It was an early indication of things to come. First, there was the long two over the outstretched arms of Thabo Sefolosha. Then it was a putback after a Derek Fisher miss. On this night, Kobe Bryant would not wait for his opportunity to shoot, nor decide to play facilitator first, scorer second. Tonight, Kobe walked straight up to the hoop and set up their date.
Mamba was due tonight and the Lakers would be happy to witness.
Kobe still shot only 12-28 from the field, but 42% is a vast improvement from the 30+% he had been shooting in the last few games.
The Lakers defense limited the Oklahoma City Thunder to 28% shooting in the first quarter and 39.2% for the game. The home team led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, and they forced 17 turnovers in all for the visiting team. It would be quite the staggering stat if the Lakers hadn’t collected 18 of their own turnovers.
In Round 2 of his attempt at limiting Kevin Durant, Ron Artest continued to hound the league’s leading scorer. Shooting 12-26, Kevin still managed to get 32 points but also suffered eight turnovers. Whatever it was that bothered Kevin in Game 1, seemed to wane as Game 2 progressed. He found ways to move past or around his defenders, shoot over Ron Artest, or just ram right through them to get to the hoop.
It will continue to be a difficult task for whoever is assigned to guard someone as talented as Kevin Durant, but the Lakers will lean on Ron and he has to ask for help on defense when it’s necessary. There’s only so many ways to stop such a gifted scorer.
The Lakers did a good job keeping Russell Westbrook at bay. He still had 19 points from 5-10 shooting, but he played only 29 minutes due to early foul trouble thanks in part to Derek Fisher. He’s still being allowed to penetrate to the basket, which is something the Laker bigs need to prepare for in the coming games.
Other than Pau Gasol, who finished with 25 points on 8-14, 12 rebounds and 2 assists, the Laker bigs were not a prominent factor in tonight’s win. Andrew Bynum only attempted nine shots to get his six points, but he did collect 10 rebounds. Lamar Odom, again coming off the bench, had only four points and eight rebounds. In order to ensure the success of this series for the Lakers, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum have to produce more; more scoring, more rebounds, more blocks.
And speaking of blocks, the Thunder collected 17 tonight. The Lakers poor field goal percentage 37.5% was due in large part to the blocking proficiency of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The game came down to the very last few seconds. Like in Game 1, each time the Lakers would create a lead, the Thunder would come rolling in with another run to catch up or take the lead themselves. In the end, the Lakers leaned on their defense to carry them to victory. Whether it was Ron poking the ball from behind, out of Kevin’s hand and into Shannon Brown’s; or perhaps Pau’s huge defensive rebound while the clock ran out — the beginners knew how to get the party started, but the veterans knew how to end with a bang. 92-95, 2 down, 14 to go.
It took the entire game, but on the evening of Chick Hearn’s statue unveiling, the Lakers eventually did shut that refrigerator door and yes, the Jell-O was left to jiggle.
Pre-game Thoughts: Worked all season to get it — protect your home court, Lakers.
Half-time Thoughts: Thunder pulled out a 21-8 run in the 2nd quarter to overtake the Lakers’ 11-point lead. Hopefully the Thunder’s momentum rubs off on their opponents!
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Derek Fisher and Ron Artest, who combined 2-11 from downtown. There is absolutely no excuse for veteran players to jack up 3-pointers when there is a whole shot clock left to get a better opportunity for a basket.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant — 43% shooting isn’t close to his most accurate season shooting percentage, but considering that he’s been shooting in the 30% range before tonight, this is encouraging. Those 39 points to lead all scores surely helped get this win.