Lakers, LeBron James Sneak Past Thunder to Improve on League-Best Record

LeBron James

Getty LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

It wasn’t a pretty performance but the Lakers gutted out a hard-fought win for the second consecutive time against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Led once again by the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis – who combined for 56 points – the Lakers were able to outlast the Thunder in a shootout where their league-best defense didn’t show up. Despite the lack of defense, the Lakers improved on their league-best record, moving to 13-2.

Lakers vs. Thunder Score/Result

Lakers Win, 130-127

The Good From the Lakers’ Win Over the Thunder

LeBron James

Another night, another monster showing from LeBron James. However, not only did James stuff the stat sheet but he showed up when it mattered most. Serving as the driving force in the Lakers’ massive third-quarter run that would finally open up the game, James continues to dominate in his new role as the Lakers’ point guard. James’ shot was falling from everywhere on the court and some big early three-pointers wound up opening up easy lanes for The King to attack the basket. Fully in control of the game from an offensive standpoint, James cut down on his turnovers and made incredibly smart reads with the basketball.

Finishing with 23 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, and a block, James is hardly showing signs of age in his 17th season in the league. Posting the highest assist per game numbers of his career, James is currently on pace to lead the league in dimes – an accolade he has yet to accomplish in his storied career.

Anthony Davis

Excelling alongside James in the two-man game, Davis was the recipient of a number of James’ assists and led the team with 33 points. Davis also chipped in 11 rebounds along with a season-high seven assists while playing his trademarked lockdown defense. Davis’ ability to create havoc on the interior and finish at will has proved to be James’ favorite toy so far. However, now that his outside shot is starting to fall with more regularity, it opens up even more dangerous looks for the two-man game of Davis and James to run.

Three-Point Shooting

After an ice-cold start, the Lakers’ three-point shooting has improved dramatically over the past few games. They shot an excellent 55% from deep tonight and got strong showings from both the starters as well as the bench mob. There wasn’t a whole ton of defense played tonight but even knocking down open looks was tough for the Lakers early on. Definitely a promising sign for the team moving forward as having competent shooters surrounding LeBron & Davis is the key to making things go.

The Bad From the Lakers’ Win Over the Thunder

The Third Quarter Roller Coaster

After an atrocious first half, the Lakers came out firing in the third quarter and quickly opened up a big lead over the Thunder. Behind the stellar play of LeBron James, the Lakers outscored the Thunder 28-12 in the first five minutes of the quarter.

However, things would go south shortly after as the Thunder made a run of their own to significantly cut into the Laker lead – mostly while LeBron James sat. Though the Lakers would head to the fourth with a lead, their double-digit lead was cut all the way down to just three.

Interior Defense
The Lakers have been known for bullying teams on the interior this season and Steven Adams clearly had enough after Tuesday’s matchup. The three-headed frontcourt monster of Davis, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard all struggled to contain the big man from New Zealand as he had his way, finishing with 22 points. Adams is far from the most talented big body the Lakers frontcourt will see and it undoubtedly raises questions about how they intend to handle players like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid when they inevitably cross paths.

The Ugly From the Lakers’ Win Over the Thunder

First Half Defense

The Lakers came out struggling defensively in the first half and were thoroughly outworked by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Giving up 67 points in the first half, thankfully the offense showed up and was able to keep pace. Struggling to create the easy transition looks early on, the Lakers only managed eight points off just six team turnovers in the first half.

The defense didn’t turn things around TOO much in the second half but the first half was flat out UGLY. Don’t expect the Lakers to give up 67 points in a half too many more times this year and consider this (hopefully) just a red-hot team getting caught a little too comfortable.

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