in double-digits tonight. Although he had a decent game, it was nowhere near the best for the Big Kiwi. He shot only 4/11 tonight. It seemed like he didn’t feel as comfortable without Russ leading the offense. At times, he looked kind of out of place. His feeds weren’t the same, and the flow of the offense wasn’t the same. In my opinion, this further proves how much Russell Westbrook means to this team.
Home Sweet Home!
The Thunder will have a couple days off before playing again at home on Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The game will start at 6:00 PM CST and it will be televised on FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
The Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the NBA. This game will be a great chance for the Thunder to continue to build some momentum heading into the All-Star break. Only a few games remain before the break, and this team needs all the momentum they can get.
Article written by Craig Hofeld. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.