OKC wraps up its stretch of mini-series contests on Wednesday with a rematch against the reigning NBA Champion Lakers. The Thunder threw a solid first punch in game one behind a scrappy and competitive effort to force the game into overtime.
“We talked a little bit about not relying on the first game to ease into it and then get back to the drawing board,” said Daigneault. “We wanted to come out and compete. I thought we did that.”
Offensively, the Thunder finished the game with three players recording double-doubles: Hamidou Diallo (20 points, 11 rebounds), Darius Bazley (21 points, 16 rebounds) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (29 points, 10 assists).
Beyond the scoring, it was the group’s hustle and scrap that kept the Thunder in the contest for 53 minutes of game action. Part of this effort showed up in the stat sheet – 15 Lakers turnovers forced by the Thunder and a season-high 15 offensive rebounds for the Thunder, six of which belonged to Kenrich Williams and five to Hamidou Diallo.
“Those guys are monsters and it’s every night,’ said Daigneault. “They’re not perfect, but their effort and their competitiveness and the job that they give to the team when they go in the game – they’re electric players. They deserve a lot of credit, there were plenty of times where it got dicey tonight, and they came up with a ball that we desperately needed at that time.”
In the fourth quarter, the Thunder got another clutch-time performance from Gilgeous-Alexander who drew a foul on a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining and sank all three free throws to send the game in to overtime.
The Lakers outscored OKC 9-2 in overtime, but after throwing a strong first punch to start the series, it gives the group great footing to build off of in its matchup on Wednesday.
“These are all learning opportunities,” said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. “There’s a lot of learning that can take place and we’ll make sure we put the work in to do that.”
In case you couldn’t stay awake late last night…
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 9, 2021
The Lakers were led by LeBron James who posted 28 points, 12 assists and 14 rebounds in the game, but went just 2-of-10 from behind the arc. The poor 3-point shooting night was indicative of a larger theme for Los Angeles on Monday as the team shot just 23.7 percent from deep (9-38). In turn, the Lakers relied most heavily on its paint production and its fast break opportunities- two areas where the Lakers are top 10 in the league.
By the end of the night, the Lakers scored 23 fast break points, led by James who scored 12 points in transition as Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 18 points in the paint alone.
Without Mike Muscala (concussion protocol) and Isaiah Roby (right foot soreness) in the lineup for the Thunder on Monday, the majority of the backup five minutes went to Darius Bazley who guarded the likes of Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell for significant portions of the game. In the effort, Bazley ripped down a career-high 16 rebounds by using his athleticism and enforcing his physicality against the bigger centers. While its unknown if either Roby or Muscala will be back in the lineup on Wednesday, keep an eye out for how the Thunder utilize Bazley in the paint against the Lakers’ big men.
“It takes a lot of competitiveness and physicality to compete and he’s done a nice job of adjusting to that,” said Daigneault. “These are just more experiences for him tonight he was really good. Obviously, you know, and he’s just he’s being put in so many situations it’s going to serve him so well long term.
Stat to Watch
Points in the Paint — The Thunder dominated this early category in game one outscoring the Lakers 40-24. Stops on the defensive end turned into transition opportunities and guards attacked downhill and put pressure on the rim. It wasn’t until the second half that the Lakers, behind Montrezl Harrell and LeBron James, regained their stride in the paint. By the end of the night, the Lakers outscored OKC by a slim 62-60 margin in the paint. Keep an eye on this stat on Wednesday and how the Thunder work to limit the Lakers’ looks.
In the past two games, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has stepped up in clutch moments averaging 11 points over the past two games. For the season, SGA sits in the top 10 in total points (50), assists (9) and free throw attempts (28) in clutch-time situations making him one just of three players this season hitting such a mark.