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Thunder’s young legs, depth show Lakers guard is changing

Feb 24, 2012, 5:35 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, James Harden, Troy Murphy AP

Wednesday night it was the Celtics. Thursday night it was the Lakers.

Two nights, two wins for the young Oklahoma City Thunder over the old guard of the NBA. The teams that from 2008 to 2010 won the NBA titles and met in the finals twice.

In case you need any more proof that the guard has changed in the NBA. The Lakers looked like a team with some good pieces but missing a few, the Thunder looked like a title contenders. Oklahoma City pulled away in the second half to win 100-85.

For the first 24 minutes it was close — the Lakers played good defense, particularly on the pick and roll. Which essentially meant their big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were active — those two can make up for the deficiencies of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake and slow the force that is Russell Westbrook.

Then in the final second of the first half, the entire momentum changed.

First Russell Westbrook hit a three with 0.8 seconds left that tied the score (just after the Lakers had made a little 7-1 run to take the lead). The Lakers were clearly frustrated, they didn’t move to get open for the “meaningless” inbounds pass.

Then Bynum threw a lazy pass to the corner, Kevin Durant stole it, got off a baseline jumper and nailed it. It changed the momentum the rest of the way. Well, that and the fact the Lakers are old legs on a back-to-back and the Thunder have young legs.

Oklahoma City pulled away for the win from there by getting out and running on a Lakers team that looked old the last 24. The Thunder are contenders. They are filled with long defenders who close out spaces quickly, they have two guys in the aggressive Westbrook and the skilled Durant who can get their shot off whenever they want. Good role players surround the Thunder stars.

The Lakers have their big three and then it is a Niagara Falls drop to the rest of the roster. For the second night in a row, Pau Gasol played well while Kobe Bryant struggled to find his shot. All night long Thursday the beard of Harden was tracking Kobe, getting in his face, denying passes and contesting shots. In the Lakers win over the Mavericks Wednesday and their loss to the Thunder, Kobe is 11-31 (35.4 percent). Harden used his sense of pace and angles to score 16 points of his own.

You don’t want to read too much into one game, but this summed up well where these two are heading into the All-Star Break.

  1. tomshoe - Feb 24, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    It’s gonna be a great playoffs.

  2. palakerfan - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Kobe actually shot a combined 11-39 in the previous 2 games (28.2%). I watched both games and came away thinking less Kobe and more Twin Towers is the key to victory. They need to trade for Beasley and Sessions to provide youth and speed. They’d be lucky to win 2 games against the Thunder in a 7 game series with their current aging roster. Sad but true.

    • cinnalocks - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      The season is half over and you can make prediction? That is like you knowing the Lakers or OKC would be where they are now at the beginning of the season. Look it is half over. Count on injuries, more serious injuries and more costly injuries, because players will be more beat up and there is less time to recover or fit in with a crazy schedule and no practice time.

      A 7 game series Lakers vs Anybody is going to be a dangerous venture. You get rest in the PLAYOFFS and the travel is not a disadvantage from L.A. to OKC. So I disagree based on the team they have now. I TOTALLY expect them to make at least one move prior to the trade deadline. Probably not a big trade but a tweak at guard and or small forward to help Kobe. Kobe is the ONLY player who can break down a defense and create mis matches. He needs help, then he can give up the ball.

      • abasketballthing - Feb 24, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        You’re right, but until that trade happens, the bigs need to get more shots. Kobe’s alone on the perimeter, so he gets all the attention, and very few of his shots are uncontested. There is more balance inside.

  3. passerby23 - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    “You don’t want to read too much into one game, but this summed up well where these two are heading into the All-Star Break.”

    This isn’t reading into one game, this is clearly a trend in the first half of the season. If Kobe doesn’t have an efficiently productive offensive game, while getting solid contributions from Gasol and Bynum, the Lakers struggle to win a game. Their supporting cast is nowhere close to championship material.

    Try and salvage some semblance of a competitive future by trading for picks and younger players now. Much like the Celtics, the window is closed.

  4. addict2sport - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    How would they get both Beasley and Sessions without moving Gasol or Bynum? Trade exemption and pick might get you either Sessions or Beasley but not both. So, what/who else would bring the other player?

    • palakerfan - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      It’s been discussed on this site before that MIN might be willing to give up Beasley for the trade exception LA has from the LO trade plus another young player. And also CLE has said they want a first rounder for Sessions, which LA should be willing to give.

      • 00maltliquor - Feb 24, 2012 at 3:34 PM

        If they got Beasley for just the trade exception that would be hilarious for the former 2nd overall pick that previously got traded OUT of Miami for just a 2nd rounder. What a slap in the face that would be to him, basically getting traded twice for a bag of peanuts and Cracker Jacks!

        It’s not going to happen though. I’m starting to lose faith in Lakers management to get anything done. It feels like they are just sitting on their hands.

      • staronlyne - Feb 24, 2012 at 8:14 PM

        @00maltliquor

        “basically getting traded twice for a bag of peanuts and Cracker Jacks!”

        Thanks for the LOL. :D

  5. jgray30 - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Heres a trade..Bynum and Blake to memphis for Gasol, conley jr., and pargo. Gasol bros just might dominate. And LA gets a pg and a shooter off the bench.

    • cinnalocks - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM

      Glad you are not in the drivers seat. The vehicle would be a total wreck.

      • sellahh - Feb 24, 2012 at 3:44 PM

        People here are idiots and big ones hence so many thumbdowns but that would actually be a great trade for the Lakers. Obviously Marc Gasol’s offensive game cant be compared to Bynum’s but its not like Bynum is a focal point in the Lakers offence with Kobe just chucking up everything he looks at. And they’d get a good young pointguard. Plus you never know what kind of chemistry would Pau and Marc have in the same frontcourt, which I belive could be great.
        I-D-I-O-T-S, you read that right. 90% of you are idiots.

  6. adnan604 - Feb 24, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    what Laker guard ? that still exists ??
    people knew for SURE the Laker and Celtic days were done very VERY early into this season, there was obvious and major hints of it even last year in the playoffs, but it was confirmed this season so far, so this is old news brah…

    Everyone I know is pretty pleased with this, times are changing and to see the revived rivalry between the NBA’s two greatest franchises of all time for a few years was great, but it’s a new age… bye bye LakeTics

    among all my friends I was the only one to call the Thunder making it into the Finals against the Heat before the season even started, and the Heat taking it in 6 games… so far they’re tied for the best record, but it’s clear that the Heat are on a warpath and will not be stopped…
    I got very few laughs now when I talk basketball with them

    • cinnalocks - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      You are making me laugh.

    • loungefly74 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      …your friends may not pay attention all too well as the heat and thunder had the best odds to make the finals this year…so don’t beat your chest too hard with that very typical Finals pick…heck, i said the same as well the minute last season ended.

      well brah, you seem to experience from short term memory loss…to say the Lakers (and even the Celtics to some extent) are done is way off the mark. You forget that the Lakers are pretty much contenders every year. believe me, adjustments will be made to keep them near/at the top, count on it. hey, if they lose in the playoffs this year, thats cool…just not their year i guess, i mean, you can’t win it every year…but for you to suggest that the Lakers will dramatically decline i.e… go the ways of the Sacramento Kings or Detroit Pistons is laughable.

      …and good for the Thunder. they deserve all the praise right now. they drafted very well the past few years but don’t think the “dinosaurs” (spurs, lakers, celtics, etc) are gonna take it lying down. there is a reason why the Lakers have pretty much for the most part stayed relevant. yeah, the thunder are great…but remember…they were the sonics not too long ago. my point, othere teams fade away time to time…but not the Lakers.

  7. jgray30 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Nevermind Conley jr cuz Goudelock might be better if they gave him more minutes. They could use the trade exception and bring in a decent SF like beasley. DH is not going to LA give it up. And if u do get him, u will be the exact same team u are now with the exact same issues.

  8. jgray30 - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Yea but the heat was on the “warpath” last yr. Right? Lebron is the greatest reg season player ever. But time and time again when it matters in the playoffs, lets be honest, he sucks.. Im good with your finals prediction, but Westbrook and Durant both have a kilker instinct when Lebron dont..Sad cuz he could go down as the best player of all time if he grew some nuts..

    • cinnalocks - Feb 24, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      Yeah LBJ has the killer look of an old man….he has always looked that way, his physique and his game. Westbrook and Durant look like kids but they are the real killers. Be a great series to watch.

      • connaniii - Feb 24, 2012 at 3:53 PM

        Westbrook is the most underrated player in the NBA, he is second to none in his position and I mean Derrick Rose included!

  9. abasketballthing - Feb 24, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    The Lakers are old, but that’s certainly not the only reason why they’ve declined. The Lakers lost Lamar Odom, and World Peace came into this season in horrible shape. Also, they no longer have Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, and that makes it difficult for them to score without any consistent outside shooters. Mike Brown’s defense has helped, but he doesn’t have a good offensive system for the Lakers, and with the drop-off in talent caused by the Odom trade and Metta being out of shape, they have become a mediocre offensive team.

  10. southbeachtalent - Feb 24, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    I feel dumber after reading most of these comments.

  11. theduuuuuuuuuude - Feb 24, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    OKC are the exact opposite of the Lakers in almost every way. These are two teams going two very different directions at the moment, but we would be remiss as serious NBA fans to discount the Lakers ability to right the ship and make adjustments from year to year. This is just a franchise historically that doesn’t seem to stay down for very long. It’s not going to happen for the Lake Show this year, but with an injection of youth and skill via a trade or during the off season I wouldn’t be surprised to see them back in the thick of things as early as next season.

    @ abasketballthing

    I don’t think the Lakers are missing Odom all that much. Have you seen him play in Dallas? Looks to me like the Lakers got rid of him just at the right time.

  12. crohrbaugh - Feb 24, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Probably had nothing to do with 4 games in 5 nights, destroying the trailblazers, beating dallas in dallas, and playing okc on the road, nope.

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