Lakers vs. Thunder on January 15, 2024: Key Takeaways to Keep in Mind

   

Rui Hachimura jumper

Following a challenging loss in Utah during the weekend, the Lakers (19-21) are returning home to face the consistently formidable Oklahoma City Thunder (27-11).

The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV.

Here are three critical aspects to keep in mind leading up to this matchup:

REDDISH’S ABSENCE:
In the Lakers’ recent games against the Suns and the Jazz, Cam Reddish started both matches but was unable to continue after his initial stint on the court, sitting out the remainder of each game. After the loss in Utah on Saturday, Coach Ham announced that Reddish would undergo a thorough evaluation by the medical team, with a plan to be formulated for his recovery going forward.
Reddish has since been ruled out due to left knee effusion, and further updates on his condition are pending. While losing a starter and one of the team’s premier defensive wings presents a challenge for the Lakers, prioritizing Reddish’s recovery is paramount. His intermittent presence in the lineup does not benefit him or the team, and if he’s physically compromised, he won’t be able to perform at his best during his minutes on the court.

With Reddish sidelined, the Lakers can turn to Jarred Vanderbilt and Max Christie to log more minutes. Both players are more than capable of providing solid defensive contributions while also leveraging their offensive strengths to help bolster the team.

LAKERS’ THREE-POINT SHOOTING:
Despite opponents shooting 40.3% from beyond the arc in the Lakers’ last 15 games, it’s worth noting that the Lakers themselves have improved their three-point shooting during this stretch. They are now hitting 36.7% of their long-range shots, ranking 14th in the league.
This improvement marks a significant shift from their early-season struggles when they managed to connect on just 30.4% of their threes, barely above the 30th-ranked team in the league. Key contributors to this revival have been D’Angelo Russell (40.6%), Taurean Prince (40.2%), and Christian Wood (46.7%), all of whom have maintained a 40% or higher success rate from beyond the arc during this period.

Russell and Prince, in particular, have played pivotal roles in boosting the team’s overall three-point percentage due to their consistent shooting on a significant number of attempts (a combined 12.6 per game). Conversely, Austin Reaves (32.9%) and Rui Hachimura (28.1%) have faced difficulties from long range recently. If these players can regain their earlier season form, along with the continued success of Prince, Russell, and Wood, the Lakers could further improve their three-point shooting, potentially matching their opponents’ efficiency and addressing a challenge that has persisted throughout the season.

POINTS OFF TURNOVERS:
Over the Lakers’ last 15 games, they rank 20th in the league in turnovers committed per game (13.3) and 25th in points allowed off those turnovers (17.9) by their opponents. In games against the Jazz and the Suns, the Lakers surrendered 23 and 28 points, respectively, from turnovers.
After the loss to the Suns, Anthony Davis emphasized the need for better ball security and overall improvement in this aspect of their game. Davis stated, “Taking care of the basketball, just being strong with the ball. We try to make the right reads, and defenses can also do a good job of making reads, but for the most part, we just got to be strong with the ball and make sure that whatever we’re doing (we’re) paying attention to the defense and what they’re trying to do. But, for the most part, I think a lot of our turnovers are unforced.”

There’s no opponent where this is more critical than against the Thunder. Oklahoma City leads the league in points scored off opponent turnovers with an average of 19.8 points per game and also forces the highest number of turnovers in the NBA (15.9 per game).

While the Lakers will need to contend with the Thunder’s individual talent, prevent them from getting hot from beyond the arc, and secure strong production from their star players to win the game, reducing turnovers and swiftly matching up with the Thunder when they do occur will be a key element if the Lakers aim to get back on the winning track.

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