(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY – One of the biggest issues Oklahoma City has had this season is putting away teams with losing records. It’s something that has been a problem since the start of the season.
However, that doesn’t seem to be a problem when the Thunder take on the Los Angeles Lakers. With its 114-90 win Wednesday night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City has crushed the purple and gold by a total of 61 points.
The win is the third in a row for Oklahoma City. According to center Steven Adams, the THunder has started to understand they can’t let opposing teams hang around.
“I’ll use an analogy like with MMA,” Adams said. “Say you have a submission guy and he knocks someone out. And he starts to think he’s a puncher now. But that’s not what got him there in the first place. So to use that analogy we have to focus on what gets us in that spot.”
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Adams owned the paint with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds.
Julius Randle posted 16 points for the Lakers. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope chipped in with 10 points. No other player reached double figures for Los Angeles (15-29).
“I think we definitely tightened up the defense,” Thunder forward Paul George said. “We’re not allowing the breakdowns over full games. I think that is where we’ve made the biggest improvements is getting our defense back.”
For the second time in two weeks, Oklahoma City (25-20) faced off with Los Angeles. Also for the second time, they took on a Lakers squad without Lonzo Ball in uniform. The Lakers dropped to 0-8 when he doesn’t play
Despite that, the Lakers went toe-to-toe with the Thunder in the first half. Randolph dropped 16 points in the opening half as he worked over Anthony in the post.
However, Anthony was able to do his damage from the perimeter as he hit 3-of-4 from the 3-point line to start the night.
“I think anytime you’re making shots, you’re feeling good about yourself,” Anthony said. “You feel good about what you’re doing, what the team is doing. Tonight was just one of those nights the shot was falling, the game was fun.”
The Thunder held a 60-54 lead at halftime.
Oklahoma City came out of halftime looking to put Los Angeles away. Westbrook and Adams were the primary culprits in the third quarter.
But it was the overall defense and hustle that the Thunder put forth that the Lakers didn’t seem to know how to combat.
Oklahoma City outscored L.A. 33-18 in the third to take a 93-72 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We were the aggressors,” said Andre Roberson. “We were much faster, the tempo was up. We just wanted to dictate them as much as we could.”
When the Lakers lost to the Thunder Jan. 4, coach Luke Walton said his team played soft in the second half. It was DE-ja-vu this time around. As Oklahoma City picked up its intensity, L.A. fell apart.
“We weren’t tough,” Walton said. “They beat us up. No matter how hard you play, we didn’t play well tonight, but if you’re physically going to get beat like we did, the way Adams was doing whatever he wanted out there, we’re not really giving ourselves a chance to win that game.”
The Thunder emptied their bench in the fourth quarter and cruised to an easy victory.
“You have to realize when you play certain teams, like Memphis two nights ago, OKC, Minnesota, these are big strong men,” Walton said. “We have to be ready to fight. Unfortunately, we were not tonight.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer at Eyeamtruth.com