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'We let them get comfortable': Thunder can't dig out of hole in 125-110 loss to short-handed Lakers

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Chants of “Kuuuuz” could have been confused for boos, but the deep and drawn-out tones were celebratory for those clad in purple and gold.

Lakers fans who invaded Chesapeake Energy Arena on Saturday night hoped to see their star duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis face the Thunder. But James was sick and Davis was hurt.

Instead, the Lakers faithful had to settle for Kyle Kuzma, who lifted his hobbled team to an improbable 125-110 blowout win against the Thunder.

Kuzma was a smooth 15-of-24 from the floor for a season-high 36 points. He made 4-of-6 long-range attempts. Kuzma became the first Laker not named James or Davis to record a 30-point game this season.

Lakers fans lined the railing above the visiting team’s tunnel well before tip-off. But the stars were late. James and Davis didn’t join their teammates on the bench until four and a half minutes into the game. Still, their entrance created quite a stir in the arena.

With the L.A. superstars sidelined, everything was aligned for a Thunder victory.

The depleted Lakers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers arrived in Oklahoma City with a seven-game winning streak, but this was hardly the same bunch. And they were up against a Thunder squad that had won 11 of its last 13 games. A Thunder squad that dismantled the Rockets just two nights before.

But OKC’s energy from Thursday night was absent while the Lakers made five of their first six shots. Kuzma splashed 3-pointers and Rajon Rondo sliced to the rim with ease. Rondo scored a season-high 21 points.

“I think they were comfortable,” Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said. “At the start of the game we let them get comfortable, and they’re good NBA players. And to get in this league, you have to be some of the best in the world, and they proved tonight that they deserve to be here.”

Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari led the Thunder with 24 points, but the scoring came too late.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked if his team’s emotional win Thursday night was partly responsible for the disappointment Saturday.

“I don’t think so with our guys,” Donovan said. “I think every NBA team deals with this.”

The Thunder trailed 73-49 at halftime. The Lakers shot 10-of-13 from 3-point range in the first half. The Thunder was 2-of-15 from three in the first half and 9-of-31 from deep overall.

“I mean 10-for-13 wide open is pretty good,” Donovan said. “And they weren’t wide open all the time.”

A 24-point hole marked the Thunder’s largest halftime deficit of the season. OKC trailed Chicago by 19 points at halftime on Dec. 16 — a game the Thunder came back to win.

But it was clear from the opening minutes of the third quarter that a comeback was unlikely.

The Lakers made their first five shots of the third quarter. JaVale McGee soared for a slam to cap off L.A.’s early second-half burst.

The Lakers’ lead grew to 32 points in the third quarter.

“You’ve got to come out and be ready,” Thunder point guard Chris Paul said. “We talked about it, but we didn’t show it.”

As the final seconds ticked from the clock, Kuzma’s celebration was silent. He pushed his arms downward in a motion to hush an already shocked Thunder crowd.

While Kuzma sat on the scorer’s table for a postgame interview with the Lakers TV broadcast, Lakers fans once again lined the visitor’s tunnel and waited.

James and Davis had already walked through. This time they were waiting for Kuzma.

Related Photos
<strong>Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) slap hands behind Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) during the Lakers' 125-110 win Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) slap hands behind Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) during the Lakers' 125-110 win Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-90d9010afcc1a3084c20b939af610541.jpg" alt="Photo - Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) slap hands behind Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) during the Lakers' 125-110 win Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) slap hands behind Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) during the Lakers' 125-110 win Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) slap hands behind Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) during the Lakers' 125-110 win Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5967bac3b2aaefadedefdb5c4bf48fcd.jpg" alt="Photo - Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) shoots a basket over Oklahoma City's Terrance Ferguson (23) during Saturday night's game. Kuzma scored 36 points in the Lakers 125-110 win. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) shoots a basket over Oklahoma City's Terrance Ferguson (23) during Saturday night's game. Kuzma scored 36 points in the Lakers 125-110 win. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (0) shoots a basket over Oklahoma City's Terrance Ferguson (23) during Saturday night's game. Kuzma scored 36 points in the Lakers 125-110 win. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1959d8b7cf86dee136c3da58648ac889.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) reaches for the ball over Los Angeles' Avery Bradley (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) reaches for the ball over Los Angeles' Avery Bradley (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) reaches for the ball over Los Angeles' Avery Bradley (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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