OKC Thunder followed up arguably their best effort of the year with their worst in the loss to the injury depleted Lakers. Player grades provide the gory details.
Everything was set up for an easy victory for the OKC Thunder who arrived at Chesapeake to face a Lakers squad without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Danny Green in the lineup. Moreover, the Lakers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Cue all the adages of ‘you can’t underestimate anyone” and ‘playing down to the competition” and the resulting effect was the Lakers supplementary talents aided by Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma jumped on the Thunder to take a 41-19 point first quarter lead and never looked back
Even crazier was this was a four-point match halfway through the first frame. But at 6:07 of the first quarter Billy Donovan took out Steven Adams and Chris Paul. He substituted Mike Muscala and Dennis Schroder and the wheels came off. From this point onward a 17-13 game turned into a run of 24-6 for the Lakers.
It was by far the worst game the Thunder have played this season by a long shot.
Hey, these things do happen. As posted on TI’s twitter a long time ago I recall a TV analyst stating the 20 rule:
- In five games every season a team will rout their competition
- Another five the same team will get ousted in a beat down
- A further five games will be won that should be lost
- And finally, another five games will be lost that should be won.
These principles have proven to be pretty close in the years I’ve watched the NBA for virtually every team. Sure, there are some rare exceptions (think the Bucks this season) but it’s a fairly good template to follow.
This game falls under the second category of one of those ousts. That it came with so many of the core group of the Lakers out only served to punctuate how bad this loss was.
And yet, if we break down everything outside the first quarter the game wasn’t as bad as it seems. The Thunder lost the second quarter by two points and won both the third (33-29) and fourth (28-23) quarters.
There were annoying factors like the whistle which allowed Dwight Howard to camp out in the paint and push off under the basket on several occasions. Or let Kyle Kuzma push Dennis Schroder to the ground without penalty (a similar call was made on Danilo Gallinari). But, the reality is the Thunder did this to themselves by not coming out and burying the Lakers from the tip.
A valuable lesson learned that surely this team whose identity is to be competitive and push teams to the right to the final buzzer will reap benefits from.
With that let’s dive into the grades.