OKC offense provides the punch in win over Lakers

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Russell Westbrook looks for an opening in the defense. Westbrook finished Tuesday's game against the Lakers with 27 points, 11 assists and two rebounds.
Steven Adams takes a breather while trying to figure out an official's call. Adams scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against Los Angeles.
Dion Waiters finished with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists against the Lakers.
Backup point guard D.J. Augustin contributed seven points and five assists in Tuesday's win over the LA Lakers.

By Tim Farley

Oklahoma City’s high-scoring offense pushed the pedal to the metal Tuesday night, but the usual defensive toughness was missing in the Thunder’s 127-117 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Acknowledging the less-than-stellar defense, Brooks said the Thunder has to play better at that end of the court to keep the four game win streak alive.

“There are things we need to improve on, stopping the ball and protecting the rim,” he said. “If we want to keep winning, we have to defend.”

The Thunder (41-30) had trouble containing Laker guard Jordan Clarkson who finished with 30 points on 12 of 19 shots. Four other Lakers scored in double figures, including point guard Jeremy Lin with 19.

However, Oklahoma City continued its dominance on the boards, grabbing 21 more rebounds than the Lakers, 49-28. Thunder forward Enes Kanter was the top rebounder with 16 boards, including seven offensive caroms. Center Steven Adams and Mitch McGary each grabbed 10 rebounds.

“I tell those guys (Kanter and Adams) all the time they have the ability to get 10 (offensive rebounds). They have a good feel for the offensive rebounds and they have to continue to do that,” Brooks said. “Those are offensive plays we have to keep focusing on because we can’t make every shot. There are usually 40 to 50 shots available to get offensive rebounds.”

Lakers Acting Head Coach Paul Pressey said Oklahoma City’s rebounding efforts were instrumental in the second half.

“They’re some big guys and you have to create some space, and we didn’t do that,” he said. “We gave them a chance for a lot of second opportunities at the rim. It is hard to beat a team when you give them 66 points in the paint.”

LA’s head coach Byron Scott did not the make the trip to Oklahoma City so he could attend his mother’s funeral.

Oklahoma City will try to improve defensively Wednesday night when the Thunder travels to San Antonio for a pivotal Western Conference game. Oklahoma City holds the eighth playoff spot in the West, but is only three games behind Dallas and the Spurs for the seventh playoff position.

The Thunder continues its three-game road swing at Utah on Saturday and at Phoenix on Sunday.

Tuesday’s win was Oklahoma City’s fourth in a row and its sixth in the last seven games.

At first, it appeared the Thunder might win at will, taking a 37-27 lead after the first quarter when Kanter notched a quick double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Oklahoma City added a 31-point second quarter to take a 68-53 halftime lead.

But the Lakers (18-51) weren’t giving up. Los Angeles drew to within seven points early in the third quarter, 72-65, but baskets by Russell Westbrook and Dion Waiters pushed the lead back to 12. After a bucket by the Lakers, the Thunder scored the next eight points to take an 85-67 lead with 5:41 left in the quarter.

Each time the Lakers made a run, the Thunder responded with consecutive buckets or a mini-scoring spurt to end any hopes of a comeback. Oklahoma City held a 122-103 lead with under six minutes to play with the Lakers outscoring the Thunder 14-5 during that stretch.

Westbrook maintained his league-leading scoring average with 27 points followed by Kanter with 25 and Waiters with 23. Adams chipped in 16 points while three-point specialist Anthony Morrow added 12.

For the game, Oklahoma City shot almost 56 percent from the field with every player except Jeremy Lamb hitting at least 50 percent of their shots. Lamb missed all five of his attempts. The Thunder also connected on 11 of 21 attempts from behind the arc and made 20 of 23 free throw tries.

The Lakers shot almost 52 percent from the field, including nine of 19 treys.

GAME NOTES: Oklahoma City outscored LA in the paint, 66-58, and tallied more second chance points, 18-10. However, the Lakers were a bit better with fast break points, outscoring the Thunder, 26-24…The Thunder’s next home game will be April 1 against Dallas…Oklahoma City is the fourth team in NBA history to start the season nine games below .500, but then advances to nine games above .500 later in the season. The Thunder joins the 1977-78 Seattle SuperSonics, the 2004-05 Chicago Bulls and the 2013-14 Nets.

 

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