Yesterday’s Lakers-Thunder game was the only competitive—or interesting—game of the night. It came down to the last possession, where a missed three pointer at the buzzer gave Los Angeles the win. (Inexplicably, the shot was not taken by Durant. I totally don’t get that decision and I think we see decisions like it all too often.)
Both stars played well, with Durant scoring 32 points and Kobe with 39 points. As usual, Kobe posted many of his points in crunch time, scoring 15 in the fourth, while Durant seemed to disappear down the stretch. I can’t really blame Durant though, he’s young, it’s his first playoff experience, and it takes time to learn how to be a closer.
Let’s go over a few thoughts I had while watching this game.
Oklahoma City Thunder Looked Nervous
This team definitely still looks nervous to me, and I don’t blame them. They really got an intimidating first round matchup, and even if they could beat the Lakers, that last team meeting couldn’t have been encouraging.
"Alright guys, I know for almost all of you this is your first playoff experience, but don’t worry. Sure we are going on the road, against the defending champs, who have, arguably, one of the top ten best players of all time, two seven-footers, and tons of playoff experience. But if you play hard, and don’t think about the tremendous odds against you, or the enormous stage that you, as a small market team, are suddenly thrust upon, then I’m sure you can win one or two games…maybe?”
Either way, the nerves were showing as Oklahoma City was consistently short-arming shots, especially during one stretch in the second quarter. They seemed to settle it down a bit as the game went on, but once Kobe got going in the fourth, they looked like they were getting a little nervous again.
Is It Possible That Andrew Bynum Is Underrated?
For years I have been telling people that Bynum really didn’t matter, that he was an underachiever, lazy, unmotivated, and, more than anything else, not an impact player.
Now, I’m not saying his contract is a value by any stretch of the imagination, but watching the Lakers with and without Bynum, I am beginning to think that not only did I underrate him, but that he might be underrated in general.
Where Bynum’s impact really shows is when he and Gasol are both on the floor. That length around the basket is such a problem for opposing teams. Bynum may not get a ton of rebounds, but having him take up that much of the space opposite Gasol really cuts down opponents rebound opportunities, and allows the Lakers to aggressively track down tipped balls outside of his range (when they aren’t feeling too old to go after them).
Still it would be nice to see him jump for a rebound ever once in a while—though with those glass legs, maybe not.
Charles Barkley’s Halftime Comments
If you missed it, during halftime Charles Barkley said something that I have felt for many years now, “watching the Lakers is frustrating because they make the game hard.”
He was referring to the fact that the Lakers chose to play from the perimeter during the game, instead of delivering the ball down low and letting Pau and Bynum capitalize on their huge size advantage.
But it’s not just limited to that; for some reason this Laker team has a tendency to go away from something when it’s working.
It happens when Pau is being guarded by someone six inches shorter than him, but for some reason the rest of the team refuses to get the ball in his hands, opting instead to pass the ball to everyone but Pau.
Or when Kobe gets hot and whoever is playing the point decides to fake about 17 consecutive passes to him before sending it to Artest for a “well, I got the ball, I better dribble to my left a few times and throw it towards the basket” offensive highlight.
I don’t know what it is about this team, maybe it’s a Hollywood thing, but they refuse to win in a smart, predictable, grind-it-out way; instead, they have to be dramatic.
Despite the fact that the Lakers are up 2-0, this series has been really close, and with the hometown crowd behind them, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thunder took both games at Oklahoma City.
Side note: With 5:51 left in the third quarter, Russell Westbrook was 18 inches away from creating one of the greatest posters of all time. Had he not gotten fouled, that dunk would have been absolutely ridiculous.