LeBron James, Lakers Dominate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder in Easy Win

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, moves around Oklahoma City Thunder forward Isaiah Roby (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers are apparently unstoppable on the road.

Los Angeles defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-99 in Wednesday's Western Conference showdown at Chesapeake Energy Arena and improved to 10-3 on the season. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Montrezl Harrell led the way for the victors, who are now 7-0 away from home.

OKC is very much the opposite at home and fell to 0-5 inside its own building and 5-6 overall despite a solid performance from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

          

Notable Player Stats

  • LeBron James, F, LAL: 26 PTS, 7 AST, 6 REB, 5-of-8 3PT
  • Anthony Davis, F, LAL: 18 PTS, 7 REB
  • Montrezl Harrell, C, LAL: 21 PTS, 6 REB
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, OKC: 17 PTS

            

LeBron, AD Lead Way as Lakers Cruise

The Lakers entered play on a roll, and the only real question was whether James and Davis would both play on the second night of a back-to-back.

Head coach Frank Vogel confirmed they would, which spelled trouble for a Thunder team that is a solid but unspectacular 13th in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com. It was right from the start, as Davis poured in 12 points in the first quarter alone against an OKC defense that no longer had Steven Adams to provide a physical presence in the frontcourt.

The second quarter was LeBron's turn, as he drilled three shots from beyond the arc and even drew a charge while helping the Purple and Gold build a commanding 12-point halftime lead.

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There is frankly nothing an opposing defense can do against the Lakers if James is hitting from the outside, as he can overpower defenders who press up on that shot or work in a two-man game with Davis that involves two unstoppable stars thanks to his unparalleled passing ability for someone his size.

It didn't stop in the second half, as James' back-to-back triples—the second of which was a four-point play—extended the lead to 24 in the third quarter.

One way to limit minutes and the grind of a competitive game is by making sure it's not competitive, and James' performance in the middle quarters coupled with Davis' start was enough to do just that. Throw in Harrell providing a spark off the bench, and the game was never truly in doubt in the second half.

Most games won't be if LeBron and AD find a rhythm.

            

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Not Enough in OKC Loss

It has been an up-and-down start to the season for the Thunder, but Gilgeous-Alexander has been a significant bright spot and cause for long-term optimism.

The 22-year-old scored 20 or more points in his previous four games entering the showdown with the Lakers all while battling for boards from the backcourt and consistently dishing out assists when opposing defenses collapsed on him.

A matchup with the defending champions gave him a marquee stage to demonstrate his skill set, and he started off well as the only member of the Thunder in double figures at the half.

His ability to use his speed and explosiveness to create opportunities in the lane was a major reason OKC was still within striking distance after a quick start for Los Angeles. So was Luguentz Dort's outside shooting.

The three triples from Dort was a bright spot in an otherwise troubling shooting performance for the home team, as his teammates were just 7-of-25 (28 percent) from deep.

That is a recipe for a loss against a daunting Lakers team, although Gilgeous-Alexander's tendency to get to the free-throw line against defenders who struggle to stay in front of him provided some more scoring even in a blowout loss.

          

What's Next?

Both teams are home Friday when the Lakers face the New Orleans Pelicans and the Thunder host the Chicago Bulls.