Tre Mann hadn’t dunked like that since his junior year of high school.
After Oklahoma City’s rookie point guard watched Los Angeles Lakers’ small forward LeBron James soar over him for an emphatic poster on a Lakers fastbreak, Mann wanted to get a slam of his own.
Mann, during the following offensive possession, drove off a screen and rose over Wayne Ellington for an electric one-handed tomahawk jam. In turn, causing Oklahoma City’s crowd in the Paycom Center to erupt. Notably, The rookie point guard didn’t dunk at all during his two years at Florida either.
“When it first happened it just felt good,” Mann said. “To come back down (and do that) after being dunked on felt good. But, I was just in the moment, and it kind of just came and went. It’ll probably hit me more when I get home and see all the videos.”
For the Thunder (8-17), however, Mann was the lone bright spot in a blowout 116-95 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (14-13) in Oklahoma City on Friday night. OKC struggled to shoot beyond the arc, tallying a 10-for-44 total on all three pointers in the game. Outside of Mann, who had a team and career-high 19 points on a 8-for-15 clip and a 3-of-8 total from three, the Lakers suffocated the entire team defensively. Ultimately, Oklahoma City didn’t hold a lead past the 6:48 mark in the first quarter when it led 8-6.
“(There was) certainly controllable stuff,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “You have to be really sharp against that team, especially when they’re shooting like that. It would’ve required a level of execution and sharpness that we just didn’t bring… Then, they burned us on pretty much everything during the first half and opened the game up – making it hard for us to get a grip on from there.”
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort were absent for the Thunder offensively. Oklahoma City’s duo scored a combined 22 points on 9-of-29 shooting and 3-for-15 from three. Their offensive woes played a major part in the Thunder’s loss. Before the two-game win streak was snapped, Gilgeous-Alexander scored 39, 30 and 26 points, respectively, in all of his three previous games.
Dort, who’s averaging a career high 17.2 points per game this season, had scored 22 and 28 points in Oklahoma City’s Dec. 6 and Dec. 8 wins against the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons, respectively. The game was out of reach once OKC’s most consistent scoring options couldn’t efficiently find the net. Still, Oklahoma City was able to cut the lead down to 10 points following a 16-3 run in the second quarter.
“To see that we were within 10 or 12 – and we couldn’t make a shot – shows the development that we’ve made as a group,” Thunder rookie forward Josh Giddey said. “I think that second game against Houston where we were down 30 and couldn’t make a shot, but tonight we couldn’t make a shot but got back within 10. It shows the attention we’ve put on defense and the way we’ve moved the ball to get good looks. Eventually those shots are going to start falling.”
Giddey, the NBA’s Western Conference Rookie of the Month, is the first Thunder rookie to tally four games with 10 plus points, seven plus rebounds and seven plus assists following tonight’s game. He, alongside the entire roster, is trying to capture experience to carry over into the Thunder’s next game versus the Mavericks at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday, Dec. 12 in Oklahoma City.
“I thought we could’ve been a little sharper on our rotations tonight,” Daigneault said. “I think there were parts of the game where we were a step late with James and (Russell Westbrook ) specifically… We want to be in there early and fire in there, and I thought we were late to both tonight.”