June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

A Lakers frustrating win: Five takeaways from Thunder game

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 119-112 overtime victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night at Staples Center:

Overtime again?

The Lakers, playing without Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso, weren’t at their best Monday. Their shooting was atrocious, their energy was uneven and they couldn’t beat a sub-.500 team in regulation — even though Oklahoma City only had eight available players.

But the Lakers only gave up two points in the five-minute overtime, locking down a very active opponent.

“It’s imperfect but we enjoy wins. It’s part of our culture,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We talk about there’s going to be some ‘frustrating wins’ that we’re going to enjoy and we’re going to learn from. Then we’re going to move on to the next game. And I think this team showed us why they’ve got seven road wins with how hard they play, and I think tonight’s game is a good lesson for what we’re going to face in two nights.

“It’s not going to be an easy game.”

It wasn’t one Monday, and the Thunder get a rematch Wednesday.

Wes doesn’t coast

Without Davis (Achilles tendinosis) and Caruso (hand), veteran guard Wesley Matthews reentered the rotation for the first time since Jan. 28

Matthews responded by making four three-point shots, including a crucial one to help send the game to overtime. But his physicality on defense mattered too.

“Exceptional performance by Wes tonight,” Vogel said. “That’s the simplest way to put it. Incredible energy on both sides of the ball, but, in particular, defensively.”

For Matthews, the four-game trip to DNP-ville wasn’t a pleasant one. Yet it wasn’t a spirit-killer either.

“It was unfortunate but at the same time it’s your job to be professional,” Matthews said. “It’s your job to stay ready, and I was able to do that with the help of my teammates, with the help of my coaches, help of my family, friends … help of God. Keeping my family and faith, and just staying ready. And just knowing whenever the time is called, it’s go time.”

Trez being Trez

While the rest of the Lakers might be dealing with some cumulative fatigue from their deep playoff run, Montrezl Harrell is never shy on energy.

He starred off the bench, scoring 21 points on nine-for-14 shooting from the field. During the Lakers’ five-game winning streak, he’s been absurdly efficient, making 33 of 43 shot attempts.

He’s scored 10 or more points in 14 of the Lakers’ last 17 games, a sign that one of the team’s biggest offseason acquisitions is settling in.

THT being THT

Speaking of settling in, Talen Horton-Tucker is one of the main reasons Matthews was stuck on the bench. Even on a night when Matthews made the splashiest plays, Horton-Tucker was once again excellent.

He had eight points — six after halftime — and looks like a player that will be tough to knock out of Vogel’s rotation.

LeBron messed around

Even on a night when it was hard to watch anyone be their best, James managed to leave the court with a triple-double — 28 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

In a strange coincidence, the triple-double gave James 500 double-doubles, a nice number as the Lakers ran their winning streak to five.

“I didn’t even know we’ve won five in a row. You just go out and compete and some games … every game is going to be its own challenge,” James said. “And we don’t mind playing games that go down to the wire. We don’t mind playing games where you got to execute. We have that championship DNA where, it’s good.

“I mean, it’s good for us to be tested. I love that.”