Thunder vs. Lakers takeaways: Anthony Davis leads Los Angeles past OKC
LOS ANGELES — The Lakers clung to the lead like their season depended on it.
And it might have.
In a battle for postseason positioning that felt like a prize fight, the Lakers beat the Thunder 116-111 on Friday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Anthony Davis and the Lakers slugged their way to a 16-point first-quarter lead, forcing the Thunder to play catch up in the second and third quarters.
And the Thunder did catch up.
“We just kept fighting,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said, “and clawed back into it.”
Josh Giddey found Lindy Waters III for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter to cut the Lakers’ lead to one point entering the fourth quarter. Waters pushed Giddey in celebration, but the momentum didn’t carry over.
Twice the Thunder tied the game in the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma City never led.
Dennis Schröder, whom the Thunder knows well, was clutch down the stretch, hitting two tough jumpers in crunch time. Schröder had 21 points and six assists.
Los Angeles (37-37) has won three straight while Oklahoma City (36-38) has lost two straight — dropping both ends of its Clippers/Lakers back-to-back on Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles.
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The Anthony Davis dilemma
The Thunder didn’t have an answer for Anthony Davis.
The Lakers center bullied the Thunder from the tip, scoring 15 points with five rebounds as the Lakers built a 41-25 first-quarter lead.
“We were probably a step slow, but they were really hot and played in a rhythm,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.
Davis’ biggest challenge after that was getting the ball, as the Thunder tried to deny him from catching it. But whenever the ball hit his hands, Davis made it count.
Like Kawhi Leonard the night before, Davis turned in a remarkably efficient night against the Thunder: 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting. He was 7 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Davis was the man for the Lakers, which were without LeBron James for the 13th straight game.
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Josh Giddey’s all-around game
Josh Giddey had his best game of the season numbers-wise, and it was among the finest all-around games of his career.
The 20-year-old Thunder guard had 27 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists, tying his career high in rebounds and finishing a point shy of his career high in scoring.
Giddey shot 12 of 24 from the field, which was a career high in field goal attempts.
“It felt like any other game,” Giddey said, “but a few more shots might have dropped, a few more balls might’ve landed my way … but just keeping my foot down, especially in a game like this where we know how important it was.”
Giddey missed a 3-pointer that would’ve tied the game 110-110 with two minutes left, but it was just one of many shots the Thunder missed down the stretch.
OKC scored just 19 points in the fourth quarter, going 2 of 11 from 3-point range.
Giddey was a big reason why the Thunder kept things close. In a game the Thunder lost by five points, the Thunder outscored the Lakers by 14 points in the 39 minutes when Giddey was on the floor.
Giddey also deserves credit for the funniest moment of the night.
The ball bounced into the front row late in the game when the Thunder was inbounding. A woman held onto the ball, not sure what to do, and Giddey, in a rush, went over and snatched it from her.
The woman happened to be Leslie Mann, an actress who’s appeared in blockbuster comedies such as Big Daddy, George of the Jungle, Knocked Up, 17 Again and This is 40.
Mann is married to director Judd Apatow.
“That was an actress?” Giddey asked after the game.
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays on second night of back-to-back
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (abdominal strain) was listed as questionable on the second night of a back-to-back, but he suited up and played with no limitations.
“If we needed to restrict him we wouldn’t play him,” Daigneault said before the game.
Gilgeous-Alexander had sat out the second end of the Thunder’s last two back-to-backs as he nursed his abdominal strain.
SGA looked fine physically and said he felt good, but he didn’t get the usual rolls he gets around the rim. Still, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points on 9-of-22 shooting. He was 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt made things tough on his old college teammate. Vanderbilt and Gilgeous-Alexander were freshman teammates at Kentucky in the 2017-18 season. Both went one-and-done. Lakers forward Wenyen Gabriel was also on that Kentucky team, which lost to Kansas State in the Sweet 16.
Gilgeous-Alexander was drafted 11th and has become a superstar. Vanderbilt went 41st, and while he’s already playing for his fourth team in five seasons, Vanderbilt is a high-energy rotational piece.
The 6-foot-9 forward is an elite rebounder and scrappy defender.
“We’re really close,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Really a good guy. A brother of mine, for sure.”
Vanderbilt is one of the reasons why the Lakers have had the second-best defense, behind only the Bucks, since the All-Star break.
“There’s nothing too cute,” Daigneault said of the Lakers’ defense. “They’ve got (Anthony) Davis back there, he’s a great rim protector, and they play a very solid base system that forces inefficient shots. They don’t foul very much.”
“And then they’re pretty stubborn on the ball. A lot of teams do a lot of switching with their guards whether it’s pick-and-rolls or off-ball screens, and they stay with their own guy and they do it with a great deal of physicality.”
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Lonnie Walker IV powers Lakers bench
Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV had five DNPs (coach’s decision) in five of his last seven games entering Friday night. In the two games he played, Walker had zero and four points.
He erupted for 20 points off the bench against the Thunder. Walker shot 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Schroder gave credit to Walker after the game: “This is his win,” Schroder said.
The Lakers’ bench outscored the Thunder’s bench 40-28.
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Jeremiah Robinson-Earl emerges off bench
It’s been a rough go for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
The Thunder sophomore center was sidelined with a severe ankle sprain from mid-December to mid-February, and he’s been out of rhythm — and largely out of the rotation — since returning from injury.
Until Friday, that is.
Robinson-Earl was the feel-good story of the game for the Thunder.
He scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting off the bench. The Thunder outscored the Lakers by eight points in his 17 minutes.
“He was great tonight,” Giddey said. “When he’s playing with that energy and that confidence, it’s another spark to our team.”
It was JRE’s first double-digit scoring game since returning from the injury.
“Everybody’s gotta be ready,” Daigneault said. “We need everybody. We put different guys in the game for different reasons on different nights. We thought tonight was a good matchup for him … and he delivered.
“It’s just a testament to his readiness and the mentality we’re trying to build inside the team.”
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● The Lakers won the season series 2-1.
● The Lakers scored 74 points in the first half — the most by a Thunder opponent this season. OKC held LA to 42 points in the second half. “We were on a string in the second half,” Daigneault said of the Thunder’s defense.
● On Friday, Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren posted a picture of himself on Instagram with the caption “Free 7.” Holmgren, who’s rehabbing from a Lisfranc injury in his right foot, wears No. 7. To be clear, there’s zero chance that Holmgren plays this season. It’s illogical with so few games left. Nothing to read into other than a silly Instagram post from a 20-year-old.
● Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell was out with right hip soreness.
● Aleksej Pokusevski suited up for the Thunder but didn’t play. Pokusevski has been rehabbing with the G League OKC Blue, but he hasn’t played in an NBA game since fracturing his left leg in late December.
● Thunder guard Lu Dort shot 2 of 12 from 3-point range in the Thunder’s two games against the Clippers. He turned things around Friday, shooting 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
● Former Sooner Austin Reaves got MVP chants every time he stepped to the line. Reaves was limited to 3-of-12 shooting.
● Shoutout to Thunder TV analyst Michael Cage, whose San Diego Aztecs are Elite Eight bound after upsetting No. 1 seed Alabama. Cage was a four-year starter at San Diego State from 1980-84. He was a two-time WAC Player of the Year.
● Olivia Rodrigo, Will Ferrell and Jason Bateman were among the celebrities sitting courtside.
● The Thunder’s stay in LA is finally over, after three games in four nights at Crypto.com Arena. “It was cool,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I’m ready to leave, though.”
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Lakers beat Thunder to reach .500 mark behind Anthony Davis' big night