The Los Angeles Lakers dared Josh Giddey and the Oklahoma City Thunder to beat them on Thursday (AEDT) and the NBA’s youngest team called their bluff, coming back from 26 points down to win by eight.
Australian young gun Giddey had the first double-double of his career with 18 points and 10 assists as the Thunder won 123-115 against the NBA’s oldest team, who chose to rest superstar LeBron James for their visit to Oklahoma City.
Giddey is the second-youngest player in NBA history to post 10 assists, behind James – who holds first and second place on that list – while ESPN reported the Lakers were previously 230-0 when up 25 points or more, including in play-offs, in the last 25 years.
“I try to pick them apart,” Giddey said post game when asked about his passing.
“I let my guys know when I want to get them the ball and they stay ready. I do get in a bit of a rhythm passing the ball.”
The move to rest James looked a shrewd one in the first half as the Lakers built a commanding 72-56 lead behind the play of Thunder great Russell Westbook and big man Anthony Davis. But the young Thunder side was fearless in the second half.
Young guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points), Luguentz Dort (13 points) and Giddey all fired in the third term with Gilgeous-Alexander’s three on the three-quarter-time buzzer putting his side ahead 97-95 going into the fourth quarter.
The Lakers kept it close in the last term but Giddey came up with a key assist with 31 seconds left, driving at the basket and drawing the defence before dishing to big man Derrick Favors for a lay-up and a 118-115 lead.
That play came after Giddey was called for a phantom foul where he appeared to have hit the ball onto Davis’ leg and caused a turnover; he took the call in his stride.
But he did give the Lakers a chance to force overtime as his inbound pass with nine seconds to play went straight into the hands of another former Thunder player in Carmelo Anthony. Anthony missed a three-point shot from the top of the key that would have tied the game.
Giddey said his turnover was the worst possible result given Anthony’s history as a deadly shooter but on his day the Victorian was lucky the veteran forward missed his shot. After the game Giddey posted a TikTok video making fun of his turnover.
Westbrook, who was lovingly welcomed back pre-game, was ejected in the final seconds after Thunder forward Darius Bazley stole a pass and threw down a dunk in transition, Westbrook scolded his former teammate for breaking the unwritten rule that players should run out the clock when the result is decided.
But the Thunder were only up by four and Bazley had every right to make sure of the victory, with Westbrook given his second technical foul and booed off the court.
Westbrook finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 10 turnovers.
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault praised Giddey’s play-making just five games into his rookie season and urged his young side to keep fighting through bad patches.
“He was a catalyst of our ball movement, and that’s something we’ve asked him to do,” Daigneault said.
“We talk about growing through experiences – we just want to grow through all of them.
“I want to reinforce this again, nothing is linear. You’re going to bleed in these games, you can’t avoid that – when that happens, you embrace it.”
The Thunder had six players score in double-figures.
Elsewhere, Australian star Patty Mills had his worst shooting game of the new season, finishing with four points and five assists on one of nine shooting after starting this season with 10 straight three-pointers.
But Mills faced much tougher defending from the Miami Heat, who actively worked to cover Mills and force others on his Brooklyn Nets side to take shots as they fell to a 106-93 loss in Brooklyn.
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