Usually I try to make my review into one big and cohesive essay, but with this game, it's proving a impossible task. This was such a multi-faceted win that it's hard to pinpoint overarching reasons and blend them into a nice story, because there's not a lot of overall rhyme and rhythm to what happened. So this time, I'll just present my recap in disjointed paragraphs with little-to-no relation to one another.
Why we won:
- Nick Collison has just been on an absolute tear over the past few games. He had a particularly good game offensively tonight because he was so good at finding holes in the Laker defense. If you go through and look at all of the easy shots he was able to manage, you really get a grasp for how dysfunctional the Lakers can get. You'd have two Laker defenders standing on the blocks while he grabbed an uncontested pass and scored an uncontested layup. Sometimes he'd get an easy rebound in the same situation. On one trip down the floor, Jordan Hill completely forgot about Nick Collison altogether, letting him shoot a wide open jumper.
- I know it might seem hypocritical to hate on the Laker defense, when they forced a Thunder offensive collapse late in the game. But really, the Thunder were just failing themselves. Their offense got really uncreative in the fourth, as they kept running a bunch of isolation plays and pulling up for tough jumpers.
- But if you really want to know the reason the Thunder won this game, then look no further than the second quarter. The Thunder scored a whopping 41 points during the alotted time, and the Lakers were falling apart at the seams. They kept committing bad turnovers, leaving wide-open holes on defense, and just didn't look focused. Meanwhile, the Thunder pushed the pace and were able to get to their usual shooting spots.
- If you're looking for overall reasons, the Lakers bench was another big factor towards the Thunder win tonight. Ebanks, Morris, and Hill managed to combine for 1-10 shooting and a -26 +/- ratio in their short time on the floor together, and you really can't take much positive from the way they played.
- Durant vs. Bryant. It's slammin' when two superstars face each other on at least one end of the floor, and these two make for a great show. But it's clear that Kevin Durant was the winner here. He was able to beat Bryant's point total while taking 5 less shots, had more rebounds, and had two less turnovers. On top of that, Kobe was really doing some stat padding late in the game when the Lakers were down big, while Durant was able to score when it counted.
- Westbrook. During the last 7 minutes of the second quarter, when the Thunder had 17-2 and 9-0 runs, he had a hand in every single field goal scored (that is, he scored it or assisted it) except one. 'Nuff said.
How we might have lost:
- How the hell did Chris Duhon get 14 points? Well, to put it mildly, the Thunder showed 0 respect for his game. They knew that the one thing Chris Duhon could do well was pass the ball off while under pressure, so the Thunder took their chances with Westbrook guarding him one on one. This worked sometimes, but Westbrook is always playing pressure defense and looking for steals, giving Duhon a lot of wide-open opportunities that he capitalized on. I remember two plays in particular where Duhon ran down the center of the lane, unguarded, while two Thunder defenders stood on the blocks and looked at him. As his numbers clearly show, the strategy didn't really pay off.
- Antawn Jamison was a pretty big boon for LA, at least early on. He was quick and tall, which is enough to intimidate Ibaka's normally silky-smooth jumper. It was clear that he forced a few misses, and he was pretty on-point offensively in the first quarter. But after that, he regressed into some bad spot-up jumpers.
- The Lakers did a pretty good job of exploiting Kevin Martin. Jodie Meeks had no trouble rising for virtually uncontested jumpers against him, and he was a total non-factor in the second half after contributing significantly to the second quarter run.
- Howard vs. Perkins. I know that I say Kendrick Perkins is a great back-to-the-basket defender, and it looked like he didn't live up to that reputation tonight. But you have to understand that Perkins was loaded with foul trouble most of the time, probably because Brooks ordered Perk to send Howard to the line. The Thunder couldn't really pressure Howard effectively because he was on the weak side, and the result was a lot of free Laker points.
It just wouldn't be Thunder-Lakers without some sort of throwdown, would it? Serge Ibaka and Metta World Peace got into it after a free throw. Well, they didn't get into it as much as they.....hugged. World Peace wouldn't let Ibaka go after a rebound, and they got extremely close to each other. And yelled. And then separated. I'm not trying to insinuate anything, it's just the strangest NBA fight I've seen in years.
It kinda reminds me of this old boxing game on the Panasonic 3DO called Foes of Ali. (If you know what I'm talking about, you probably were either very rich in the mid-90s or have too much time on your hands.) The game was made in the early days of 3D, and as such, virtually unplayable. But if you pressed a certain button during a match, the boxers would inexplicably hug each other. And it's not like one boxer would hug and the other would try to resist. If either player so much as tapped that button, it was a guaranteed hug. What this has to do with the World Peace-Ibaka fight beats me, but they should definitely implement this feature in NBA 2K14.
Lineup of Death Watch:
The Lineup of Death only got a minute and a half of action at the end of the third quarter, generating a -1 +/- ratio overall. They weren't really in long enough to do any damage, and since Collison was scoring well, the lineup wasn't a huge problem. Had Kobe hit another free throw and Jamison hit a layup he had two shots at, the lineup would have finished at -4 though.
Don't jinx it now, but the Thunder's winning streak is at 8, and they haven't been in serious danger of a loss in a while. With Indiana, Sacramento, and New Orleans coming up, they stand a very serious chance of extending to to 11. But with San Antonio and Miami on the horizon, the likelihood of breaking any records is pretty low. (The record is with the 71-72 Lakers, who won 33 straight.) Serious alarm bells wouldn't start raising until they hit 16.
Thunder Wonder: Kevin Durant, who was, again, able to score when his team most needed it.
Thunder Down Under: Russell Westbrook, who grew up to be a real point guard.
Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, 0fer.
Thunder Plunderer: Kobe Bryant, who makes a living on being clutch.
Next Game: Versus the Indiana Pacers, Sunday, December 9th, 6 PM Central Standard Time.
If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets.