Lakers team effort fuels victory over Oklahoma City Thunder

Anthony Davis rolled into the paint, gathered his footing and launched toward the rim, ignoring the noodle-limbed rookie in front of him.

It’s desperate times for the Lakers. Well, desperate enough that a Monday night game in mid-January feels like a chance to make some sort of statement — and with the Arena crowd ready for a moment, Davis gave them one with a huge dunk.

Stars performing like stars hasn’t been an issue for the Lakers, save for a so-so triple-double from Davis against the Jazz. The issues have been with the team as a unit, a group that has played more like individuals than one operating with cohesion.

But against Oklahoma City, it was D’Angelo Russell who slipped Davis the pass. It was Austin Reaves cutting and scoring, Davis working out of double teams, LeBron James attacking mismatches and Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Christian Wood all making big plays off the bench.

The Lakers beat the second-place Thunder 112-105 with strong team basketball, Davis’ slam an individual highlight when the best sequences were more collaborative.

Davis finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds and James had 25, seven rebounds and six assists, but four others scored at least 11. The Lakers had 30 assists on 44 successful shots. And after he scored 20 in the first three quarters, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could only score four points in the fourth.

The Lakers haven’t shown they’re capable of achieving more than the occasional big moment. On Monday, they barreled into trade season, the bulk of their players officially eligible to be dealt away.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Vasilije Micic, left, tries to shoots as Lakers forward Rui Hachimura defends during the first half Monday.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

A move could be imminent — general manager Rob Pelinka usually is active at the trade deadline. And with the team a year removed from deadline deals that made a significant impact, it’s fair to wonder if the front office can do it again.

Vanderbilt, one of the players the Lakers acquired at the deadline last season, said he thought the team could create their own sort of reshuffling.

“I mean, with us, it’s difficult because people are in and out of the lineup due to injury or whatever. So it’s tough to still try to build that camaraderie within ourselves,” he said after Monday’s shootaround. “But I mean, that’s part of the season. It’s tough. Like I said, we changed lineups so much. It’s tough to try to get that consistent continuity. But I do believe we are capable of doing it internally.”

After losing to Phoenix and Utah in their last two games, the Lakers looked like a team ready to win Monday.

James, who didn’t play in Utah, had more thrust on the defensive end and in transition, settling less for shots on the perimeter. Both of his three-point attempts came in rhythm off ball movement.

Much like the Lakers’ wins over the Clippers and Raptors last week, Monday’s game functioned a little as a proof of concept. The roster can overcome mistakes — turnovers and offensive rebounds allowed being at the top of that list. But the Lakers have shown they’re capable of regression, another test coming Wednesday against Dallas.

With this Lakers team, everything has been moment to moment.

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