The reserves combined for 32 points and 8 assists.
The Lakers shot 54%.
Kobe Bryant only scored 13 points on 4-9 and the Lakers still won the game.
What do the items on the list have in common? We can’t remember the last time they occurred! The Lakers reminded everyone tonight, however, that in the Department of Control and Composure, they can still run supreme. This team does not acknowledge discouragement and won’t even entertain failure; despite appearing less than their stellar selves. If someone else wanted that NBA Championship, it would have to be pried from their hands. The Thunder have tried, respectably, to do the prying, but the Lakers continue to hold their grip.
The two losses in Oklahoma City (the last one a complete beat down by the home team), was enough to send fans and media in a tizzy over the team that many thought would do some sweeping in the first round. With the series tied 2-2, that panic button was nearing its purpose… until tonight.
Like Kenny Smith said, “the playoffs are about adjustment and advancement. It’s not about winning every game.”
Tonight, the Lakers not only talked us off the ledge, they darn well pulled us into safety. Simply put, they played with an energy that the Thunder could not match; a veteran savvy that the Thunder could not duplicate; a tall order that the Thunder could not fulfill… not tonight in this arena.
The Lakers started the game quickly, going 8-0 before the first time out, allowing the Thunder to score only on freethrows until Kevin Durant hit their very first field goal at the 5:45 mark of the first quarter.
The Lakers’ defense was stingy this evening, with Kobe Bryant offering to guard Russell Westbrook into a 15-point, 4-13 type of night. Kobe himself shot only 4-9 to collect his 13 points, but he also had seven assists, two steals and willed Russell into eight turnovers.
Kevin Durant, still hounded by Ron Artest, shot 5-14 for his 17 points and was never able to find his offensive rhythm. Ron, on the other hand, traded in his 3-point shot attempts, for higher percentage looks in the paint. He collected 14 points, five assists and two steals.
The Thunder found no flow to their game tonight, on either end of the court. In the first four games, the Thunder outshined the Lakers in fastbreak points, 72-17. Tonight, the Lakers allowed them 7 and no more. The Thunder were also out-rebounded (45-42), out-assisted (27-18), out-stealed (10-6) and out-blocked (10-3). Points in the paint? Lakers – 58, Thunder – 26.
Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol proved tonight that they can play together and play efficiently. Andrew’s first field goal was a lob from Kobe, his second a wrap-around entry pass from Pau. It was four easy points for a young man, who for the first time in his career, is playing in the post-season with a hop in his step rather than a limp in his stride. Every dunk seemed to give him more power and every rebound appeared meant for his hands. Ending the evening with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew’s presence on the floor is simply invaluable.
Speaking of invaluable — where would the triangle offense be without Pau these days? There is one thing Pau is just as skilled with other than scoring — passing. He seems to see everything that’s happening around him on the court. He sees teammates diving, teammates open, teammates rising for a lob. With 25 points and 11 rebounds, Pau and the Lakers took advantage (finally and again) of their advantage — length!
The Lakers won this game, and won it convincingly, because they played with a serious amount of focus, a contagious energy that fed their teammates and the crowd, and there was a sense of ownership on their part. For the first time in this post-season, the Lakers looked like they were playing for something other than the Larry O’Brien trophy. For the first time in these two weeks, the Lakers looked like they were playing for each other.
In his postgame interview, Patrick O’Neal asked Andrew Bynum if the team felt less pressure knowing that they’d have Game 7 at home if they should lose on Friday. Andrew answered, “No, we have to close them out, send a message to the rest of the league.” To the rest of the league.
If the Lakers can close out this series on Friday, that message will be loud and clear — if you want our Championship, you’ll have to fight us for it. Hopefully on Friday, that message will be as good as sent!
Pre-game Thoughts: The series is tied 2-2. It’s time to take advantage of homecourt advantage.
Half-time Thoughts: 34-55 – Appears to be an old fashioned beatdown so far. Hopefully, the Lakers can maintain it for another 24 minutes.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Pass — every Laker played with energy and purpose today!
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol — It’s exciting when the big men on the team play like it. Tonight, Andrew and Pau combined for 46 points, 22 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks!