Here’s what we learned in the Lakers’ 106-81 win Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder:
This team is hot
Trading two key rotation players probably would’ve been more than enough to stop the Lakers’ dead in their tracks over the past few seasons no matter how well they were playing, but it’s looking more and more like this is a different team.
Without Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the young Lakers didn’t spend a minute in mourning — at least not on the court. After weathering a red-hot stop from future Laker max-contract offer recipient Paul George, the team locked in on both sides of the floor and blew the Thunder out.
Sure, Oklahoma City was down Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, but the Lakers weren’t exactly at full strength, either. And when teams see an opponent wounded, they should pounce instead of wasting time, and on Thursday, the Lakers took advantage of a weakened opponent to win their 12th game in the last 16 matchups.
Point Ingram can be a thing
Let’s forget Isaiah Thomas for a second because once he gets into a Lakers uniform, he’ll handle the bulk of the point guard duties when Lonzo Ball is not on the court. The second-best point guard on this team is Brandon Ingram.
He has starred in this role since Luke Walton handed him the keys, and he was terrific Thursday night, scoring 19 points to go with six assists and one turnover.
In his last three games, he’s made 23 of 35 attempts from the field (65.7%) while running the Lakers’ offense, and it’s clear that any plan they’ve got moving forward should include having the ball regularly in Ingram’s hands.
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, right, blocks a shot from Thunder forward Paul George as Julius Randle helps on defense during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram drives on Thunder center Steven Adams during the first quarter of a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Alex Caruso steps in front of Thunder center Steven Adams for a steal during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram blocks a shot from Thunder center Steven Adams during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram gets a pass off in front of Thunder guard Raymond Felton during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Josh Hart battles for a loose ball with Thunder forward Patrick Patterson during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers center Ivica Zubac has his shot blocked by Thunder forward Jerami Grant during a game Thursday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Lakers need to figure out what to do with IT
Thomas will be with the Lakers and ready to play as soon as Saturday, and he’ll be one of the team’s most talented players and their best scorer on Day One.
The issue for the Lakers will be figuring out how to best use Thomas’ skills without stunting anyone else’s growth or impeding the foundation that Walton is building.
The Lakers have found success by sharing the ball on offense, by playing at a fast pace and, most importantly, by defending with consistent effort.
If Thomas can’t help in those facets, it’s hard to see how he’ll help the Lakers the rest of this season. If he can, it’s hard to see how this team won’t be even more competitive over the league’s final months.