Game 15 Recap: Lakers (13-2) def. Thunder (5-10) 130-127
Official Box Score link
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Thunder played a close, competitive, entertaining, thrilling game against a contending, top tier team all the way down to the final possession, but came up just short and lost by three points.
OKC Thunder vs the Los Angeles Lakers, Part Two: Return of the Brow played out just like the original did just three days ago, with a feisty Thunder squad giving the team with the NBA’s best record all they could handle. Lots of scoring, some insane highlights, and a rebuilding team fighting maybe the title favorite to the bitter end.
For half the Thunder fans, these games are the perfect result: electrifying games that help secure a better draft pick. For the other half, these games are riveting, fun, and promising for the future of the franchise, but ultimately heartbreaking.
Even for the latter 50%, the loss wasn’t all bad, though. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that tonight’s nailbiter uncovered one of the best bits of news all season for Thunder fans: the reemergence of Steven Adams.
Despite all the positive press youngsters Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo and veteran trade bait, I mean, players Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder have received, the disappointing play of Adams has been a reoccurring worrisome storyline.
Had the Big Kiwi declined? Was he hurt? Impacted by the loss of Russell Westbrook?
Adams, for one night at least, put those questions to rest by scoring a season high 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting, grabbing 6 rebounds, and dishing out 4 assists. And get this: he was a perfect 4-4 from the foul line. More than the numbers, though, it was just how much better he looked physically. The team let it be known he’s had some knee soreness, but a few days rest seemed to do wonders, as he was far quicker, stronger and more agile than he’s been all season.
Was it a one game aberration, or is Adams back? Whether he’s in OKC long term for the rebuild or if he’s a future trade piece, it’s much better for the Thunder if Steven Adams is playing more like the Top 10-ish center he’s proven in the past to be and less like the Top 10-ish worst contract in the league that some fans feared he’d become.
- LeBron in his post game presser on Shai: “He’s a really really REALLY good player.” Add his name to Jerry West, Paul George & Doc Rivers, who all called SGA a future All Star in the last week. That’s the most important thing to remember this season: OKC has a 21 year old future star, & he’s blossoming every game.
- Shai scored 24 points, was perfect from the 3 point line and the free throw line, had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal and about 18,000 oohs and aahs throughout the night.
- Shai is fearless. He drove right at LeBron, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard to the rim one on one multiple times. Make or miss, you just love to see that kind of confidence from a young player.
- The refs were confused by all the Lakers fans at The Peake tonight (probably 20% of the crowd) and gave LA some home cooking.
- There was an offensive foul called against Gallo that should’ve been a blocking foul and resulted in an and-1. It was so atrocious, it got Billy Donovan shouting like Willy Wonka when a kid drinks the fizzy lifting drink and resulted in a technical and a four point swing. The Thunder lost by three points.
- Donovan used his challenge in a great spot. LeBron extended an elbow and knocked Diallo to the ground, but a foul was called on Hamidou. The elbow shove caused Diallo to run to the locker room in extreme pain. Seemed like an obvious offensive foul, but the refs denied the challenge, left the two points on the board and gave LeBron a free throw, which he made. The Thunder lost by three points.
- At the end of the first half, LeBron Odell Beckham’ed a full court pass, then he immediately came down and Tom Brady’ed a pass to KCP, who Ray Allen’ed a 3 at the buzzer. It was an extremely unlikely but crazy impressive couple of seconds that gave the Lakers three impossible points. The Thunder lost by three points.
- Anthony Davis had never had a 4 point play in his entire career. Tonight, he had two 4 point plays. Just Thunder things.
- The main takeaway from the last two Thunder vs Lakers games: Chris Paul is the NBA’s best LeBron defender.
- While the above line is obviously a joke, Paul has excelled in guarding LeBron in the clutch. In one on one matchups against James in the final two minutes of the last two games, Paul either stole the ball, caused a turnover or forced a bad shot on every possession.
- Rajon Rondo and Dennis Schroder is the UFC Pay Per View matchup I didn’t know I needed to see. Rondo has more beef and old man strength, but Schroder has the quickness, reach and youth on his side. Ultimately, Rondo would get disqualified for a low blow knee to der Testikel.
- Shai, Diallo and Darius Bazley, who had a quietly impressive night, took over and flashed for the first few minutes of the 2nd quarter. Thunder U 2.0 is my favorite Thunder.
- Color Me Badd, a famous 90’s R&B group from Oklahoma, was the Thunder half-time show. Knowing the Thunder provides a family friendly atmosphere, I was anxious the entire time they were singing their hit “I Wanna Sex You Up.” The big reveal at the chorus of changing the lyric to “I Wanna Thunder Up” got a rousing approval of laughter from the press box.
- I’m gonna start using that line to let my wife know when I’m in the mood.
- There is no quit in this Thunder team no matter the score or the superstar wattage of the opponent. 15 games into the season, and despite a murderer’s row of a schedule, they’ve only been blown out on the road to the Indiana Pacers.
- Per Kevin Pelton, the Thunder now have seven losses this season by 5 points or less. No other team has more than four such losses.
- With that loss, the Thunder falls to 5-10. OKC’s next game is against the Warriors, so the Thunder have improved to 6-10.