Oklahoma City – The Thunder hosted the Lakers tonight while both teams were on the second night of a back to back and looked to avoid starting the season with 5 straight losses for the first time in team history.
For a while, it did not look like they were going to avoid that history as they gave up 41 points in the first half and only scored 19 themselves. It looked like a team that had no desire to play on the second night of a back to back because they were too tired.
Then they decided they wanted to play in the second quarter even though they got down by as much as 26 about halfway through the quarter. They never gave up and even though it looked like it was for sure going to be the worst start to a season for the Thunder they somehow found a way to win the game which was the biggest comeback in team history.
Here are the things that went well.
1) Amped Up Defense
I know the Lakers still ended up scoring 115 but after the first, the Thunder outscored the Lakers 104-74. Scoring 104 in 3 quarters is insane enough but to hold the Lakers who were extremely hot in the first to 74 the following 3 quarters when they were on pace for 164 is impressive. Especially for a young team that wasn’t as talented as their opponent. Thunder amped up their defense and weren’t letting the Lakers get anything easy. The biggest thing was protecting the paint. They gave up 22 points there in the first and did end up allowing the Lakers to score 54 in the paint for the game but only allowed an average of 10 a quarter after that. Thunder packed the paint better and cut off driving lanes to make the Lakers take more 3s than they wanted and when the Lakers did get into the paint the Thunder did a great job of surrounding the guy there so he couldn’t get a good shot off. Great effort on that end of the floor.
2) Took Advantage Of The Lakers Being Lazy
This might be the most impressive thing of the night. The Lakers took their foot off the gas and got real lazy after getting up 26. They, like a lot of us, thought the game was over after the first. We were wrong. The Thunder took full advantage of the laziness of the Lakers on defense and moved more to an open spot and moved the ball more to find the open guy. The impressive thing about it is, the Thunder are the youngest team in the league. Most young teams don’t stay disciplined enough to continue to take advantage of a team being lazy. They often settle and play sporadic during their comeback and fall short. The Thunder continued to play poised and by the time the Lakers realized what was happening it was kind of too late.
3) Guys Not Named Shai Stepping Up
This is another impressive thing for the Thunder because the past two games, the start of the 4th is where they lost the game. Just like they’ve done in pretty much every game so far, they started the final quarter with Shai on the bench. Tonight they had a 2 point lead when he left the floor and they never took their foot off the gas with him getting his full rest. In fact, Shai didn’t even have to do much in the 4th and was 0-5 from the floor. Other guys stepped up in a big way. When he came back in they were up 8 and all he had to do was make the right pass or be a decoy because other guys had it going. That is what has been missing the last couple of games. We were left asking the question, when Shai rests who will step up and do some scoring. Tonight it was by committee so credit to them.
The Thunder were led by Shai who had 27 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Josh Giddey was extremely impressive with his 18 points and 10 assists and became the youngest player in Thunder history (and second youngest in NBA history) with a 10 assist game and a 10+ points 10+ assist game. Every starter played well for the Thunder tonight with Lu contributing 17 points and 6 rebounds while Favors added 15 and 6 rebounds. Giddey and Shai will get most of the credit for the win but the player of the game for the Thunder has to go to Darius Bazley. He had 20 points and 6 rebounds and if it had not been for him they Thunder don’t win this game. When no one cjojud get anything going early Baz was playing really well and doing the scoring for the team. He’s really shown a lot of growth so far this season.
The team looks to start a winning streak and head on the road for a 3 game road trip with the Warriors up first on Saturday night.
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