As John Sterling (the voice of the New York Yankees) would put it if he were calling this game, the Lakers Win! Theeeee Lakers Win!
Yes, the Lakers beat the Thunder in a Game Six thriller, 95-94 that was as thrilling and fun to watch as any game so far this playoff season (well, maybe that Game Four in the Miami-Boston series would rank up there for me personally, since I'm a Heat fan, but you know what I mean...lol).
Down 94-93, Kobe Bryant lofted a 13-Foot jumper along the right baseline with 1.8 seconds to go in the hard-fought battle between his World Champion Los Angeles Lakers and the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder franchise led by two young superstars, and you just knew it was going to go in and seal the fate of the fledgling eighth-seeded squad.
However, surprisingly, that shot didn’t go in, yet luck be a lady tonight, the magic was with the Lakers in the end. Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and scored a putback layup with just 0.5 seconds left on the clock, effectively sealing the deal for the Lakers as they closed out Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and company in one of the most hard-fought 4-2 series victories they’ve likely ever played in the first round.
Gasol’s brilliance on the court wasn’t confined to that one putback, either, as he finished the night with 18 rebounds. Sure, he went 4-of-11 from the field, and only scored nine points, but his contributions on the boards, quite literally, saved the season for the NBA Champion Lakers.
For who knows what might have occurred had Kobe’s shot simply clanged off the rim and bounced into the hands of a Thunder player? The Lakers had home-court advantage for Game Seven, but that’s never a guarantee.
Despite Bryant’s errant shot in the end, he too played brilliantly, scoring 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting from the field, 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe to go along with his seven rebounds and three assists.
The only other players in double-figures for the Lakers on the night were Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown. Fisher scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point land, while dishing out six assists and snatching one steal, while Brown also scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, 1-of-3 from downtown.
Others on the Lakers made their presence felt even though they didn’t light up the statsheet in scoring, as Lamar Odom had nine points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 from three-point range while hauling in seven rebounds and assisting his teammates twice. He also blocked three shots, one very important one late in the fourth quarter.
Luke Walton also didn’t light much up in his 11 minutes on the court, but did hit two crucial shots late in the fourth, including a clutch three-point dagger.
The Thunder were led by their dynamic duo, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but had a total of five players in double-figures, including Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, and Serge Ibaka.
Durant led Oklahoma in scoring, as he has all year, putting the ball in the basket for a point total of 26. However, he struggled mightily from the field, shooting only 5-of-23 from the floor and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. What saved him from a horrible statline was getting to the charity stripe and sinking 14-of-15 from the line.
Westbrook didn’t shoot the ball much better, as he was 7-of-20 from the field in scoring his 21 points on the night. He was even worse from downtown, shooting 1-of-6 from beyond the three-point line (including the final shot of the game that could have won it for the Thunder). He too, though, earned some of his points from the charity stripe, sinking 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Nenad Krstic was the only player to notch a double-double on the night, scoring 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting and snatching down 11 rebounds for his erstwhile franchise. Jeff Green scored more, and more efficiently than his other three teammates, as he ended up with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, while grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three assists.
What this game came down to, though, was not stats, but a will to win. The Lakers showed that will, as they clawed their way to a victory in both the game, and the series, where their mettle was tested far beyond anything they’d anticipated.
For many, this may seem a harbinger of things to come for the Lakers, believing they will easily exit the postseason once they face their second-round opponent. To me, this victory, in the game and series, does the exact opposite. It has, like working with hot metal and dousing it quickly in water, tempered the Lakers for the battles to come.
While I’m no fan of the Lakers, as any Lakers fan on this website will tell you (especially Hadarii…lol), I must give them credit where credit is due.
They played excellently throughout this game, and throughout this series. And don’t let the fact the Thunder won two games fool you in that regard. The Thunder were a surprisingly dangerous first-round opponent with two very hungry young players.
However, I don’t envy the Jazz the work they have cut out for them taking on Los Angeles.
So, to my good friend, Hadarii, and all Lakers fans, I say congrats. You’ve cleared the first hurdle on your run to greatness. Let’s see if you can clear the next one.