Blog Entry

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

Posted on: April 25, 2010 1:36 am
 

When the Thunder blew out the Lakers in a meaningless regular season game in March, it was easy to chalk it up to your garden variety Laker boredom and malaise. The indignity of the defending champs losing by 16 points to the youngest team in the NBA, and the team with the lowest effective payroll, surely was an aberration -- something that certainly wouldn't be replicated in the playoffs.

As it turns out, it wasn't. What happened to the Lakers Saturday night at the raucous Ford Center was worse.

Much worse.

A 110-89 loss to the Thunder in Game 4 of their first-round series should send the Lakers back to L.A. with more than a 2-2 series on their hands. It should send them back with some doubts.

Yes, we've seen this from the Lakers before. They toyed around with the Rockets and needed seven games to beat them last postseason -- a team they should've beaten in five. But remember, that wasn't the first round, where L.A. strolled past the Jazz in five games. If you've got designs on playing deep into June and cradling the championship trophy when it's over, you don't want to be pushed to the limit in the first round.

This is also different than the Houston series in that the Lakers were never outmatched by the Rockets; they merely were bored with them and didn't beat them fast enough. After two convincing wins on their home floor, the Thunder are starting to look like a bad matchup for L.A. -- much the way the Hawks were a tough matchup for the Celtics when Boston needed seven games to get past Atlanta in the first round two years ago. The Celtics, of course, went on to win the title.

"We have a team that's playing extremely well right now that we have to deal with," said Kobe Bryant, who was in facilitator mode again and had only 12 points -- his lowest output in a playoff game since the 2004 NBA Finals. "It's not something that we lost swagger. They defended their home court, and now it's our turn."

And that is the question: Are the Thunder good enough and mentally tough enough to take the next step and win a game in Staples Center?

Bryant, who didn't score a point until the second quarter Saturday night, doesn't seem concerned. The Lakers have been here before. The Thunder have not.

"We didn't need this for this team to get our attention," Bryant said. "They have our attention. They just beat us. ... We wanted to win both of these games and be done with it. It's not the reality of the situation. We've got a tough fight and it should be fun."

As nonplused as Bryant was with the developments, Kevin Durant must've been reading from the same playbook. Asked in the sideline interview why he didn't seem overly impressed with the Thunder's handiwork, Durant said, "It's a seven-game series."

It is; a series that the Lakers remain the overwhelming favorites to win.

But as much as we must take into consideration the Lakers' experience, their home-court advantage, and Bryant's ruthlessness, we also have to acknowledge that the Thunder have been ahead of schedule before. They won 23 games a year ago and weren't supposed to blossom into a playoff team until next season. Yet they're here. They won't get to the free-throw line 48 times in Game 5 -- a 20-attempt advantage over the passive Lakers. But some of their advantages -- speed, quickness, and rebounding -- translate to winning on the road. So does Russell Westbrook, who is shooting 55 percent and averaging 21.8 points per game in the first four games of the series with a grand total of six turnovers. Durant is the superstar, but the Lakers' problems begin and end with Westbrook.

Do I think the Thunder can stun the Lakers at Staples and turn this series into a potential knockout blow to the defending champs? No, not really. But they've shown me enough so I won't be surprised if they do.

"We said at the beginning of the series that this wasn't going to be easy," Bryant said. "This is going to be a long series. It's going to be a dogfight."

Already is.

 

Comments

Since: Apr 26, 2010
Posted on: April 26, 2010 2:36 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

The Lakers didn't use the bigs, or at least not much. I am always frustrated by these games when the Lakers don't stick to their game plan and seem to think they will still win a game. Make a concerted effort to play the post game for the bulk of the next game. It's also time for Phil to bench Ron Artest. Ron has been average this year, and his performance in the playoffs has been dreadful.  Here is where the Lakers, specifically Mitch made a bad move in dealing Trevor Ariza for Ron.  Ron had a good year with the Rockets but his year with the Lakers has been rocky at best. Phil needs to bench him and put Shannon Brown as a starter. Shannon is an explosive scorer. He won't stop Kevin, but at least will give Lakers  much needed offense and youth in their lineup. Ron and Lamar can lead the bench. Lamar needs to assert himself. No more excuses. Lakers need to pound the ball in with authority and play with passion. It's now or never.



Since: May 26, 2009
Posted on: April 26, 2010 1:56 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

I don't know if Kobe was trying to get on Phil's nerves by "playing facilitator" during that disastrous 1st quarter on Saturday, but I do know that Jackson had recently criticized Bryant's shot selection in the media.


One thing's for sure: a true champion doesn't back down from challenges. It would have been better for Bryant to shoot 12/45 and score 24 points (the least possible output from 12 field goal conversions) than to expend no effort at all during a blow-out loss. There was nothing impressive nor mature about his playing "facilitator" in game 4. That wasn't LeBron-esque at all. Trust me... I've been watching LeBron James slowly eliminate my hometown Bulls for a week now Tongue out . The only thing Kobe showed was that he was both tired and hurting. 86 games into the season that's completely understandable. Sit down for one night and return well-rested for game 5. But when you suit up for a game you can never allow yourself to be embarrassed. If you're gonna play, then play . His teammates pattern his sense of urgency. When he plays hard they play hard. When he hesitates they hesitate. Odom, Bynum, Gasol, and Artest are not floor leaders. The only guy who leads is Bryant.



Since: Sep 10, 2006
Posted on: April 25, 2010 9:09 pm
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

shut up , idiot.



Since: Oct 18, 2008
Posted on: April 25, 2010 4:36 pm
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

This is what I've been saying. The thunder's loses are  not nearly as bad as the lackers loses. OKC could have won game 2 and didn't get blown out in game 1. People made it out like they did because so many expected them to but after the first quarter they played the lackers very tough. One thing is right. The Thunder are a very bad matchup for the lackers. Thunder are young athletic and very talented and they will never stop coming after the lackers.



Since: Oct 5, 2007
Posted on: April 25, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Lebron!

Right?!




Since: Dec 12, 2009
Posted on: April 25, 2010 11:48 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

"This is also different than the Houston series in that the Lakers were never outmatched by the Rockets; they merely were bored with them and didn't beat them fast enough. After two convincing wins on their home floor, the Thunder are starting to look like a bad matchup for L.A. -- much the way the  were a tough matchup for the  when Boston needed seven games to get past Atlanta in the first round two years ago. The Celtics, of course, went on to win the title."
There are major differences between this series and that Hawks/Celtics series. The Celtics outscored the Hawks by 28 points through the first 4 games and by 84 points for the series overall; OKC has outscored LA by 15 points through the first 4 games of this series. Unlike that Celtics series, where Boston just lost some close games in Atlanta but thoroughly dominated in Boston, the Thunder have clearly outplayed the Lakers through the first 4 games of this series. This series ought to be much more concerning for the Lakers than that Atlanta series was for the Celtics



Since: Oct 16, 2007
Posted on: April 25, 2010 10:47 am
 

You Were Right Berger

After that regular season win by the Thunder over the Lakers you posted a little something about how the Thunder could be a problem for L.A. I blasted at the time for being a lazy writer, but the truth is, you were right. I'm not sure I see the Thunder pulling off a Game 7 win, but if they can win Game 5 it might be over for the Lakers. The Celtics precedent bears remembering though.



Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: April 25, 2010 3:46 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

It is; a series that the Lakers remain the overwhelming favorites to win.
I guess Bynum and Gasol have to play a LOT better, then.  So does your boy Kobe.

The Lakers have a clear advantage at PF and C, right?  So they've got to exploit that.

The team I saw tonight in OKC looked old and slow.  Far from an "overwhelming favorite", which honestly sounds like sucking up to your boy Kobe.



Since: Feb 2, 2007
Posted on: April 25, 2010 3:14 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

The Lakers are not going to even make the NBA finals. They are passionless. They havent showed a killer instinct in over a month. Its too bad because Id much prefer kobe winning instead of Lebron.



Since: Feb 14, 2009
Posted on: April 25, 2010 2:17 am
 

Next step for Thunder: Win in L.A.

Until the Lakers put forth anything even resembling a decent effort in any of these games, its too hard to gauge what they're capable of. So far, in 4 games, they have put forth what seems like extremely minimal effort, with the 2 games at Staples going their way and the two games at Ford going the Thunder's way in resounding fashion.

Game 5 might tell the tale. If the Lakers come out and actually compete, put forth effort towards defending, getting rebounds, pushing the ball inside and having their inside players jockey for position and finish around the rim, and still lose, then I will definitely be worried as a lakers fan.

Right now, I see a disinterested Lakers team losing to a great, energetic Thunder team that is taking advantage of their lethargy. If an engaged Lakers team loses Game 5 at home, then this series might just be close to over, with an 8 beating a 1 for the first time since Golden State beat Dallas.


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