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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Thunder game 5: Kobe brings the tough defense and the Lakers bring the blowout

Apr 28, 2010, 3:15 AM EDT

Bryant_Gasol.jpgKobe Bryant is too old. He’s too injured. He’s no longer explosive. He’s played to many minutes over too many years. He’s lost a couple steps. He’s not THAT Kobe Bryant anymore.

Don’t try to sell that to Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

“Kobe had an impact on the game the stat sheet doesn’t show,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “The guy was competing and set the tone defensively… He won the game with this toughness tonight.”

Kobe took on the job of stopping Russell Westbrook and sparked the Lakers best game of this season. It was over at half, frankly, but you have to play the full 48 so after extensive garbage time (like the entire fourth quarter) it ended 111-87 Lakers. Los Angeles now leads the series three games to two.

The Lakers have thrown a big punch, but not a knockout one — game six is Friday night back in the thunderous Ford Center. The Thunder will get up off the mat, the test goes to them to see how much fight they have left.

After film session on Monday Bryant asked Phil Jackson if he could guard Westbrook, the strong and speedy point guard that had torn up the Lakers defense for two games. Westbrook had triggered a Thunder fast break that ran past the Lakers and made them look old in tying up the series.

The switch changed the defensive attitude of the Lakers. After giving up 61 points at the rim in two games in Oklahoma City — largely on transition plays — the Lakers held the Thunder to 7 fast break points in this game. Another part of that was a strategy that had Fisher go in to rebound and Ron Artest rotate back to be on defense. But the Lakers as a team hustled back and were physical (something the referees were letting go).

“It was going to be contested,” Kobe said of the Lakers defensive tone. “They weren’t going to just get to drive the ball to the basket and get layups and dunks uncontested. They were going to have to make tough shots.”

In the half-court, shooting jumpers, the Thunder have struggled all series. Tuesday night was no different. The Lakers got the game they wanted and raced out to a 14-1 lead — and unlike the fast lead in game three in Oklahoma City, the Lakers never let the Thunder back in. In the first half, the Thunder were 6 of 21 on jump shots. Nothing would fall. Nothing would change. It was just one of those nights for Oklahoma City.

On offense, the Lakers had the best ball movement they have had in months. Swinging side-to-side opened up passing lanes inside. It also opened up driving lanes for Kobe, who fed his big men. Kobe added he was good with that.

“I’ll tell you what, if I didn’t have Pau, Andrew, the crew that I have, I’d score 45 and everybody’d say ‘he shoots too much’,” Bryant said. “I have a great crew, I don’t need to do that. I can pick my poison, so when I get in the paint teams have to make choices. If they play me I’ll pass to my guys and they’ll have a big night. If not I’ll have a big night. It’s as simple as that.”

The Thunder tried everything – even a zone defense for a while in the third — but nothing worked. Gasol had 25, Bynum had 21. This was the Lakers night. This was Kobe’s night.

Friday night… that remains to be seen. The Oklahoma City fans will come to play, and Kevin Durant admitted the team really feeds on that. The Lakers will throw another big punch and try to end this thing. What remains to be seen is if the young Thunder are good enough counterpunchers to extend the series to game seven.

  1. labos - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Dude. He was dissing OKC. No need to throw out the stats. As happy as they make me…
    Here are a few more.
    Most playoff games all time = LA
    Most ployoff winns all time = LA
    Most playoff points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks all time = LA
    Most hall of fame players from one team = LA
    Hottest women in the seats… You guessed it = LA
    GO LAKERS!

  2. @ - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    With this being OKC first Playoff seires, They did quite good to me. Hard to bet the entire Laker Mob contaction setup David Stein put in place for No. 1 basketball revenue market. Yes, this is all about money and Cleveland/LA match TOP dollar; deny that.
    Yours Turly,
    A Former Lakers Fan

  3. @ - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    With this being OKC’s first Playoff seires, they did very good to me. Its hard to beat the entire Laker Mob contaction setup David Stein put in place for No. 1 basketball revenue market. Yes, this is all about money and Cleveland/LA match TOP dollar; deny that.
    Yours Turly,
    A Former Lakers Fan

  4. Kobe apologist - Apr 28, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    This is troubling on many levels. There are 28 other billionaire owners. You are naive if you believe they will invest hundreds of millions in their team/players if they are not going to have a fair stake at the Larry O’brien trophy. By the way “former Lakers fan” how do you explain New York being atrocious every year while San Antonio a small market team winning four titles in the last 11 years?

  5. bob - Apr 28, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    dude you are a retard Shaq doesn’t even play with kobe anymore he plays for the cavaliers.

  6. Amy - Apr 29, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    Okay Foul Dwimmerlaik – You were very cool in the game 4 thread and have turned into trashbox mouth :-) Like I said before, I think the Thunder missed their flight for game 5! It was a pathetic loss! We are young! We will learn! You can’t hate on Oklahoman’s for getting behind their team! I agree with you – the Lakers are an awesome team but don’t be a jerk when they do well. Sheesh! They should do well – they are the champs – which makes it all the more exciting here in OKC when we do well. I would, however be a nervous Laker fan if they can’t win one on the road. Thunder fans weren’t exactly thinking we were going to win this series, but if by some wacky turn of events we do, I will see you on here again. I kid…I will be cool.

  7. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Apr 30, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    Amy, my diss is not directed at your team. It’s your jokers in Oklahoma (hence the Jokelahoma comment) who call my team Fakers and swagger off by trash talking. There isn’t a problem of being proud of one’s team’s accomplishment. But do they have to call my team names? The Lakers franchise is a proud and storied one. Should its fans sport some big-time swagger, then blame the 29 Western Conference and the 15 NBA Champion banners hanging in our rafters. I bet you would feel the same way too had your Thunder accomplish such a feat.

  8. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Apr 30, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Check the game 4 thread. I posted there first before I read your post here.

  9. Amy - May 4, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Foul Dwimmerlaik, Congrats dude – Your Lakers prevailed, but only by one! Now go beat those damn Jazz!!! Thanks for your comments! You’re an okay individual – I was giving you a hard time!

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