Game 5 is in the books, and guess what? We got our butts handed to us.
Kobe decided to guard Russell Westbrook, initially putting a huge detriment into things. Kevin Durant has been on and off in this series, and tonight, he chose to be off....or, rather, he was forced to be off by Ron Artest's excellent defense.
And what happens when your two primary scorers are out of commission? Complete disaster, that's what. Nobody else stepped up to the plate. Thabo looked absolutely hopeless on offense, missing wide-open threes by a mile. Jeff Green was just as inefficient as Durant, except on a smaller scale, and Krstic was worthless as ever against the Lakers' big man tandem.
And the bench? Well, they did a good job....in garbage time. I honestly can't remember a game where there was absolutely no positive thing to be said about it, other than Etan Thomas matching up quite well to Josh Powell. It was just a complete disaster. If you didn't watch, let me enlighten you: We didn't score a field goal until over half of the first quarter was over. We only scored 5 in the first half of the 2nd. And the rest of the "real" game wasn't pretty either, as most of the points game from forced shots or free throws.
But, the important thing to consider right now is whether we have any chance in the next game. The history of the past 5 games points to yes, but the Thunder have some serious matchup problems. They need someone to exploit Derek Fisher, which should necessitate the inclusion of James Harden in the starting lineup. Then again, the inclusion of James Harden could lead to Derek Fisher being able to equate him on the offensive end. Kevin Durant is going to have to find a way to be effective against Artest....and guard him well on defense. One of our role players at Center has to step up. And Jeff Green has to find a way to be more efficient.
Well, that was certainly a long laundry list of things. But the point is, if the Thunder don't pick up their game, home court advantage won't matter. I know that all of the local media likes to insist that the fans really won it for Oklahoma City, but the fact is that basketball is basketball, no matter what floor you happen to play the game on. And all of the screaming fans in the world can't make up for a litany of matchup problems.
That being said, the next game can be won. The Thunder just have to work around for a good shot selection, rather than shooting forced mid-range shots near the end of the shot clock. They also have to limit stupid turnovers caused by careless passes and bad ballhandling. In the end, the game comes down to ball movement, and if KD can knock down a couple in a row because Ron Artest was forced to Double-Team Westbrook on a drive to the hole, then watch out, because he can get on a roll, as all of us know.
That being said, given the evidence, the Analyst in me doesn't think this is going to go to a Game 7. Sorry, but with Kobe guarding Westbrook, I just don't see it. I'll be truly shocked to see the Thunder win on Friday.
And on that sour note, on to the awards....
Thunder Wonder: Etan Thomas, 10 Points, 4-5 Shooting, 3 Rebounds. He scored a nice garbage time performance by dominating Josh Powell in the post. Not a huge accomplishment, but it's the biggest positive in this game.
Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, 12 Points, 9 Rebounds, 2 Assists. Another mostly Garbage Time Performance.
Thunder Blunder: The entire starting lineup. 'Nuff said.
Thunder Plunderer: Pau Gasol, 25 Points, 11 Rebounds, 5 Assists. Gasol and Bynum really both stepped up well here, but Gasol had a slightly better game, so I gave it to him. Jeff Green is having some serious matchup problems.
Next Game: Versus the Los Angeles Lakers, Friday, April 30th, 8:30 PM Central Daylight Time.