May 17, 2012, 1:40 AM EDT
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.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:59 PM EDT
Durant and LeBron at the top of the MVP ballot is easy, it’s filling out spots 3-5 that is the challenge.
Apr 16, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Kohl is going to pitch in $100 million to get a new arena built in Milwaukee.
Apr 16, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT
Teams will like his speed, but he’s destined for a second round pick.
Apr 16, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT
While the Lakers end their dreary season Kobe Bryant is already on vacation.
Apr 16, 2014, 3:46 PM EDT
Clippers forward: ‘It doesn’t really affect me, but so many guys would probably benefit’
Apr 16, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT
The Spurs have crushed the Grizzlies and Mavericks this season, so those teams are motivated to avoid a trip to the Riverwalk to start the postseason.
Apr 16, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
First team nearly a clean sweep, but one top teamer didn’t even make other two ballots
Apr 16, 2014, 2:03 PM EDT
NBA could still rescind the technical
Apr 16, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
New research delivers answer
Apr 16, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT
New York based hedge fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are buying the team but keeping it in Wisconsin, they just need to get a new arena built.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
Two very different candidates signify wide search
Apr 16, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT
Knicks center knows, though, he might have no choice
Apr 16, 2014, 11:46 AM EDT
You can’t do enough Animal House references to make me happy.
Apr 16, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT
Duo leaves Michigan after their sophomore years
Apr 16, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT
How many years feature three of the best records in a franchise’s history?
Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT
Bulls give Greg Smith, Ronnie Brewer, Lou Amnundson and Mike James multi-year contracts
Apr 16, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
Nothing like waiting until the last minute to figure things out.
Apr 16, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Nine combined spots on the ballot go to eight different players, and none of our winners made the other two’s top three
Apr 16, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Chris Paul and J.J. Redick look good as Clippers ready for playoffs.
Apr 16, 2014, 12:40 AM EDT
Poor Evan Fournier is on the wrong end of a highlight that’s going to get shown a lot for a few days. At least.
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