UPI – OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City has been a winner for a while, making the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons.
The Thunder’s offseason moves were aimed at taking the team to the next level, to compete with Golden State atop the Western Conference. The moves haven’t led there so far, with Oklahoma City sputtering to a 24-20 start.
The Los Angeles Lakers, for so long one of the league’s model franchises, are just trying to get back to the point of respectability. The Lakers have missed the playoffs for four consecutive seasons and seem destined to make it a fifth, entering Wednesday’s game in Oklahoma City 15-28.
The process of building can be difficult and Lakers coach Luke Walton is working toward the path of sustained success instead of seeking out immediate but unsustainable boosts.
“Coming down, I was aware of what we were trying to do. We’re trying to build something where we can be really good again for a long time,” Walton told reporters Tuesday. “I know that takes time. It takes failing. It takes coming together as a group. It is challenging going through it. You want to win now. You want instant gratification.
“But that’s not the way it works in this league.”
For the Thunder, Billy Donovan continues to search for combinations that lead to success.
Much of the season, that’s meant tinkering with his second unit to find a combination that works.
Lately, Donovan has been going to a lineup of all reserves on the floor, with Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George heading to the bench instead of Anthony or George remaining out.
It’s a small sample size, but over the last two games the lineup of Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis and Patrick Patterson has outscored their opponents by 18.9 points per 100 possessions in their 15 minutes on the floor together — second to the starters as far as usage together.
“As long as that second unit can keep developing a chemistry and a cohesiveness and they can defend and generate good shots, I feel good about that,” Donovan said.
That pairing also keeps Anthony and George on the floor together for longer, creating catch-and-shoot 3-point chances for Anthony off Westbrook’s penetration and keeping George in the rhythm he’s become accustomed to during his time in the league.
The Lakers are trying to regain some momentum after having their season-high four-game winning streak snapped with a Monday loss at Memphis.
That stretch came on the heels of a season-long nine-game losing streak.
Los Angeles hasn’t had much luck in Oklahoma City in recent years, dropping 10 consecutive games at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Lakers’ last win in Oklahoma City came Feb. 27, 2014.
Both teams figure to be plenty impacted by injuries.
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball will likely miss his second consecutive game with swelling in his left knee.
The Lakers figure to have forward Brandon Ingram available after he missed the loss at Memphis with a left ankle sprain.
Oklahoma City guard Andre Roberson has missed the last eight games with patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Roberson is close to returning and participated in Tuesday’s light, no-contact practice but his status for Wednesday’s game won’t be determined until game day.