LOS ANGELES (AP) – Stanley Johnson scored a season-high 21 points and the Los Angeles Lakers broke their eight-game losing streak with a 120-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Despite playing without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers added 16 points to wrap up the home side of their disappointing season with their first win since March 21. The star trio led the cheers from the bench as this under-achieved squad finally found something new to celebrate.
Los Angeles were relegated from playoff contention on Tuesday, absorbing the final blow in one of the most embarrassing seasons in recent NBA history.
“There’s a lot of joy in basketball that didn’t last this year because of what we were competing for and how we were falling short,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “It was nice to enjoy the W.”
The Lakers improved to 11–30 since January 7 when their supporting cast pulled off the win without their three injured stars and ailing backup Carmelo Anthony. James was ruled out of the season with an ankle injury earlier in the day, spoiling his bid to win his second NBA scoring title.
The absence of stars created opportunities for the likes of Johnson, who this season worked his way up from a string of exemptions to a regular role for the Lakers. Eight Lakers scored in double digits.
“I’m looking forward to being here if they can find me,” Johnson said of next season. “I’ve been through the entire Lakers organization this year, from the G League to the NBA. I’d love to have the opportunity to take the whole summer and get involved in what they do.”
Jaylen Hoard had a career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds, and Georgios Kalitzakis scored a career-high 25 points, while the Thunder used only six players in their 15th loss in 19 games. Oklahoma City is finishing its first back-to-back losing season since relocating to the City of Los Angeles in 2008 with two games.
“He played a lot of minutes,” Thunder coach Marc Degnault said of his six-man rotation. “There are a lot of games left, so this is a good opportunity for them to get out there and play. He just kept his head down and competed, and I’m proud of him for that. ,
Greek rookie Kalaitzakis, who started the season with Milwaukee, scored in double digits for the third time in four days since signing with the Thunder from the G League last Tuesday.
Hoard also casts his eye on his latest numbers, while the three-year NBA legend is getting his first extended game time of the season this month.
“Just knowing that we have a lot of guys out there, I know that if I make a few mistakes here and there, I’ll probably stay in the game,” Hoard said. “It’s just letting me play free.”
Thunder: Isaiah Robbie took a hard fall in the first quarter and was out of the game, but returned with a foul.
Lakers: Gabriel received a standard NBA contract back in the day, putting his solid game break since joining L.A. on a two-way contract on March 1. … Davis, Westbrook and Anthony are not out for Sunday’s season finale, Vogel said. … Kendrick Nunn missed his 81st game in a row with a bone injury to his right knee, a preseason injury initially expected to sideline him for three weeks. He has a $5.25 million player option for next season after never playing this season.
The game could also be a farewell to Los Angeles for Vogel, who is likely to be the man of fall for the Lakers’ woes. Vogel led the Lakers to their 17th championship in the Florida Bubble only 18 months ago, but they lost in the first round of last year’s playoffs before their current season’s faceplant.
Vogel has repeatedly denied speculation about his future in recent weeks.
the biggest problem
With James out for the season, the Lakers’ top three players have only managed to appear in 21 games together this season.
The Lakers celebrated the upcoming 75th birthday of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at halftime. Several former teammates joined the NBA’s career scoring leader at midcourt as Herbie Hancock served him on a giant cake. Abdul-Jabbar turned 75 on 16 April.
Thunder: In Shear on Sunday.
Lakers: Sunday at the Nuggets.
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