Five takeaways from the Thunder's 125-110 loss to the Lakers
Chesapeake Energy Arena began emptying out with a couple minutes left in the the Thunder's 125-110 loss to the Lakers Saturday.
The Thunder suffered its third loss since Dec. 16. Here are five takeaways from the game:
Rondo, Kuzma make their mark
Kyle Kuzma’s 3-point shot fell through the hoop, and “Kuuuuzzzz” cheers reverberated around the arena. The Lakers were missing LeBron James and Anthony Davis Saturday, but the Lakers fans in the building still made their presence known.
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Kuzma and Rajon Rondo gave them plenty to cheer about. Kuzma made his first five shots of the game to lead the Lakers with 14 points. Rondo, whose season high was 15 points entering play Saturday, scored 12 in the first quarter alone.
From best to worst
Just two nights removed from arguably the Thunder’s best win of the season, OKC played its worst first half of the season. By halftime, the Thunder trailed the Lakers 73-49, by far its largest deficit of the year. Its previous season-worst was 19 points, which came against Chicago on Dec. 16.
That came in stark contrast to the 60-48 lead the Thunder gained Thursday on the Rockets.
Signs of life
The Thunder made eight shots in a row to cut the Lakers’ lead to 18 points in the third quarter. Los Angeles had led by as many as 32 points earlier in the period.
Danilo Gallinari started the streak with a dunk. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala also contributed.
Finally, after Paul pulled up from midrange and drained a jump shot, Lakers coach Frank Vogel called a timeout.
The Thunder already had a small lineup on the floor early in the fourth quarter, with power forward Gallinari playing center. But then with eight minutes left in the game, it got even smaller.
Guard Terrance Ferguson replaced forward Darius Bazley. Suddenly, OKC had four guards and Gallinari on the floor. Nothing else had worked, so why not at least try it?
The experiment ended with 4:18 on the clock, when Thunder center Steven Adams checked back into the game. Not much had changed. The Thunder had gone from trailing 108-89 when Ferguson subbed in, to trailing 116-96.
The Lakers were without their two biggest stars Saturday at OKC.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania was first to report that James would miss the game. The Lakers later included James on their injury report, with flu-like symptoms. About an hour before game time, the Lakers announced that Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) had been ruled out, after being listed as questionable and going through warmups.
Lakers guard Danny Green was also sidelined, with right hip soreness. Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma started in place of James, Green and Davis.
The Lakers were playing the second leg of a back-to-back, after a 129-114 win at Dallas Friday. According to Vogel, James was experiencing symptoms throughout the game Friday.
"His chest was burning all throughout the game," Vogel said. "We had to get him out early in the first quarter. I was using timeouts to get him rest, but most of my timeouts last night were centered around helping him fight through the chest cold."
James recorded 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in a bout with fellow MVP candidate Luka Doncic.
"Not only did he have that type of performance," Vogel said of James, "but he did it without being able to breathe most of the night."