The Oklahoma City Thunder (31-24) snapped their four-game losing skid in emphatic fashion as they demolished the defending champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland, 125-105. Russell Westbrook was spectacular as he scored 21 of the team’s 42 first-quarter points to set the tone for the Thunder. He finished with 34 for the game, along with nine rebounds and nine assists. Paul George was equally amazing as he dropped 38 points with six 3-pointers and six steals.
Those two more than made up for the absence of Carmelo Anthony, who played just six minutes before exiting due to a sprained ankle. Jerami Grant filled in admirably for Anthony as he went for 16 points, four rebounds, and three blocks in 35 minutes off the bench.
The Thunder now go back on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers (22-31), who continued their impressive run of form with a 112-93 win over the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers have won three games in a row and are 11-4 over their last 15 games. Their starting frontcourt of Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram delivered the goods for the team offensively last time out, combing for 47 points, 12 rebounds, and ten assists on a blistering 18-of-25 shooting.
The Lakers rookies were also highly productive. Kyle Kuzma chipped in with 16 points off the bench while Josh Hart continued to impress as a starting point guard in place of the injured Lonzo Ball. The rookie had 15 points and 11 rebounds, his third consecutive double-double.
Three keys to the game
Thunder supporting cast – Westbrook and George were absolutely brilliant in leading the Thunder to that huge win over the Warriors. But equally important was Grant’s emergence as a third option after Melo went down. The Thunder will need him or some other role player like Steven Adams to provide that sort of production once again in L.A. They failed to do so in their matchup with the Lakers on Sunday, which OKC lost at home as Westbrook and George combined for 62 points but got little help otherwise.
Lakers frontcourt – The Lakers frontcourt was excellent during that win over the Thunder on Sunday. Randle, Ingram, and Brook Lopez were all playing very well offensively, which they carried over to their win against the Suns. The loss of Melo could actually turn out to be a bad thing for them since it takes away an obvious weakness in the Thunder defense. Nevertheless, they must remain aggressive in attacking the shorthanded OKC frontcourt.
Battle of the benches – With either Grant or Patrick Patterson likely moving up to replace Melo in the starting lineup, the already limited Thunder bench will get even shorter. Luckily for the Lakers, bench production doesn’t figure to be a problem for them. They have two players capable of getting them buckets in Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson, and should be able to gain the upper hand whenever the Thunder go with their reserves.
Matchup to watch
Paul George vs Brandon Ingram – PG-13 has been showing exactly why the Lakers are so desperate to get him this summer. His ability to affect games on both ends of the floor has been so crucial to the Thunder’s success this season. But Ingram has stepped up his game as well and is showing why he was the No. 2 pick the year before. He’ll want to put up another strong showing against one of the elite wings in the league.
Thunder projected starting lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Josh Huestis | SF – Paul George | PF – Patrick Patterson | C – Steven Adams
Lakers projected starting lineup
PG – Josh Hart | SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | SF – Brandon Ingram | PF – Julius Randle | C – Brook Lopez
George has been on an absolute tear of late. He’s putting up nearly 29 points, five boards, and over two steals through his last ten games. Westbrook hasn’t been too shabby himself with his 29 points, eight boards, and 12 assists during that time. However, Jerami Grant may be the sneaky Thunder player to watch for in fantasy. He’s quietly averaging 13.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.0 block through four games this month.
As for the Lakers, Josh Hart’s production has been eye-catching. In three games since being inserted into the starting lineup, he’s averaging 14.7 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 3-pointers. He’s also shooting a blistering 71 percent from the field.
The Lakers have admittedly been terrific over the past few weeks and they did well to come into Oklahoma City and beat the Thunder. However, the Thunder will still have the two best players on the court in George and Westbrook. Both of them are playing incredibly at the moment and they will be gunning for some revenge at Staples. Trust in the All-Stars, as well as the Thunder to win and cover on the road.
George and Westbrook go off as the Thunder snap the Lakers’ win streak with a 114-109 road victory.
This game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.
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