I can't say I'm surprised.
Nobody can say they were surprised. Not even the most die hard Thunder fan really expected us to win and would be devastated by this loss.
And obviously, the local media is going to do all it can to iterate that this was a good loss, a learning experience, a blah this and a blah that. In truth, though, it was just a loss. It was bad. We could have won, and we should have won. But, admittedly, the reason we did lose was because we were young.
Early on, the Thunder looked like deer in the headlights. The Lakers created their lead by driving to the basket down low, and they pulled away with three back-to-back threes. After this disastrous first quarter, the Thunder almost looked dead in the beginning of the 2nd, falling behind by 17. But the, individual players started to shine through. Collison brought his veteran presence. Westbrook starting driving to the hole so fast that he was almost like Sonic the Hedgehog. When it was all said and done, we were within 8 points at the start of the half.
The rest of the game was competitive, like it should have been. The Thunder were always threatening to come back, and at one point got it to within 6 before the start of the fourth. But they just couldn't make a run. In the end, the fact that they fell so far behind so early dug them into a big hole. This, coupled with the fact that the Thunder would make stupid mistakes whenever they would go on a run combines for a relatively uneventful loss.
Below: Analysis, Awards
On the Thunder's side of things, I'd identify out main problem as being James Harden. He normally averages 10 Points, we lost by 8 points, and he scored 0. Often, he'd get trapped outside the arc with nowhere to go with the ball, because he had already used up his dribble. He needs to either drive, shoot, or pass and not stand there holding the ball.
That being said, the Lakers also had their own problem offensively in Ron Artest. He went 3 of 11 from the field, including 1 of 8 from beyond the arc. And we're not talking about hard fought, contested threes. Or even threes that sent him to the line. We're talking about outright bricking the open three. But, the thing is, Ron Artest more than made up for his poor offensive performance with his great defense of Kevin Durant.
Kevin Durant struggled mightily from the field, going only 7 of 24 from the field, with 9 of 11 free throws. His shot selection wasn't necessarily poor, because he usually sinks the tough shots he takes. But today, his turnaround jumpers would sometimes fall way short, or bounce off of the side of the rim.
When you look at the Box Score, each team had it's successes and pitfalls, but the Lakers seemed to do just a shade better in every category. Kobe Shot 31%, KD Shot 29%. Russell Westbrook Scored 23 Points, had 8 Assists and had 2 Steals, but Pau Gasol had 19 Points, 13 Rebounds, 3 Assists, and 3 Blocks. Krstic had 8 Points and 7 Rebounds, but Andrew Bynum had 13 and 12. Sefolosha Defended well, but Artest defended better. The list goes on.
In the end, next time, you hope that the Thunder can find a way to stay in the game early on so that their stupid mistakes don't hurt as much later on.
Anyway, on to the awards....
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 23 Points, 4 Rebounds, 8 Assists, and 2 Steals. Russell Westbrook had a nearly flawless performance and kept the Thunder in the game tonight. It's a simple as that. This guy puts all of those "experience" arguments to bed.
Thunder Down Under: Nick Collison, 5 Points, 8 Rebounds, 2 Steals, Lots of Charges. Nick Collison provided a veteran presence in the game when nobody else was stepping up, and this game could very easily have gotten out of hand if he wasn't there on defense. Big ups to you, Nick.
Thunder Blunder: 0 Points, 0 of 3 Shooting, 1 Turnover, 4 Fouls. I hate saying it, but the only effect James Harden had on this game was bad. He was always getting trapped, a non-factor on offense, and a liability on defense. I'm sure it's a playoff debut he'd like to forget.
Thunder Plunderer: Pau Gasol, 19 Points, 7 of 14 Shooting, 13 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 3 Blocks. He didn't dominate the game by any means, but he found ways to exploit Krstic, and had a very efficiently played game. I know he's an All-Star Center, but, given that his team just scored 87, that's about all you need him to do.
Next Game: Western Conference Quarter-Finals Game 2: At the Lakers, Tuesday, April 10th, 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time.
Bring on Game 2 already!!!!