After blowing two massive leads in their previous two matchups, the Los Angeles Lakers finally defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder on their third try. Missing the previous two games, LeBron James suited up tonight against the Thunder for the first time this season and dominated his way to an X-point win.
After the 6:48 mark of the first quarter, the Lakers took a lead that they never lost grip of for the rest of the game.
Friday’s game was what fans thought would have happened in the first two meetings more or less. Instead, the Lakers went up big both times and the young Thunder eventually chipped away huge leads in wins.
That was not really the case in tonight’s contest — sure, there were moments in the second and fourth quarters that created some interest. But it never really felt like the Lakers were in danger of blowing another 20+ point lead. Lakers eventually got things back on track after a little bit of discombobulation during the second quarter and ballooned their lead to an insurmountable amount.
With all that said, let’s take a look at some player grades for the Thunder side no matter how scarce it is in games like tonight.
Coming into tonight’s game, the Lakers averaged the same amount of made threes as the Thunder at 11.6. The Lakers went 19-of-42 (45.2%) overall. The Thunder went 10-of-44 (22.7%) overall. That’s an 27-point difference in a 21-point loss.
Losing this game is not as simple as blaming poor perimeter defense. But it certainly played a big part in the Lakers’ increasingly growing its lead throughout the game.
Gilgeous-Alexander had his worst game in December tonight as he finished with just 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting and four assists. After shooting at least 10 free throws in three straight games, Gilgeous-Alexander went just 0-of-1 in today’s contest. The Lakers were finally able to do a good job at containing Gilgeous-Alexander tonight after averaging 27.5 points in the first two meetups.
This poor performance isn’t anything to be too concerned about. It can easily just be chalked up as a bad game where everybody on the Thunder did not have their best day.
Much like his backcourt partner, Dort did not have his best game tonight as he finished with 11 points on 4-of-17 shooting, which included going 2-of-11 from three. But just like his backcourt partner, Dort has gained enough credibility where performances like tonight can be forgotten about rather easily and a bounce back performance should be expected for the third-year-guard.
While the starters played poorly, Mann was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable night. In 28 minutes, Mann finished with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and shot 3-of-8 from three. Considering it was against the star studded — at least in terms of name brand — Lakers, it’s impressive that Mann was able to keep his composure and grow his confidence as the night went on. The rookie’s scoring potential was on full display tonight and if he can continue to turn in more performances like tonight, he should excite the fanbase. Especially if he continues to dunk the ball like this:
TRE MANN THAT’S NASTY pic.twitter.com/G9vuMxmKGW
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 11, 2021
While his box score numbers don’t pop out, Pokusevski showed moments of brilliance tonight and played in the rhythm of the offense. In 17 minutes, Pokusevski finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has openly admitted to coaching the second-year-player hard and he has to be excited about tonight’s performance. Whether or not this game garners more minutes for him remains to be seen.
Like Darius Bazley mentioned before the game, it seems like whenever Giddey plays he almost always finishes with a triple double. Tonight was no different as the reigning Rookie of the Month winner finished with 12 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Even with the offense being putrid all night long, it’s still impressive that the rookie guard was able to muster out seven assists in a poor shooting night.
Man, LeBron is just so good. I know his game has taken a step back this past couple of seasons due to age and injury. But when he’s on like he was tonight, it’s hard to imagine there being another player better on this planet.
After missing the last two Thunder games and Anthony Davis ruled out, James decided he would not tolerate any tomfoolery and let a rebuilding team beat his team for the third straight time. James finished with 33 points on an efficient 13-of-20 shooting that included going 4-of-6 from three.
Whenever it felt like the Thunder were getting things together and creating some momentum, James would check in and squander any of that almost immediately.
James does not play in Oklahoma City that often and considering his age, who know when or if the next time he does play at the Paycom Center. That’s why fans should appreciate and cherish night’s like tonight. Even if the game was otherwise a snooze fest.