OKLAHOMA CITY — First the Los Angeles Lakers learned they’d be playing without three starters on the second night of back-to-back games, an ill LeBron James joining injured Anthony Davis and Danny Green on the sideline.
“We expect to win,” coach Frank Vogel told reporters before the game.
Then Kyle Kuzma had a season-high 36 points and with the rest of the Lakers cast pulled out a 125-110 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
After the game it came to light that Rajon Rondo had injured the ring finger on his right hand and X-rays came back negative for a break. Evidently, he also had an issue with Thunder guard Chris Paul.
The Lakers said that Rondo, who started in place of James and had a near triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, has been listed as day to day. The Lakers play again Monday night at Staples Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rondo said he was injured in the first half. He started the game shooting six for six from the field, but finished 10 of 12, including one of six from three-point range.
“I don’t know what really happened,” Rondo said. “I looked it and it was just hurt.”
Rondo wouldn’t share any details about what happened between him and Paul.
What is known is that Paul fouled Rondo with 8 minutes and 26 seconds left in the third quarter. Rondo doubled over in pain and refused to leave the game when Vogel tried to insert Alex Caruso.
Rondo later had a discussion with referee Sean Wright, wanting to know why there wasn’t a review on the play in which Paul committed the foul.
“I just felt like that if that was me, I would have been thrown out or it would have been held up for a review,” Rondo said. “That’s all I told him. They wanted to move on so quickly from the play and didn’t really know what happened.”
What did happen?
“It’s in the past,” Rondo said. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I don’t think it was a clean play. But like I said … I guess it’s reputation, his versus mine.”
Rondo and Paul do have a bad history with each other.
Rondo was suspended for three games last season after the NBA determined that he spit on Paul, who was playing for the Rockets at the time.
The two had exchanged blows during that game at Staples Center last season.
Paul and Rondo didn’t say much to each other during the Thunder game.
Instead, Rondo and his teammates took care of business, building a 32-point lead that pushed the Lakers to their eight consecutive win.
Kuzma, who started in place of Davis, led the Lakers’ charge with a season-high 36 points.
Before the game, Vogel said, “We expect to win.”
Then he had seven players score in double figures, four off the bench.
Reserve center Dwight Howard had a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, Quinn Cook had 13 points, Troy Daniels 12 and Alex Caruso 11.
“We have great depth,” Vogel said. “We have a group that go out and defend for 48 minutes. You always have a chance. Then it’s about the offensive rhythm, and the way Rondo’s been playing, the way some of our wings have been playing, I felt like we had a strong chance of winning the game.”
Although James played against the Dallas Mavericks Friday night and had 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists in 32:16, he has been dealing with his illness for several days.
“His chest was burning all throughout the game,” Vogel said. “We had to get him out early in the first quarter. I was using timeouts to get him rest. But most of my timeouts was just centered around just helping him fight through the chest cold. So I knew that with the quick turnaround and recovery time, I think there was a chance he missed tonight.”
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