Another ugly Lakers win: Five takeaways from Thunder game

Lakers players high-five
Lakers guard Wesley Matthews high-fives forward LeBron James (23) after the team’s 114-113 overtime win against the Thunder on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Here are five takeaways (we won’t need overtime) after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-113 on Wednesday night at Staples Center:

1. Congrats?

The Lakers are owners of a six-game winning streak, currently the longest in the NBA. They’ve earned it by, um, playing pretty poorly in a bunch of those games, particularly the last three.


Playing against the Thunder, who had eight players for the second straight game, the Lakers needed to come back from 20 points down to win (doing so only after blowing a four-point lead in the fourth quarter).

“We’ve got to be better. But we recognize that hey, teams lose games like this,” coach Frank Vogel said after the win. “We weren’t at our best in these three games, but we found a way to grind them out.”

Wins count. Style points do not.

2. It’s been a lot on LeBron

The Lakers have been trying to “be smart” when it comes to workloads for their players, with no one receiving more monitoring than 36-year-old LeBron James.

Despite attempts to keep his minutes down, James has played at least 41 in each of the Lakers’ last three games.

“There’s always a concern, but his body’s been feeling good,” Vogel said. “These aren’t the scripted plans, to go overtime each night and get him up to 40 minutes. But he’s going to be in there in those situations to win the game.”


Apparently James didn’t mind. While he didn’t speak after the game, he told Dennis Schroder that he relished the mileage.

“He told me he liked it that he played three overtime games. He’s got to get in shape, he said,” Schroder relayed. “He’s liking it.”

3. The Lakers have gone cold

The team continued to struggle — wait, that’s too kind. The Lakers stank from three-point range, again, making only 28.6% from deep.

During the Lakers’ last six games, they’ve made just 30.6% of their threes. It’s likely a sign that the early-season shooting wasn’t sustainable. Or it’s a sign the team’s fatigued. Maybe it’s both.

“We’re not worried about being tired,” Vogel said. “We’re a no-excuse team.”

The misses were bad — but key makes from James (to tie the score near the end of regulation) and Wesley Matthews (in overtime) were huge shots.


4. Kuzma crashing the glass

Kyle Kuzma had nine rebounds Wednesday, following up a 10-rebound effort, with Anthony Davis sidelined for the second straight game.

‘I don’t get tired’ LeBron James says after grueling overtime-filled road trip.

Feb. 10, 2021

It’s all been part of a season-long transformation by Kuzma, who has gone from a bench scorer into a more well-rounded contributor.

“I mean, if [Davis] plays or he doesn’t play, it don’t matter for me. My job is to come in and my game is just rebounding right now,” Kuzma said. “So I’m just trying to play as hard as I possibly can and it’s a big factor for this team, it’s what this team needs, and that’s what I’m providing.”

5. Morris’ turn

Like Matthews, Markieff Morris has found himself squeezed out of the tightened rotation, something that’s definitely been challenging for a proud veteran.


He started Monday and moved back to the bench Wednesday, but with nine points, six rebounds and a steal, he proved that he’s still a worthy contributor.

“It was hard to take that step back,” Morris said.

But by being ready to take a step forward, just like Matthews did on Monday, the Lakers should feel confident in the professionalism their veterans possess.