Was it really supposed to be this easy?
I suppose not, but man, this one just felt too good. When I woke up this morning, I was still in disbelief. The Thunder had embarrassed the Lakers at home. Of course, we're only one of a slew of recent teams to accomplish that feat, but when it actually happens to your team, it's still a nice feeling.
Where do I begin? The game kicked off with a bang as both teams were shooting early in the shot clock and scoring back and forth with ease. The presence of Perkins and Mohammed didn't serve to bring the game to a grinding halt. Rather, it made it much easier to set screens and clear space in the paint for open shots. As a result, the scorers went crazy in the first quarter. It didn't work out so well for the Lakers because they rely on Gasol and Bynum for a lot of their scoring. They both did a decent job in the first, but they had to fight for every point they got, while the Thunder got easy points in transition. From this quarter on, the situation was clear. A fast pace favored the quicker Thunder, and a slow pace favored the post-oriented Lakers.
The high scoring continued in the second quarter. The scoring was so high that the Thunder actually set a record for the highest score in the Staples Center in the first half for this season. Try saying that five times fast. Regardless, the Thunder turned to their bench while the Lakers left most of their starters in the game. This resulted in the Thunder becoming much more perimeter oriented, and much less able to attack the paint unless a foul was involved. The Lakers mounted a slow and steady comeback, climaxing with a Pau Gasol three point play and a crazy Kobe layup. The Thunder headed into the half with only a two point lead.
Below: The Third and Fourth Quarters, Future Analysis, Awards!
The real battle came in the third quarter. The Thunder re-extended their lead early on with lots of easy Durant jumpers, but the Lakers finally started playing like their old selves. The pace of the game slowed down, allowing the Lakers to re-take the lead on two separate occasions. But the Thunder made their position clear. They always responded to the lead getting taken away with a surefire way to score, and followed it up with more surefire ways to score.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Lakers took their largest lead of the game on a Steve Blake three. But the Lakers' backups began to show their lack of skill, and the Lakers had to send their starters in. That resulted in the beginning of the end for the Lakers, as the Thunder were able to score at will with their starting lineup on the floor. With pretty much every player being a scoring threat, the Lakers defensive liability on the perimeter became apparent, and the Thunder were able to cruise to victory. Also notable was their excellent defense, as they were able to force turnovers whenever the Lakers wanted to put the ball in the paint, forcing the Lakers to take bad perimeter shots.
Moving forward, this game keeps the Thunder's hope of getting the two or three seed alive, as they are now only a game behind the Lakers and Mavericks. Assuming the Thunder run the table, the Lakers will have to lose their remaining two games and the Mavericks will have to lose one more game in order for the Thunder to move ahead of either of them. The Lakers continue a 5 game losing streak, while the Thunder are on a 4 game winning streak.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, 31 Points, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists.
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, 26 Points, 6 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 2 Steals.
Thunder Blunder: James Harden and his lack of defensive intensity.
Thunder Plunderer: Kobe Bryant, 31 Points, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 3 Steals, 1 Block.
Next Game: At the Sacramento Kings, Monday, February 11th, 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time.