In a reversal from the first two meetings this season, particularly their list time playing in Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Lakers controlled the glass and came away with an 108-104 win over the Thunder to finish above .500 on their five-game road trip.
The Lakers had lost each of the first two games against the Thunder by an average of 30.5 points. Moreover the win, was the Lakers’ first in Oklahoma City since Feb. 27, 2011, snapping an 11-game losing streak in such games.
L.A. had good fortune on their side as Brandon Ingram was cleared to play after being treated for right groin tightness over the last two days.
Ingram was again serving as the team’s point guard, with Josh Hart making a second consecutive start in place of Tyler Ennis. The Lakers’ starting unit pushed the pace early and jumped out to a 12-4 lead, with Brook Lopez and Hart each scoring five points.
It was not until 1:15 remaining in the first quarter that Lakers head coach Luke Walton made his first substitution. Going to the bench worked in favor of Oklahoma City, who went on an 11-2 run to take a lead in the second quarter, their first of the game.
Going back to heir starters helped the Lakers regain control of the game, and they took a 51-49 lead into halftime. Walton rode his starters for much of the second half, though had Jordan Clarkson playing in lieu of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
Ingram’s driving layup and three-point play on Paul George, a sequence that saw George slapped with a technical foul, helped the Lakers begin to pull away late. A Lopez 3-pointer that stretched the lead to 105-93 with less than two minutes remaining appeared to be the proverbial dagger.
Then as Oklahoma City began to climb back into the game, Ingram blocked Carmelo Anthony’s shot and threw the ball ahead to Julius Randle for a slam dunk. Despite their 10-point lead with 1:07 left, the Lakers reverted back to being turnover prone and they missed free throws.
George’s 3-pointer made it a one-possession game, though it was as close as the Thunder would get. Randle split a pair of free throws, Russell Westbrook missed a shot from deep, which was Oklahoma City’s final shot.
Clarkson was responsible for 18 of the 26 points scored by the Lakers bench, while each of the five starters also reached double-figures. They were led by Lopez, who finished with 20 points to go along with five rebounds and a season-high tying five assists.
Randle had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists; Hart impressed again, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds; Ingram had another all-around game with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Westbrook had a game-high 36 points, and George scored 26 in 40 minutes. While the Lakers ultimately lost the rebounding battle, 46-40, they made 13 shots from deep to the Thunder’s seven.
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