Lakers-Thunder: LA Wins, but Gives Thunder Confidence Heading into Game Three
Not even a week through the NBA playoffs and we have already been put through two heart-stopping finishes that have ended past midnight.
Let's face it, unless you were a Lakers fan, you were rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday Night in Los Angeles. As the fourth quarter loomed, you were having flashbacks of Rocky Balboa fighting Apollo Creed.
It was supposed to be a formality—the Lakers are the best team in the NBA and the Thunder fiercely fought for the final playoff spot. There was no real doubt outside of Oklahoma as to who would win this series.
That was until David grabbed his stones and confronted Goliath.
Of course, beating Goliath is not as simple as merely having the tools. You have to execute to the highest of your ability.
That's something the expansion franchise Oklahoma City Thunder did for 47 minutes and 58 seconds on Monday night. However, it was the two missing seconds that cost the Thunder the opportunity of a lifetime. All credit to the Los Angeles Lakers and their calm, precise, championship execution, but the Thunder blew that game.
The Lakers started the game the way many expected them to. An impressive first quarter saw them outscore the Thunder 26-18. But an even more impressive 29-point effort from the Thunder in the second quarter gave them an improbable halftime lead.
The Lakers retook the lead in the third quarter and the fairy tale effort from the Thunder seemed doomed for distant memory.
The Thunder took advantage of horrible fourth quarter shooting by the Lakers, which saw them shoot 28 percent, a far cry from their game average of 37. Behind Kevin Durant's 32 points, the expansion team from Oklahoma City was in prime position to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent NBA playoff history.
With the game tied 88-88 with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, both teams played cautiously and intelligently. The Lakers took the lead by way of free throws and missed opportunities by the Thunder. With 30 seconds remaining, Kevin Durant's game-winning three-point attempt hit iron, and the game looked over.
One free throw miss by Pau Gasol later, and the faces on the Thunder bench lit up with hope and anxiety. They wanted to win this game, badly.
The play Scott Brooks put together for the final shot of the game was executed perfectly by the team. Durant drew in three defenders the second he touched the ball. He was able to deliver a difficult pass to Jeff Green who had enough time to set his feet for a very makeable shot, while his teammate provided the screen needed.
It was a shot that had to be made, but wasn't. While the Thunder were in complete dejection as they left the court, you still had a sense that this thing was far from over.
Imagine the series being tied 1-1 and your confidence is through the roof after besting the defending NBA Champions. Not to mention returning home to a stadium of passionate, pumped fans to help cheer your team to victory. It's the thought that the Thunder players used for motivation as the Lakers raised the bet and their confidence was on the tip of a knife.
Now, it is only a dead dream. But only the score of the series is dead. The Thunder players must realize they fought with the best team in the NBA, in their house, for the entire game. A couple crushing misses at the end can be fixed with determination.
The Thunder can now choose to accept that their best isn't good enough to beat the Lakers and roll over at home. Or they can decide to raise their best so that it is good enough to beat the Lakers in front of their hometown fans.
I don't know what David was thinking as he cranked his arm back to throw that stone, but I can promise you it wasn't "I cannot do this."
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