Effort was far from the missing ingredient Monday night as Oklahoma City nearly pulled off its biggest win of the season.
The Thunder battled wall-to-wall with the defending champion Lakers, falling 119-112 in overtime at Staples Center.
Three players finished with 20 points for OKC, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s game-high 29. SGA drilled three free throws with :01 remaining, forcing the extra five minutes before L.A. ultimately pulled away.
Oklahoma City battled against arguably the league’s best and took them to the wire with just eight available players. Seven played at least 27 minutes, including three over 40.
The Thunder started hot, outscoring LA 33-26 in the first quarter with a 20-10 advantage in paint points. Darius Bazley, who finished with a double-double on 21 points and 16 rebounds, scored 12 to fuel the early run.
Oklahoma City continued to control the game until a late surge by the Lakers. LA erased the Thunder’s 84-76 lead down the stretch and eventually built a 110-107 advantage before Gilgeous-Alexander reached the free-throw line on the final play in regulation.
Gilgeous-Alexander also dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds in another outstanding effort offensively. Hamidou Diallo scored 20 points with 11 boards while Justin Jackson contributed big minutes with 14 points off the bench.
LeBron James led the Lakers with a triple-double on 28 points, 14 points, and 12 assists, but it was also Wesley Matthews and Montrezl Harrell who plagued the Thunder. Mattews scored 16 points after multiple DNPs coming into the game and Harrell poured in 21 points with eight boards.
Oklahoma City and LA will square off again Wednesday before the Thunder head to Denver Friday to cap their road trip.