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USA TODAY Sports Media Group
Lakers player grades: Anthony Davis leads L.A. to key win over the Thunder
By Robert Marvi,
Friday presented the Los Angeles Lakers with a big opportunity to move up in the Western Conference standings and earn the tiebreaker over a team that had the same record as them.
They faced the Oklahoma City Thunder in a contest seen by everyone as having monumental importance.
Los Angeles started to take control late in the first quarter and built as much as a 17-point lead in the second period. But the Thunder charged back and made things close in the third quarter by pounding the offensive boards and momentarily going to a zone defense, as well as attacking the rim.
They tied the score multiple times in the fourth quarter, but each time they did, the Lakers were able to respond, which allowed them to emerge with a 116-111 win behind the dominant play of Anthony Davis.
The Lakers have gotten to .500 for the first time since early last season and are in eighth place with the same record as the seventh-place Minnesota Timberwolves, a team they will play on March 31. They’re also 1.5 games behind both the sixth-place Golden State Warriors and the fifth-place Phoenix Suns.
Anthony Davis: A+
After some subpar games, Anthony Davis returned to his old dominant self on Friday.
He was active early and looked to attack the paint offensively from the get-go. He went 9-of-11 and scored 23 points in the first half, and although his scoring pace slowed a bit in the second half, his efficiency did not.
Davis finished with 37 points on an amazing 15-of-21 shooting and 14 rebounds. Down the stretch, he collected key rebounds on both ends of the floor to help close the door on Oklahoma City.
He still had trouble hitting free throws (he went just 7-of-11 from the charity stripe), but overall, he was on point and a force to be reckoned with against the Thunder.
Jarred Vanderbilt: B
Vanderbilt guarded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for much of the time he was on the court. He looked to try to prevent the Thunder star from getting into the paint and to the rim, and with his help, Gilgeous-Alexander was held beneath his average, as he scored 27 points on 9-of-22 shooting.
The Lakers power forward also grabbed nine rebounds in 28 minutes, although he missed all five of his field goal attempts, including two putback attempts on one possession late in the fourth quarter. He also fumbled the ball on a couple of passes when he was near the hoop that could’ve robbed him of one or two easy buckets.
But all in all, Vanderbilt largely did his job.
Troy Brown Jr.: C-minus
Brown was 2-of-10 overall and 2-of-7 from 3-point range, but he had some moments of decent defense when he was matched up on Gilgeous-Alexander. He had two blocked shots, which was a bonus, because while he is capable of playing solid positional defense he isn’t known as a shot blocker.
Dennis Schroder: A
With D’Angelo Russell out because of a hip ailment, Schroder drew the start and filled in admirably. He scored 21 points, which included the Lakers’ first seven points of the fourth quarter, while shooting 8-of-14 overall and 2-of-4 from 3-point land.
Schroder also dished off six assists while adding two steals and one blocked shot. He showed his trademark hustle and grit on one sequence late in the third quarter when, with the Thunder making a run, recovered two loose balls in succession to prevent a loss of possession while denying back-to-back fast-break opportunities for them.
Austin Reaves: C-plus/B-minus
For the first time since early in March, Reaves struggled from the field, going just 3-of-12 overall and 1-of-5 from downtown. He also wasn’t getting as many calls as he has lately; the referees allowed more physical play than usual from both teams.
But Reaves showed his versatility and overall worth to the Lakers by leading everyone on both squads with nine assists while also grabbing six rebounds. He has become a Swiss Army knife for L.A., and he will get paid this summer, one way or another.
Wenyen Gabriel: A-minus
When Davis went to the bench in the third quarter and Gabriel came in, the Lakers started to give up points in the paint. But other than perhaps some lackluster interior defense, he played his usual game on Friday.
He gobbled up eight rebounds and scored seven points on 2-of-4 shooting in 18 minutes. He even hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter, which was his first successful trey since Jan. 12 against the Dallas Mavericks.
Malik Beasley: C-plus/B-minus
Beasley finally found the mark from the outside in the first half, going 4-of-7 overall and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, he missed all four of his shots afterward, giving him 10 points on the night, to go along with two rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Lonnie Walker IV: A
Walker returned to the rotation and gave the Lakers a lift off the bench, scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half. He finished the game with 20 points on 7-of-12 overall shooting and 4-of-8 from the land of plenty, and he also added four rebounds and three steals.
After the game, he talked about staying ready and controlling the controllable. He went from being a fixture in the starting lineup to falling completely out of the rotation, and some players in his potential would perhaps pout and develop a bad attitude.
Walker deserves credit for not resorting to such a mindset while making the most of the scant opportunities he has had.
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