May 17, 2012, 1:40 AM EST
In Game 1, everything went wrong for the Lakers, everything went right for the Thunder. Thunder won. In Game 2, for 46 minutes, at least some things went right for the Lakers, everything went wrong for the Thunder. The pace was slow. The defense was incredible for the Lakers. The Thunder weren’t hitting jumpers. A seven-point lead with two minutes. Hold onto the ball, hold onto the lead, gain control of the series, go back to L.A. having rattled the kids in blue.
As the Thunder closed on a 9-0 run, you couldn’t help but think of how often the Lakers had done this exact thing to so many teams. They were the ones who made the key steals late. They were the ones who waited for the opponent to crack. They were the ones who made clutch plays. But now? Now it’s OKC. They won when they played flawless, they won when they played terribly. And now it’s 2-0 OKC.
For Oklahoma City, there are reasons to be concerned but a ton of reasons for confidence. When the shots didn’t fall, they won. They had just a 92 offensive efficiency Wednesday night, and yet got the win. They had an off night offensively for the second-best scoring machine in the league, and they walk away with a 2-0 lead. Defensively, they stepped up to the challenge. Had they bent more inside, the game could have broken open. Had Thabo Sefolosha not done such a marvelous job on Kobe Bryant, helping him to a 9-25 night, they may not have sustained. The Thunder defense kept them in it, the Thunder’s athletes took the momentum, the Lakers’ ineptitude opened the door, and Kevin Durant slammed it shut.
And for a fun twist on a narrative, instead of LeBron James failing in the clutch, it was Kobe Bryant with this line: 0-2, zero points, 1 turnover, one bad pass knocked out off of him, one bad miss, one airball, no final shot, and a whole lot of frustration. Bryant was clearly livid both after Kevin Durant’s game winner and upon turning around to see Steve Blake taking a three-pointer for the win instead of, you know, him.
It’s not wise to get riled up about Blake, however. This is a shooter who hit five threes against the Denver Nuggets in Game 7. He was wide open. I mean, wide open. The pass had to be made, the shot had to be taken. It just didn’t fall. This is life in the NBA, the reality of clutch vs. the myth. Bryant, though, certainly struggled and his play down the stretch may have thrown a little dirt on the Lakers.
But this series is far from over. The Lakers proved Wednesday that they can throw some kinks in the chain of OKC’s mighty system, and headed back to L.A. they have to be hopeful a few more things will go their way. The question is whether they can force OKC into the same halfcourt troubles it had Wednesday night, or if they get busted open by the same team that torched them in Game 1.
The Lakers can get right back into this thing with a win on Friday. But it’s a back to back set against a younger, fresher, hungrier team that seems to have all the answers, that can cross the finish line even when they stumble. The Lakers? They’re just trying to get the dust out of their mouth.
The Lakers had answers for the Thunder until the end. Then the ghosts that the Lakers usually wreak on their opponents grabbed hold of L.A.. By the throat.
Closing note: Andrew Bynum laughed as he left the floor.
- Wednesday night NBA Grades: LaMarcus Aldridge is a flat out stud 2
- Arena evacuated after fire, Spurs-Timberwolves game in Mexico City postponed 12
- Milwaukee police release video, cite Larry Sanders for bar fight 11
- PBT Extra: Focusing on “epic showdown” between Knicks, Nets 5
- Carmelo Anthony: “We are the laughingstock of the league right now” 25
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (63)
- Report: Dion Waiters accused Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson of playing “buddy ball.” (53)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (41)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (41)
- With game in balance, Jason Kidd tells player to “hit me,” spills drink, gets psuedo timeout to draw up play (40)