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NBA Playoffs, Lakers Thunder game 6: The Thunder learn some hard lessons, are eliminated by Lakers

May 1, 2010, 4:46 AM EDT

Gasol_celebrate.jpgChin up, Oklahoma City. Sure, losing sucks, we get that. But you have to learn how to win in the NBA playoffs — people remember Michael Jordan the champion, not the guy who lost to the Detroit Pistons three straight years on the playoffs.

Enjoy the ride, you have a fun team, a special team. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are captivating to watch. The Thunder have become what the Phoenix Suns were five years ago — everybody’s second favorite team. They took a big first step.

But for the Lakers this was just another step, albeit one they had to fight for. LA won the game 95-94, and the series 4-2. Next up for the Lakers is the Utah Jazz, starting Sunday at Staples Center.

The Lakers taught the Thunder some hard lessons.  LA’s star Kobe Bryant saved his best game for an elimination game, Kevin Durant did not. Pau Gasol knew how to time a sneak inside for a game-winning putback, Serge Ibaka did not box him out, he lost track of fundamentals in the clutch. Derek Fisher knew how to step up and hit big threes, Russell Westbrook did not.

It will not be that way in a couple years. It was tonight.

The Lakers largely did what they had done in game four — they controlled the tempo and took away a lot of the Thunders’ easy baskets. The Thunder had just 13 fast break points, and forced into the halfcourt they shot just 36.5 percent, 26.3 percent from three.

The Lakers, however, were lighting it up from three. The last two games the Lakers did much better about setting up angles for entry passes to the post, or getting the ball inside off penetration, and that led to kick-outs and good look threes for LA. They hit 12 of 24 from three in this one, and shot 46.8 percent overall.
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But the Thunder never went away. That is not who they are, they fight.  A few turnovers and fast breaks off misses — flashes of the transition game they thrive on — and Lakers leads would disappear in an instant.

The difference was the Lakers big names know how to step it up in the clutch.  Kobe in 16 in the third when the Lakers looked like they might pull away, hitting some just pull up threes that were the kind he missed in game three.

Late in the game the Lakers got good shots from Artest (and up and under move on the perimeter and it works?), but their offense became a lot of isolation. So did the Thunder, as has been their pattern. And it worked for a while, they went a 10-0 run late to take the lead.

However, the Kobe Bryant underbite came out – so did a stupid running shot over two defenders that barely moved the net going through with less than a minute left. Sick. Kobe was making plays all night.

The Thunder were up one with 15 seconds when Westbrook had a clean look at the jumper from 10 feet baseline. Oh, the midrange game continues to be his challenge. On the season from the right side baseline there Westbrook was shooting just 25.7% (thank you NBA Hot Spots). He missed.

On the final play I loved the Thunder choosing not to double Kobe, showing confidence in Thabo Sefolosha to shut him down. The rest of his team got caught ball watching. When Kobe made his move and started to go up Nenade Kristic and Durant were under the basket wrestling with Artest, while Serge Ibaka was watching the ball, not bodying his man. Gasol stepped inside Ibaka, got the tip in and that was that.

Thunder fans get it – they stayed late to applaud their young team. They know to savor it in a way that jaded Lakers fans often cannot. Fans from both teams should soak up this series, it was a fun one and about as good as one could ever hope for in the first round.

  1. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 1, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    I shall not gloat over my team’s victory as we advance to the second round. Instead I would like to thank the Thunder for the tough series that they provided. After all, it is winning over GREAT teams that validates the greatness of the Lakers franchise. Well said Kurt. I couldn’t have said it any better. Props to both teams for giving us a great series.

  2. pat - May 1, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    It was actually Westbrook guarding Kobe on the last play.

  3. GB09 - May 1, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Kurt,
    Your deluded……………………no pride here –a needed W….

  4. GB09 - May 1, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    “The Lakers taught the Thunder some hard lessons”—————where you actually watching the game??????????????

  5. DanMcQueen - May 1, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Congrates to my Thunder and the Laker’s on a great series!!!
    Sure is quiet from the Seattle folks…comment? Maybe they are just moving ON…finally

  6. Kimmer - May 1, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Up here in Alaska, we always rooted for the Sonics or the Hawks a few decades ago (we had the superchannel TBS). Now, without the Sonics, we don’t feel so obligated. Portland sounds good. But we hate the thunder more for having durant over oden than for seattle losing the sonics I think. We kind of take things in stride up here. Now, if the Thunder changed their name to the Sonics, perhaps Alaska would swing around to rooting for them again, I don’t know. The Oklahoma Sonics? Nah. Doesn’t ring.

  7. Tk028 - May 1, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Say what you want; But the Thunder has got this Lakers Fan’s attention; as well as the Lakers themselves. This young team has arrived in a big way! Congrats Thunder, on one heck of a season; and for strengthening the westcoast that much more!

  8. ken - May 1, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    Hey just like last year, the Lakers didn’t breeze through, and some challenges, and they became stronger. They need that right now. So a tough 1st round will bring them together and make them better. We all know they will need it for Cleveland. Which they can beat but not if they have it too easy getting there.

  9. Seely_Iggy - May 1, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    As another Lakers fan, I second that. Watching the Thunders take Lakers to 6 games and their never say die attitude has really won me over. I have developed a respect for Kevin Durant, a kid full of talent and humility. Then there’s Westbrook and his fearless drives to the basket. The Thunders have arrived and they will be one of the most exciting team to watch over the next few years. It was a fun and entertaining series, although I’m glad to see it end since I almost had a heart attack in every game. Finally, thanks Thunder, for waking up my Lakers (who are better off for it when they move on to the Utah Jazz series).

  10. josephus sayson - May 1, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    firts of all i would like to appriciate the THUNDERS BECAUSE THEY DID THERE BEST I KNOW THIS KIND OF TEAM HAD A BRIGHT FUTURE IN NBA LEGUE. ONE THING WHICH I HAD NOTICE TO LOSANGELES LAKERS THAT THE ARE JUST SO MUCH UNDERSTEMATING THERE OPPONENTS THAT IS WHY THEY ALMOST ELIMENATE DURING THE PLAY OFF.BUT ANY WAY LOSANGELES LAKERS IS MY FAVORATE TEAM OF NBA.

  11. josephus sayson - May 1, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    firts of all i would like to appriciate the THUNDERS BECAUSE THEY DID THERE BEST I KNOW THIS KIND OF TEAM HAD A BRIGHT FUTURE IN NBA LEGUE. ONE THING WHICH I HAD NOTICE TO LOSANGELES LAKERS THAT THE ARE JUST SO MUCH UNDERSTEMATING THERE OPPONENTS THAT IS WHY THEY ALMOST ELIMENATE DURING THE PLAY OFF.BUT ANY WAY LOSANGELES LAKERS IS MY FAVORATE TEAM OF NBA.

  12. Hopalong - May 1, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    Shannon Brown got 11 points off the bench, and played excellent defense. Similar to last year, when he turned the Denver series in game 6.
    Another product of IZZO U.

  13. ocgunslinger - May 1, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    What makes you think the Lakers underestimated the Thunder?

  14. Thunderman - May 1, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    well, you gotta admit the Lakers got lucky when Kobe missed the clutch shot. It should have gone to game 7! We’ll be back next year, and the next and the next… get ready.

  15. BIGBRUCE11047 - May 2, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    I’ve been a Laker fan since the late 1970s and I’ve seen some great Laker teams win championships. The Lakers started these playoffs looking fairly strong in the first two games and then it happened. They seemed to fall apart in Oklahoma City and came back to L.A. tied 2-2. I figured they would finish off the Thunder in the next two games but if this is what the Lakers’ have then the Utah Jazz will win the next series 4-2. Kobe has to carry the team with his scoring along with his defense but the Lakers are going to need a lot of help from the other teammates. It seems like they don’t have the team they had last season when they won it all. Go Lakers!!

  16. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 2, 2010 at 3:09 AM

    I beg to disagree that LA will be easy picking for the Jazz. Last year, the Rockets gave the Lakers a tough time and without Yao and TMac at that. And yet come the Finals, Magic went kapoot in 5 games. The way I see it, the Lakers need to heat things up like your proverbial diesel engine before they unleash their full might. Another wake up call? I suppose so.

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