After defeating the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers faced a truly difficult test as they faced the Oklahoma City Thunder without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Danny Green in the starting lineup.
It would have been no surprise if the Lakers laid an egg against a hot Thunder team, but the team played hard on both ends and came out with a convincing win on the second night of a back-to-back situation.
Los Angeles took control right from the jump, grabbing the lead early and never letting up despite a few runs from Oklahoma City in the second half. Kyle Kuzma led the team in scoring, dropping a season-high 36 points on 15-of-24 shooting and adding seven rebounds.
Kuzma discussed the team’s mindset heading into each game, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“We got the most size in the league… probably the most depth so for us, we want to just try to be as dominant as possible. After that Knicks game… we talked about their physicality right from the jump and they kinda came out and — obviously we won by a good margin — but they tried to punch us in the mouth and we didn’t really necessarily like that. So we just try to come out every night with a chip on our shoulders and everybody on this team has something to prove.”
While general manager Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office looked to surround James with more shooting from beyond the arc, they also added JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard to flank Davis in the paint area. The trio adds a level of physicality, length and athleticism that no other team possesses and creates a unique advantage in a league that values pace and space principles.
The team’s overwhelming edge in the interior is what has fueled their defense which in turn also gets their offense going. Head coach Frank Vogel has done a good job building his schemes on both ends around the size of the team and they have responded with resounding wins over opponents who prefer to play smaller.
Now winners of eight straight, the purple and gold have some serious midseason momentum on their side and look to truly be hitting their stride. Kuzma and the rest of the roster have looked vulnerable when they have been forced to play without James or Davis, but their effort against the Thunder should provide some confidence for them going forward.