The Thunder put forth a game effort against the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back on Tuesday, down only two points with a minute to play before a clutch 3-pointer by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope all but sealed the win (despite two missed free throws from LeBron James 25 seconds later).
It was the fifth straight win for the Lakers and the fourth loss in five games for the Thunder, who are wrapping up an incredibly difficult stretch of the schedule in which they play six teams with a combined record of 63-34. It’s a minor miracle that OKC managed a win at all, beating Philadelphia in overtime a week ago. Only one of the losses was a blowout, by 26 points in Indiana, but the Thunder had the chance to win the other four games. They’re 4-1 ATS in their last five.
The Lakers struggled to contain Danilo Gallinari (25 points on 7-for-11 shooting) and Dennis Schroder (31 points on 12-for-20 shooting) and will be challenged to do so again on OKC’s home floor. Schroder’s performance was part of a lopsided bench win for the Thunder, who outscored the Lakers 57-27 among the reserves.
That was partly because Kyle Kuzma suffered an eye injury after playing nine minutes. He will be back on Friday, but with goggles. If the goggles don’t interfere with his shooting, the Lakers should close the bench gap.
Lakers vs. Thunder Preview
The Thunder have been a very good defensive team at home, giving up 101.5 points per 100 possessions in eight games. But OKC will have a difficult time, again, handling Anthony Davis, who went for 34 points and seven rebounds in Tuesday’s matchup with the Thunder.
Davis has been less effective in the Lakers’ road games, his true-shooting percentage dropping from 60.9 percent at home to 52.9 percent on the road. He had a true-shooting percentage of 63.8 against the Thunder last time out, so OKC has to hope that being on the road knocks that down.
The Lakers can’t complain about LeBron James’ performance in the game, with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, but James did have seven turnovers and will need to be more careful against the Thunder’s handsy defense—particularly Chris Paul, who was credited with three steals on James turnovers.
This game will come down to who gets the bigger boost—the Lakers bouncing back from a so-so effort when these teams met earlier in the week, or the Thunder from being back home to close such a difficult stretch?
The play here is that Davis will be good again, James will clean up his mistakes and the Thunder won’t get quite the same performances from Schroder and Gallinari. The line has the Lakers giving 4.5, according to Fanduel.com, with the over/under at a very modest 211 points.
Lakers vs. Thunder Pick & Prediction
PICK: Lakers, minus-4.5.
SCORE PREDICTION: Lakers 108, Thunder 101