Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s overtime loss to the Lakers: “As the first quarter came to a close, however, the inklings of a Lakers run started to foment. A couple of buckets came a little too easily, and the Thunder’s offense failed to produce much of anything as Los Angeles closed the quarter with a 6-2 mini burst. As the quarter turned, the spark ignited a full-scale fire. Before the Lakers’ run was done, the Thunder saw its 17-point lead evaporated and by the 6:27 mark of the second quarter was a 5-point Los Angeles lead after a 29-7 run. “We hit a lull there,” said Donovan. “From that point on, it was just a back and forth game.”… “It was a slight lack of awareness. Backdoors and small things,” added Nerlens Noel, who made his return to the lineup. “We just have to do a better job of guarding the ball one on one. Being around the team the last few days, defense has been the focal point. Regardless of the lineup we have to guard the yard to make sure teams aren’t getting easy baskets or wide open threes.”
Joey Ramirez (Lakers.com) recaps the game from the other side: “The Lakers’ 10-point victory was all the more impressive considering they dug themselves into an early 17-point deficit. But the young core was determined to rein the Thunder back in. Kyle Kuzma had the night’s hot hand, pouring in 32 points, including a whopping seven 3-pointers on only 12 attempts. Kuzma entered the night shooting just 29.6 percent from 3-point range, but was lethal for a team that made a season-high 19 triples. Meanwhile, Ivica Zubac had himself a career night down low, racking up a personal-best 26 points on 12-of-14 shooting, while battling for a dozen rebounds (including six on the offensive glass).”
Thunder/Lakers highlights: via the NBA
Berry Tramel on another no-show from the Thunder defense: “Now the offense is playing much better, but the Thunder is losing, “and some of that’s my fault,” Donovan said. “We’ve put a lot of focus on that (offense), and the guys have done a great job on that, but there’s probably been some slippage on the defensive end.” Give Donovan some credit. He changed up his rotations in the second half. After an all-bench unit and a mostly bench unit was torched in the first half, Donovan went with more of a mix in the second half, with at least two starters on the floor most of the time when the reserves were playing. It paid off. But the Thunder also seemed gassed by overtime. So a Laker team without the world’s best player beat the Thunder, courtesy of Kyle Kuzma’s career-high seven 3-pointers and Lonzo Ball’s four 3-pointers and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Hart combining to go 7-for-14.
Dave McMenamin (ESPN) on the referees admitting mistake on a call that favored OKC late in last night’s game: “The referees admitted that a shooting foul called on the Los Angeles Lakers’ final defensive possession in regulation Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder should not have been called. The call ultimately didn’t matter, with the Lakers going on to win in overtime 138-128. With 2.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up 122-119, Lonzo Ball was whistled for a foul on Russell Westbrook as Westbrook received an inbounds pass and made his way toward the 3-point line to hoist a shot. The refs awarded Westbrook three free throws, and he hit all three to tie the score and force the extra session.”
This is fine: *stares into infinite abyss*
Grant Hughes (B/R) has the Thunder 13th in his latest power rankings: “The Thunder have lost five of their last six, and what was once the best defense in the league looked unrecognizable during this rough patch. The Hawks hung 142 points on OKC and won by 16 on Tuesday, and OKC hasn’t held anyone under the century mark since Dec. 17. The 100-point barrier means less than it did in the days before The Great NBA Offensive Explosion of 2018-19, but it’s still telling that the Thunder are struggling more than at any point this season to get consistent stops.”
Danny Leroux (Athletic) on the Thunder’s 2019 salary cap situation: “Oklahoma City’s projected starting five will make $117 million in 2019-20 and Dennis Schröder’s $15.5 million puts them at the luxury tax total with just six players. That means any further expenditures will be even more costly for the repeater tax team and that potentially includes Patrick Patterson’s player option, restricted free agent Alex Abrines and just filling out the roster with low salaries. It will be fascinating to see how management approaches their spending as Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams are all on their current contracts through at least 2020-21, so the team will be both talented and expensive for at least a few more seasons.”
Royce Young (ESPN) on Steven Adams — the NBA’s strongest man: “According to NBA.com/stats, Adams averages 5.6 post-ups per game, 12th most in the league. On them, he’s shooting 54.9 percent, the best mark in the league of any player averaging more than two post-up shot attempts a game. Adams is second in the league in paint touches per game (behind only Houston’s Clint Capela) at 13.2 and is shooting better than 50 percent on hook shots this season (on 87 attempts). Adams gets excited talking about the intricacies of the low block, how it shifts defenses and compromises help rotations just by the ball moving there. He loves the strategy of basketball, obsessively studying film to locate the tiniest detail or tactical advantage. He’ll linger on the practice court after shootarounds talking with Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant, one of the best developers of bigs in the NBA, and someone Adams credits for much of his success. It’s all about angles and opportunity, and taking advantage of a lost art in the NBA.”
Heart-warming vibes to wrap us up here:
Around the League: Third returns of All-Star voting are in…. Clint Capela is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery…. Brook Lopez is a three-point specialist for the Bucks…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. Michael Beasley wore the wrong shorts in last night’s game…. A Q-&-A with Vince Carter…. Are options opening up for Carmelo Anthony?