The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t so much take this game away from the Lakers as much as the Lakers handed it to them, wrapped in confidence and tied with a pretty purple and gold bow. “We’ll take the next two games, “ the Lakers said. “You can have this one.” Being the opportunists that they are, the Thunder replied, “Don’t mind if we do.” And they did, outscoring the defending champions 58-46 in the second half to win their first playoff game.
Similar to Games 1 and 2, the Lakers came out hot, going 10 points to zero before Coach of the Year Scotty Brooks called the first timeout of the game. The Lakers shot 7-7 from the field to begin, with every starter getting what they wanted from their offense.
Ron Artest scored the first two baskets. It was then followed by two
quick lobs for Andrew Bynum; one from Kobe Bryant and another from Derek Fisher. Kobe’s first shot came from behind the arc, and even Derek’s shots were falling after a notable shooting slump of late. Pau Gasol scored off a rebound from a blocked lay-up. For what appeared to be his prime way to score, Andrew was receiving lob pass after lob pass.
After the first quarter, the Lakers were shooting a much-improved 55% from the field, the Thunder, just 35% and for all it was worth, the road team had only one turnover.
In the second and third quarters, the Laker lead, as per usual, rose and plummeted. Each time the Thunder cut it down, Kobe would hit one from downtown, going 4 of 5 from the 3-point line in that first half. A three-pointer here, a signature lefty-hook from Pau there and the Lakers appeared to have control of the game no matter what the Thunder threw at them.
No matter the short runs, no matter the huge disparity in free throw attempts (the Lakers’ first attempt from the charity stripe came at the 2:48 minute mark in the second quarter when Derek was fouled on a three-pointer. He made all three. And in the end, the Lakers lost the free throw battle 12 attempts to 34!), the Lakers managed to go into halftime with a 50-43 lead.
The third quarter began well for the visitors, with Pau starting to find his rhythm and Kobe surpassing Jerry West as the Lakers all-time leading scorer in the playoffs. Unfortunately, a string of bad possessions invited the Thunder right back into the game, and after a Russell Westbrook dunk and Kevin Durant three, the home crowd finally found cause to cheer. After Oklahoma City tied the game at 74, it was all Thunder until the final buzzer.
Kevin Durant, well-guarded all evening, began just 1-9 from the field, the majority of his points coming at the free throw line. But give Kevin and his team an inch, and they’ll take a mile. Helping to bring the win home were Russell Westbrook and reserve, James Harden who, with Kevin, combined for 74 of the Thunder’s 101 points.
On a night where the Lakers finally found their offense, where every starter scored in double figures, it’s a real wonder how mental lapses could occur so late in the game where the veterans should have excelled. To leave behind what was working, which was using their inside-out game, to instead run the shot clock by passing around the perimeter, and then handing off to Kobe who had no choice but to shoot with so few seconds left to make a proper play — where are the experienced know-it-alls in this game?!
Lamar Odom, who has yet to produce a thing to help his team in this series, was advised during a timeout by both Kobe and Ron, that he wasn’t being guarded. Yet he still managed to turn in a paltry 8 points, 6 rebounds and zero assists. What’s it going to take to get Lamar into these games? Yes, it’s a good thing to be patient and to let the game come to you, which is how he operates. Nevertheless, when your teammates and coaches are practically calling out for your help, what is there to wait for?
The Lakers had this game in their favor through three quarters. They weren’t getting favorable calls on either end of the court, but they appeared to have control because they played their game, their pace, their offense. To stop doing what gives them so much success, is to give away what you know is rightfully yours. The Thunder, well, they’ll gladly take whatever you want to give them.
Pre-game Thoughts: The Lakers are supposed to lose this game, but let’s see if they can get themselves together to beat the odds.
Half-time Thoughts: 50-43: Lakers shooting 46% while the Thunder are shooting 32%. The Lakers should be up by double digits, but so far so good.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Lamar Odom — you really don’t get it? Your coaches and teammates have been begging you to be more active in this series and still you remain uncharacteristically slow to rebound and reluctant to attack the basket when no one in a Thunder uniform seem to pay you any attention. Baffling.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: The Oklahoma City Thunder, who played like veterans in the end when it sometimes counts the most. They never gave up, never shut down. There were no rookies in Oklahoma City tonight.