LOS ANGELES — That’s how a homestand is supposed to be started.
The last time the Lakers kicked off a lengthy stay in Los Angeles, they did so with a sluggish loss to the Miami Heat on Jan. 3, which started an eventual 2-3 homestand.
The Lakers’ sense of urgency to not let this opportunity pass them by, with their next five games in Los Angeles, was visible from the jump on Monday night, resulting in a 112-105 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Crypto.com Arena.
Returning to the starting unit that they began the season with, the Lakers (20-21) had the type of balance that Coach Darvin Ham and his team have been looking for nearly all season long.
Their stars, LeBron James (25 points, seven rebounds, six assists) and Anthony Davis (27 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two steals, one blocked shot), made their impacts felt from the outset. And the depth of the roster came through.
But when the game got tight late, with the Lakers’ 13-point fourth-quarter lead cut to six with 2:05 remaining, the Lakers’ top players worked together to help seal the victory: a James-Austin Reaves pick-and-roll, with Davis cutting baseline before James fed him for a dunk to give the Lakers a 108-100 lead with 51 seconds left.
The Thunder (27-12), who had the opportunity to tie the Minnesota Timberwolves (28-11) for the best record in the Western Conference, missed two 3-point attempts before Jalen Williams (25 points, six assists, three steals) made one after running off 23 seconds of game clock.
Reaves (15 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with seven assists) and Davis both made a pair of free throws down the stretch with the Thunder intentionally fouling.
The result was just the Lakers’ sixth win in their last 18 games, but there’s hope that it can be a spark for the kind of winning run they haven’t experienced in more than a month.
D’Angelo Russell, starting his second consecutive game after being in a reserve role for a few weeks, added 14 points and seven assists.
Rui Hachimura (12 points, two blocks) and Christian Wood (11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) made significant contributions off the bench. As did Jarred Vanderbilt, especially defensively with his three steals in 18 minutes.
Cam Reddish sat out with knee swelling, and the Lakers started Russell, Reaves, James, Davis and Taurean Prince for the first time since Nov. 8.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 24 points and six assists while playing through a right knee sprain for the Thunder, but Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey both struggled offensively and were held to 17 points combined.
Davis’ aggressiveness and Holmgren’s early foul trouble contributed to a 64-44 advantage for the Lakers on points in the paint.
The Lakers are responsible for two of the Thunder’s four losses in their last 16 games.
The Lakers continue their homestand when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
More to come on this story.