The Thunder love to be LeBron James’ spilled milk on the gold-rimmed marble floor.
First ruined one of the most cherished nights of his career — his long-awaited NBA all-time peak in February when he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the league’s all-time scoring leader.
Even at 38 years old, James still needs plenty of rest. In recent years, he happened to take advantage of a trip to Oklahoma City. Before Thursday, he had not played in a game with the Thunder since Dec. 10, 2021.
The young Thunder grabbed the red carpet after James took the court on Thursday and lit up the red carpet with a 133-110 victory over the Lakers.
“It’s a lot more serious,” Jaylen Williams said of opposing teams’ changing attitudes. “This is probably one of those games where they can rest people. … Now I think teams are taking us more seriously.
“I think everyone is starting to respect us more.”
Los Angeles could only take the Thunder’s eventual 37-point comeback as seriously as a heart attack. It struck just as fast, tearing into the Lakers’ chest with similar force.
more:What changes will Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren make about returning to school? “Win the competition”
The Lakers were shocked when the position of their once-productive Anthony Davis slowly deteriorated. Davis scored 31 points and 14 rebounds, 15 of which came in the first quarter.
Davis lined up for Chet Holmgren’s busy week after performances from Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert, reminding them these are pros. His hook shot sailed past Holmgren’s lanky hands. He would push his unibrow into Holmgren’s breasts and turn around in silk sweaters. The rookie picked up two early fouls.
Then the Thunder made the call. Its lineup collectively limited Davis to the rim. Players like Isaiah Joe, who finished with 10 points and three blocks, found himself in traffic grabbing rebounds. Or stunted and flying across the driveway. Or cover up Davis’ existing double teams, thereby taking away the looks the Lakers once enjoyed.
Joe’s block on Davis’ dunk attempt in the fourth quarter almost single-handedly stopped the Lakers’ final drive.
At halftime, Los Angeles shot 44.7% from the field. Throughout, the Thunder crushed the Lakers’ chances.
He scored 26 points on fast breaks (11 points on 17 shots). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander seamlessly switched between slow motion and energetic bunny speed as he finished with 33 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Williams was at full strength without SGA, finishing with 21 points, five rebounds and seven assists.
With four minutes left in the game, Los Angeles head coach Davin Hamm finally gave James and his fellow Lakers starting teammates the break that Paycom Center has grown accustomed to.
more:NBA adds two regular-season games to Thunder after Thunder were eliminated from in-season tournament
Thunder on the glass
This doesn’t happen often. But the Thunder outrebounded the Lakers on Thursday — and it looked that way for much of the night.
It’s a trade-off with some of the lineups and stuff the Thunder has tried, but its rebounding prowess lurks like a dark cloud over an ambitious team. The return of Jaylin Williams and Kenrich Williams helps, but few of the existing tweaks will propel the Thunder among the league leaders.
The best goal might be to be a middle-of-the-pack rebounding team, which Los Angeles is heading into tonight’s game (18th in rebounding). Don’t get it twisted, though – Davis is still a force, especially when left as a lone defender. The Thunder won by rebounding 51-46.
Lu Dort’s offensive rebounds soared (3). Joe became gritty from running into crowds. Collectively play the glass ball in a way that this team has committed to time and time again. On Thursday, it finally worked.
“I just thought we really came into our own in the game,” coach Mark Daigneault said. “… It’s like an energy win. That’s the theme. “We’re just going for this win. ”
- Carson Wallace is still very productive. Entering Thursday, Wallace led the league in three-point efficiency, making 2 of 4 three-pointers, giving him a 57.5% three-point shooting percentage this season.
- Despite Holmgren’s confidence, he’s had a long practice session on the NBA’s center court this week. Still, in less than 20 games, he has carved himself into one of the league’s best big man lineups. He scored 18 points on Thursday and had 33 points and five 3-pointers over the weekend against Embiid and the 76ers. Gobert does cause problems, but Holmgren has to look like a rookie at some point, right? Why not compete with the front-runner for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award? It’s all done in a week’s work around the league. “He’s starting to push his limits a little bit and we’re happy with that because he’s a very talented player,” Dainio said. “… So far, he has shown an understanding of an efficient, impactful, consistent style of play.”