OKC Thunder deliver a stinker in loss to Lakers – player grades

JANUARY 11: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
JANUARY 11: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
JANUARY 11: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Best Reserve:

D. . PG. Oklahoma City Thunder. DENNIS SCHRODER

Dennis Schroder has excelled lately and TI quickly noted his growth by stopping his bad habits. However, what occurred during those six minutes from the time he checked in was a microcosm of everything he’s improved on but those old habits reared their ugly head in this loss.

Schroder was terrible on defense, did nothing to stop the ball or transition and forced his shot instead of looking for the best shot or open man on the floor.

I get it, he’s been performing well and has often been the player who was the catalyst to get the team back in games by switching up the momentum. But, with his shot off early he has to recognize time and place.

Another factor is Mike Muscala is his best friend so that might speak to why he has belief in him but the combination of the two on the floor should’ve made him recognize there isn’t a Nerlens Noel on the court to rebound, help defensively and protect the rim so these quick shots aren’t wise. All they did was allow the Lakers to rebound and get out quickly on the break for easy scores.

Again, I’ll cite Billy Donovan either for not subbing in to fix this issue (or at worst try something different). And if he did discuss the situation with Schroder and he didn’t listen then Billy should’ve taken him out of the game.

It sure felt like that wasn’t the case because Dennis has displayed the ability to stop with those old, bad habits but on this night they returned and worse were magnified.

He did score 13 points but they came on 5 of 15 from the field and 1 of 6 from deep. As the game wore on he calmed down getting teammates the ball to collect four assists along with four rebounds and a steal. Still, the damage was done during those six minutes in the first to the point the Thunder wasn’t ever able to recover.

Best Opponent:

A. . PG. Los Angeles Lakers. RAJON RONDO

Yes, Kyle Kuzma scored 34 points on a highly efficient 15 of 24 from the field and 4 of 6 from deep. However, his scores were more about the combination of poor defense by the Thunder and/or Rajon Rondo continually going back to him recognizing he had the hot hand. In addition, most of his scoring occurred in that brutal opening frame and he collected 23 prior to halftime.

The reason I’m giving the nod to Rondo is he was the player who established from the tip how the Lakers were going to play. He scored the first two buckets, pushed the pace and was quick to get out to stop the transition efforts of the Thunder.

On the night he had a complete game effort of 21 points (on 10 of 22 from the field) coming just short of a triple-double with 12 rebounds and eight assists.

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Closing thoughts:

  • Again, these nights will happen and it’s a valuable lesson to learn just how quickly a game can get out of hand (6 minutes and seven seconds to be precise).
  • For as much as this was a team loss, Billy Donovan was equally responsible and he needs to have some answers if not to stop the bleeding at least to throw in some substitution alternatives.
  • If you ever wondered how much value Nerlens Noel offers this night provided your answer.
  • Following up on the above point, the Lakers outrebounded the Thunder 54 to 37.
  • Chalk it up to a missed opportunity which does hurt given OKC entered the night one game back in the loss column to the sixth place Mavericks. By virtue of the loss, they fall further back given Dallas got the victory over the 76ers.
  • Mark down April 5 on your calendars as it’s the next time these two teams meet. After two losses early in the season when the Lakers got some timely (and questionable no calls/calls) to net victories this loss should be embarrassing enough to warrant payback!

The OKC Thunder are back in action Monday night as they travel to Minnesota and will need to rally from this loss to get back on track.

For a full box score of tonight’s game, head over to this link courtesy of ESPN.

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