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Lakers hang on to Thunder loss, reach .500 mark for first time this season


It wasn’t the big season-ending game the Lakers were hoping for once the schedule was announced last summer, but here it was Friday in Los Angeles nonetheless.

The Lakers, desperately trying to reach .500 for the first time all season and regain valuable ground in the Western Conference playoff race, had another chance to build momentum.

The Oklahoma City Thunder stood in his way, one of the youngest teams in the NBA, playing with relentless effort and plenty of confidence.

It was a great game, one of the biggest of the Lakers season, and after 48 minutes, it was also a deserved 116-111 victory for the Lakers.

Anthony Davis finished with 37 points and 15 rebounds and Dennis Schroder scored 21 in the win.

“Kudos to our guys, just staying the course, being continually competitive,” Darvin Ham said.

The Lakers bombarded the Thunder early on, building a 17-point lead led by Davis’ dominance and lightning-fast ball movement. They made six of their first 13 3-pointers, causing a beating.

But after that hot start, the Lakers cooled off. Shai Gilgeous-Alexanderone of the fastest growing stars in the NBA, and Josh Gidey continued to attack the inside of the Lakers, while the Oklahoma City shooters confidently hit open 3-pointers.

The Thunder scored 41 points in the second quarter and held the Lakers to 19 in the third, using runs late in each to close the gap. They finally tied the score for the first time since the first quarter midway through the quarter when a Gilgeous-Alexander jumper made it 102–102.

The Lakers, however, battled it out, Davis and Schroder making big plays down the stretch on both ends, struggling to get to enough saves.

The Lakers are now tied for seventh in the West with Minnesota. It also gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker of the season with Oklahoma City.

The last time the Lakers were .500 was on January 25, 2022.

Lakers’ LeBron James, left, and Anthony Davis chat on the bench during the first half. James is out with a right foot injury.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

It all came with them, once again, shorthanded and forced to employ their next-man mentality.

With D’Angelo Russell (again) the latest Laker to appear on the injury report, an opportunity presented itself for the rarely used Lonnie Walker IV.

So when the ball passed Walker in front of the Lakers’ bench, where he’s spent each of the last three games, he didn’t hesitate.


The hope, Ham said before the game, is that the soreness in Russell’s right hip is an everyday injury.

“It’s not too bad,” Ham said, “but bad enough to handle.”

With backcourt minutes suddenly available, Ham turned to Walker and the former starter responded with 15 points in 11 minutes of the first half.

He ended up with 20.

“He didn’t have to go out there and worry about getting ready,” Ham said after the win. “He has kept himself ready.”

Walker started each of his first 32 games this season before a knee injury sidelined him for a month. He slowly lost minutes in the Lakers’ rotation as Austin Reaves took on a bigger role and after the team added Russell and Malik Beasley at the trade deadline.

Lakers guard Malik Beasley shoots over Thunder forward Lindy Waters III during the first half.

Lakers guard Malik Beasley, who scored 10 points, fires over Thunder forward Lindy Waters III during the first half.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

His first half Friday against Oklahoma City was the most he’s scored in a game this month. Ham stuck with Walker at the critical moment, where he made another huge three and grabbed a game-sealing rebound.

Russell’s injury occurred in the Lakers’ win against Phoenix on Wednesday, a game in which he scored 26 and energized the crowd.

“It’s unfortunate, for sure, but it’s a professional sport and it’s a reality of our business here in the NBA. So you have to manage it the best you can in terms of rearranging your rotation, but we have capable guys,” Ham said.

Leading that line has been Reaves, the hottest player in the locker room barring Davis. In his last nine games before Friday, Reaves averaged 19.8 points and 6.1 assists on 57.3% shooting from the field. On Wednesday, Ham placed him in Beasley’s starting line-up.

“He’s clearly a great focal point for them, which makes him a great focal point for us,” the Oklahoma City coach said. brand daigneault he said before the game.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis shoots as Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins defends during the first half.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis shoots as Thunder guard Aaron Wiggins defends during the first half.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

That meant the Thunder used Dort de Luguentz as the main defender in Reaves for long periods. Dort, a stocky 6-foot-4 guard, locked up Kawhi Leonard and prevented him from attempting a game-winning goal in the Thunder’s win over the Clippers on Tuesday night.

Reaves struggled to score efficiently Friday, a hallmark of his offensive game early on, a trend that started when he had to parry to force a contested 3-pointer with Dort covering him to beat the shot clock on the Los Angelesies’ second possession. lakers. the game.

“I want to say that Austin is a kid who is very smart and just minds his own business,” Ham said. “He will not force, he will be aggressive, but he will not force himself to make a bad move.”

Still, Ham did not deny that Reaves was going to see different looks from the opposition.

“It’s going to be a priority, for sure,” Ham said. “But it all comes down to playing the right way, and as we saw with (Anthony Davis) a couple of nights ago, teams just double him on the pass, double him on the dribble, double him from above and base. He just continually made the right play, he didn’t try to force the issue.

“And that’s all you have to do.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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