Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton said he “hoped” Thursday’s trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers would not lead to a letdown for his team against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were without Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook because of respective ankle injuries.
The Lakers’ play in the early going of the first quarter suggested they were distracted by no longer having Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. as teammates, but Paul George also had a hand in that. The free-agent-to-be came out firing, making his first five shots of the game.
George finished with 16 points in the quarter, but saw his Oklahoma City team trailing at the end of it. That was in large part due to Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle, both of whom went on to lead the Lakers in a 106-81 win.
L.A. began to separate from Oklahoma City in the second quarter, behind Kentavious Caldwell-Pope connecting on each of his three attempts from 3-point territory.
Although the Thunder managed to cut their deficit to six by halftime, the Lakers regained control in the third and took their momentum into the fourth quarter, when their lead grew to as many as 23 points.
Handling point guard duties for a fourth consecutive game, Ingram finished with a 19 points, to go along with two rebounds and six assists. Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 20 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting.
Josh Hart extended his stellar stretch with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He did have a streak of double-doubles snapped at three games. Kyle Kuzma helped make up for the scoring punch off the bench with Clarkson no longer on the team by providing 16 points in 24 minutes.
While he cooled off after a blistering start, George still finished with a game-high 29 points. Steven Adams (13 points) was the only other Thunder player to reach double-figures.
The win was the Lakers’ fourth in a row and eighth straight at Staples Center. Moreover, the team is 12-4 in a stretch that dates back to Jan. 7.
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