Two stretches stood out in the Los Angeles Lakers' decisive 116-104 win over the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (42-19) on Monday — the 10th win in the last 14 games for the Lakers (34-29).

The Lakers, locked in on both ends from the jump, took a 52-43 lead into halftime after limiting the Thunder to 30.9% shooting and 18 points in the second period. Darvin Ham told his team in the locker room they had just played their best defensive half of the season (12 turnovers on the other end let them down).

After the break, the Thunder, as expected, saw a few go in. Within minutes, the Lakers' lead was trimmed to 67-64. It felt like OKC's chipping away might soon become pulling away.

Rather than relenting, though, the Lakers resharpened. LeBron James and Anthony Davis ignited a 12-0, then 17-4, run, thanks to a spirited stretch of two-way play that proved contagious. If the Lakers do find themselves in the playoffs, they'll lean on that precise combination of star power and an ability to quickly refocus.

“We don't really care what seed we're in,” said AD. “We proved it last year, it doesn't matter.”

The Lakers will also need D'Angelo Russell to continue to play like a star, as he's been doing for the last two months.

DLo produced the most electrifying sequence of basketball on Monday. On three consecutive possessions — beginning at the 10:12 mark, with the Lakers up 17 — Russell pocketed increasingly difficult 3-pointers. The third, which everybody in the building knew was coming, nearly blew the top off Arena. Ballgame, refrigerated.

“That's what he does, “said AD. “He's shown that he can get hot at any point in the game. When he made the first two, we kind of knew the third one was going up.”

“He has those DLo moments, man,” said Darvin Ham. “He can throw it up any kind of way and it's gonna end up in the hoop. It's great to see him out there having fun.

“I didn't even know I made the shot,” noted Russell. “I kinda didn't see the rim and just threw it up there. Lucky shot.”


For a team that generally struggles to fill it up from 3 and consistently generate high-quality offense in the halfcourt, Russell's aggression is paramount. After all, you never know when he's going to enter microwave mode.

“DLo is uber-talented and we need him to play at that level in order for us to have that ultimate success,” said Ham.

Russell (26 points, 9-of-17 shooting, 5-of-11 from 3, six rebounds and four steals) led a balanced attack for the Lakers. LeBron enjoyed a break from putting the team on his back, instead playing an excellent two-way floor game: 19 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists. Davis (24 points, 12 rebounds) properly dominated an undersized Thunder group. Austin Reaves had 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.


Above all else, though, the Lakers' defense defined the game. Los Angeles held Oklahoma City — third in the NBA in offensive rating — to 39.4% shooting. Outrebounded by 16 against Denver, the Lakers grabbed 17 more boards than the Thunder. Inspired by LeBron's effort, the Lakers were collectively engaged and active, on and off the ball. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (20 points, 5-of-13 FG), and Chet Holmgren (15 points, 6-of-14 FG) were held in check.

“He gets 30 on every team in the league,” DLo said about SGA. “So for us to come in and just make everything tough on him is the objective … We were all on a string.”

Russell was not, however, as impressed by their advantage on the glass:

“I watched Nurkic get 31 on them last night, so I knew we could dominate.”