Oklahoma City had played 14 games this season without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook going into Sunday night's tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder were 4-10 in those games, but Sunday night, OKC was much better equipped to handle the challenge.
Without their two stars once again, the Thunder used a complete team performance to snap a two-game skid and take down the Lakers, 108-101.
While the absence of Durant and Westbrook resulted in losses to Milwaukee, Detroit, Utah and Brooklyn (twice) earlier this season, the Thunder was able to take care of business on Sunday, thanks in no small part to the new pieces acquired throughout the season in trades.
Sunday was another exhibition of just how deep and talented this Oklahoma City roster is. The Thunder have yet to play a game with a fully assembled roster, so at this point, thoughts of how good the Thunder will be when that finally happens are simply dreams.
Outside of a back-and-forth second quarter in which the Lakers' bench pushed the Thunder to the limit, OKC controlled the game from start to finish. Five Oklahoma City players scored in double figures and eight scored at least eight points, with everyone contributing at key times to keep the Thunder in control.
D.J. Augustin and Serge Ibaka led the way with 18 points each. Ibaka also contributed 14 rebounds. Enes Kanter had his third double-double in five games as a member of the Thunder, scoring 16 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Kanter also had a team-high and career-high five assists, a by-product of the immense talent OKC has all over the floor.
Off the bench, Nick Collison had 12 points and Jeremy Lamb, taking advantage of rare meaningful minutes, scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, nine of those coming in the fourth quarter as he sparked a Thunder rally to stave off a late Lakers charge.
The timeliness of everyone's contributions was just as impressive as the balance of them. Andre Roberson scored eight points, all in the first quarter, including two 3-pointers (!) that helped OKC establish an early 13-point lead. When the Thunder's second unit allowed the Lakers to tie the score at 43 in the second quarter, Kanter, Augustin and Ibaka took over and helped OKC finish the half on a 13-5 run and take a 56-48 lead into the locker room.
Kyle Singler, who has struggled to find a groove since coming to Oklahoma City, scored eight points, all coming in the third quarter as the Thunder once again built a 13-point lead. And once again, it was Lamb who singlehandedly pushed a 90-84 OKC advantage to a 96-86 lead with 6:31 to play.
Performances like Sunday's build confidence and confidence is something OKC needed after two really tough losses at Phoenix and Portland. The Thunder can build on this win this week, thanks to a decent schedule of Philadelphia, at Chicago and Toronto next Sunday night in OKC.
Durant is expected to be reevaluated on Monday and Westbrook should be reevaluated later this week. When they return is anyone's guess, but with all the new pieces beginning to come together with the already established ones, OKC has much more leeway than earlier in the season, even in the midst of a tense race for the playoffs.