Thunder vs. Lakers: Video Highlights, Twitter Reaction, Grades and More
The Los Angeles Lakers made an incredible 112-106 double-overtime comeback win over the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to the heroics of Kobe Bryant, but the game was overshadowed by the lack of peace by Metta World Peace.
In the second quarter, he drilled James Harden with a vicious elbow to the side of his head that will likely result in a suspension. After doing so much hard work to repair his image, this is a huge step back in that process. He’ll likely be MIA for at least one playoff game.
It overshadowed a contest that had the intensity of the Western Conference finals. The physicality and sheer effort presented in this one made every NBA fan drool with anticipation for the playoffs to arrive. The Lakers erased an 18-point deficit because of the heroics of the one they call Kobe. He drilled two three-pointers in the final two minutes to ensure the game went to OT, then took over from there.
The big issue for the Lakers early on was the lack of production from their big three. Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol shot a combined 21-of-59 (35 percent) from the floor as the Thunder defense contested seemingly every shot.
Poor shooting in general was the story of the game. Thanks in large part to Russell Westbrook’s 3-of-22 performance, the Thunder shot 37-of-101 from the floor for an abysmal 36 percent. The Lakers weren’t much better, connecting on 41-of-106 (38 percent) of their shots.
With the win, LA stays in front of the cross-town rival Clippers for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, likely avoiding the dangerous Memphis Grizzles in the first round. Assuming it can beat the Sacramento Kings, LA will end up with the three-seed.
The loss drops the Thunder a full game back of San Antonio for the No. 1 seed, with the Spurs scheduled to play the Cleveland Cavaliers later tonight. With only two games remaining, this game might have just cost them a chance to secure home court throughout the playoffs.
The elbow heard ‘round the world came in the second quarter when Artest had just scored a bucket. He was clearly looking very emotional and let that get the best of him.
Obviously, he is going to be nailed with a suspension; the only question is, how long. I personally feel like anything over five games would be too much. Sure, he is a repeat offender, and sure, it was clearly a malicious act, but Harden wasn’t seriously hurt and will not be missing any games because of it.
Expect David Stern to announce the penalty on Monday.
The first half of the game (won by the Thunder, 52-47) featured plenty of Durant. But it also featured lots of fast-break points, another reminder that this compacted NBA schedule has created a general sense of laziness on defense that leads to easy buckets.
The Twitterverse was set ablaze after the Artest elbow. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated believes the commissioner may take a page out of the NFL and NHL’s book when it comes to penalizing a player for a venomous act:
Don't think David Stern will overlook the hardline the NHL, NFL have taken on cheap shots. Suspension could be longer than many think.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 22, 2012
Dan Wolken of The Daily makes a rather comedic joke about the man formerly known as Ron Artest’s new name:
If that's what World Peace looks like, I'd hate to see what Metta Cold War is capable of.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) April 22, 2012
World Peace didn't say a whole lot to reporters after the game, but he did come of sounding unapologetic, as reported by Kevin Ding of the Orange Country Register:
Metta: "I got really emotional, really excited. And it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with the unintentional elbow."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) April 22, 2012
World Peace went on Twitter for an apology of sorts to Harden:
Hope James Hardin is ok... I remember when I hit by Marc Gasol the same way.. I was spitting up blood and a headache during the game...— Metta WorldPeace (@MettaWorldPeace) April 22, 2012
The LA Times’ Mark Medina points out that famous Laker fan Jack Nicholson turned 75 today. What a great birthday present:
Staples Center wishes Jack Nicholson Happy Birthday. Jack stands up soaking it all in. Fans give him standing ovation— Mark Medina (@MarkGMedina) April 22, 2012
Arash Markazi of ESPN LA was one of the many to be absolutely shocked about the performance of the previously seldomly used Jordan Hill:
Jordan Hillgot a standing ovation as he was subbed out. #TweetsIDidntExpectToWriteToday— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 22, 2012
After playing an incredibly mediocre three quarters, when the Lakers needed him the most, Kobe answered the bell as Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe points out:
Kobe in 4thQ and OTS: 5-of-11 from floor, 3-of-3 from the line. Very good work.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_SI) April 22, 2012
Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine sums it up best once the final horn on this puppy sounded:
This Lakers/Thunder game has me wishing the Playoffs started tonight.— Lang Whitaker (@langwhitaker) April 22, 2012
Kevin Durant: B-
While he may have not been the most efficient scorer on Sunday (11-of-34), he still ended up with 35 points and eight rebounds. The five turnovers were a bit troubling, but it was his decision-making down the stretch that’s concerning.
My main problem was his decision to settle for the fall-away three-pointer at the end of regulation. With Devin Ebanks guarding him, he could have gotten a much better look. He also almost turned the ball over with 2.3 seconds remaining in the first OT with another shot to win the game, effectively erasing any chances of winning the game.
Kobe was certainly more clutch than Durant on this night.
Russell Westbrook: D-
The volume shooter couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. He was 3-of-22 from the floor, as he wouldn’t let brick after deter him brick deter him from taking another one. While he did end up with 10 assists, he was looking to shoot virtually every time he caught the rock.
There is no question he is going to shoot the Thunder out of a win at some point in this postseason.
Serge Ibaka: A
What a terrific all-around performance from the shot blocking machine. He registered 18 points, 14 rebounds and a ridiculous seven blocks.
His presence in the paint is incredibly important for this team, and he enters the postseason as potentially the second most important player on the Thunder after Durant.
Kobe Bryant: B
Bryant was off for the vast majority of the afternoon. He seemed hesitant and disappeared for large stretches of the game. But he nailed an incredible one-footed three-pointer with 1:21 remaining in the fourth to give the Lakers the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game. After nailing another one with 50 seconds remaining, the Thunder were the team that was on their heels.
There is no doubt about who the clutchest player in the NBA is.
Pau Gasol: B
A stat-stuffing effort from Gasol on this night.
He had 20 points, 14 rebounds to go along with nine assists. Toss in a block and two steals, and Gasol was a fantasy players dream on Sunday.
Jordan Hill: A-
After pleading to get some burn, finally, Mike Brown answered his request, and Hill didn’t disappoint.
He logged 35 minutes and ended up with 14 points and 15 rebounds to earn himself some serious cred as the playoffs inch closer.
With Artest likely facing a suspension into the playoffs, Hill suddenly emerges as an extremely important piece of the puzzle.
Andrew Bynum: F
His immaturity has popped up again.
He did something because Coach Brown refused to play him after about midway through the third quarter. He was seen sulking on the bench, looking mentally checked out. He didn’t even go into team huddles at times.
This should not be happening a week from the playoffs.
With a playoff-like atmosphere, I think it’s pretty clear these two teams will be meeting in the conference semis next month.
I speak for all NBA fans when I say, can’t wait!
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