The Thunder came to Los Angeles for a tough back-to-back. They played the Clippers last night and had a quick turnaround for the Lakers tonight. Both are title contenders so each posed a good test for this team.
Watching this Thunder team is different. Yes, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant are gone to state the obvious. But in terms of expectations, there are none. The guys just go out and play. There isn’t any stress watching this team and this is the first time since 2009 that we can say that.
As the team builds for the future, we have no idea who is going to be here in three months. The players don’t care about that; they’re going out and playing as if this is the core and this is what they’re rolling with. The Thunder never seem to be out of a game no matter how they play.
So close, again
The team struggled all night on offense outside of Danillo Gallinari and Dennis Schröder, but true to form still had the game at 109-107 and forced a miss with a chance to get the rebound and tie or take the lead at the end. The Lakers got the offensive rebound and former OKC summer league invitee Quinn Cook buried them.
The defense started out slow but picked it up. You aren’t replacing the elite defense Andre Roberson provided, but Terrance Ferguson is still 21-years old. His defense continues to improve and he’s looking great on that end.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Ferguson and Paul struggled mightily tonight. The three guard set finished 7-30 from the field for 23 points. Each were given good looks but there was a lid on the basket. Dennis Schröder played his best game that I have seen from him in an OKC uniform as a scorer. He knocked down 12-20 shots for 31 points, after getting off to a slow start with a few early turnovers. OKC loses by double-digits without him.
This team is growing by the game, but they simply do not have a closer. CP3 and, to some extent, Gallinari are the only ones proven late in games. They’re now 0-6 on the road, but they could easily be 5-1 with how they have played. These games are expected. Until these young players get more experience closing is going to be a challenge.
The Thunder will now get on a flight and travel back home and have the next two days off. Then they will see this Lakers team again at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday, another good test. 5-9 is not the greatest record and it’s not fun to lose. But give the Thunder credit: they were huge underdogs in this road set and had a chance to win both late. They will make the proper adjustments and be ready to go Friday.
- The Thunder started off rough at the free throw line missing three early. That’s all they would miss, and ended up 22-25 at the line.
- Turnovers leading to fast break points for the Lakers. Not good for OKC, who allowed way too many.
- The Thunder do not match up well with LeBron James or Anthony Davis. Both guys can have their way with anyone, especially when OKC is playing small.
- LeBron James has quite the vocabulary. I heard some colorful language on fast breaks.
- Schroder’s mid-range was money in the bank. Almost felt like every shot he took tonight was going to go in.
- Second chance points continue to kill the Thunder. Last night it was Montrezl Harrell, tonight it was a combo of Davis, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.
- Billy Donovan mentioned post game that Steven Adams is still battling a knee injury. That’s why Nerlens Noel closed the game.
- Chris Paul continues to take accountability for losses in which he did not play well. I asked him about the bench and he simply put it on himself that he didn’t contribute enough.
- The Thunder played a lot better in the third quarter tonight, outscoring the Lakers 34-30. Billy put an emphasis on getting out to quicker starts in the third.
- Danilo Gallinari is going to get a good package back if/when traded.
- I almost took a charge on Rob Gronkowski coming out of the tunnel tonight.
- Last but not least, this Thunder team is fun to watch. I am attached to them and anyone traded is going to be tough to lose. They play as one. One thing I’ve noticed is CP3 will never leave the tunnel without SGA with him. I love the leadership.
- Oh and I still can’t find the lights in my hotel room as mentioned in my postgame video. I give up, it’s 1:30 AM as I finish this.