The Oklahoma City Thunder put away the upstart Los Angeles Lakers 113-96 in a game where Los Angeles struggled to find any offensive rhythm. Russell Westbrook tallied his second triple-double (missing the third by just one assist) in the first three games, scoring 33 and adding 16 assists and 12 rebounds. Westbrook did, however, have seven turnovers on the night.
Victor Oladipo was the Thunder’s second leading scorer with 20 points. Oladipo was +25 on the night and led the team in minutes played with 38. Westbrook, after averaging 41 minutes in the first two contests, played just 34.
Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo continue to cultivate chemistry against the lottery teams of the league, but the real test will come in the next six games, where they square up against three top ten teams: the Warriors, the Raptors, and the Clippers twice.
Enes Kanter had a fantastic night off the bench, scoring 16 points in 22 minutes on 8-11 shooting. Kanter also notched six rebounds on the night.
Although Damontas Sabonis started the game, he played only seven minutes and racked up four fouls. The Sabonis experiment has been rocky so far, and I don’t expect him to start very much longer.
In the biggest transitionary period the Thunder have experienced since they’ve been in Oklahoma City, this kind of schedule is exactly what they need: a few easy games to ease into the grind, and then a few difficult ones to test what they’re really made of. You know how the saying goes: iron sharpens iron.
The young-buck Lakers know a little bit about transitionary phases too: although Kobe Bryant was decidedly not Kobe-like in his final few years, his absence is noticeable. Nick Young said after the game that he’d been talking to Kobe ‘all day,’ so Bryant isn’t too far. They also transitioned away from head coach Byron Scott in the offseason, bringing in former Laker and Warriors assistant Luke Walton. The Lakers are talented and potential-laden but inconsistent, just as you’d expect from a young team.
Young guns Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell tied for LA’s scoring leader, notching 20 points apiece. The Lakers shot poorly on the night: just 40%. After the game, coach Luke Walton minimized the effect the Thunder defense had, instead opting to blame their poor percentage on missing open shots. The eye test is inconclusive, though: while LA did miss quite a few open shots, the Thunder interior defense was stout, tallying six blocks.
To their credit, even when down by double-digits at times, Los Angeles found a way to claw their way back into the game. It was a four point game midway through the fourth quarter, but then the Thunder put up 13 straight points on the Lakers to put it away, including a Westbrook break away slam.
The Thunder now face tough tests in their next two games: they go back-to-back with the Warriors and Clippers in their first west coast road trip. The Warriors game is intriguing for reasons that are obvious, and the Clippers and Thunder have quite the chippy past.
The Oklahoma City Thunder at the Los Angeles Clippers tips off 9:30 P.M. CST.