Andrew Bynum hit a nice shot over Kendrick Perkins with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The Los Angeles Lakers were up 75-68 in a very low scoring affair in Oklahoma City. Two minutes later, the Lakers were still at 75, Kevin Durant just put the Thunder in the lead. The Lakers are down 0-2, with the chances of overturning looking grim.
They couldn’t have played better defense. The Thunder haven’t scored less than 95 points in the playoffs. They haven’t scored less than 84 during the regular season. Still, the Lakers managed to keep Durant and Westbrook away from the basket, forcing Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins to take a bigger part in the scoring game than usual. Both combined for 10 points and 5-16 from the field.
The Lakers did what the books says about winning in the postseason – Rebounding and defense. They created more turnovers, rebounded more and did well on the offensive glass. Andrew Bynum finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 14 points and 11 boards.
But it came at the expense of their offensive game. They shot 38.5% from the field. Kobe Bryant finished with 20 points, going o-6 from three point range and 9-25 from the field. Ramon Sessions continued to be terrible, taking only 3 shots, scoring only 2 points and had a team-worst -12 in the 24 minutes he played. Again, there was no one to step up besides the usual suspects, who themselves forgot about scoring when the time came to finish the game.
The Thunder turned up their D, and pushed the Lakers away from the paint. Bryant lost the ball, then Steve Blake. Bryant took it on himself to finish the job, missing a long jumper and a three point. The last play of the game was set for him, but Metta World Peace found Steve Blake in the corner. Blake was cold on the night (1-4 from the field) but is over 40% from beyond the arc in the postseason. It’s a shot he can and should make. He missed.
On the other side it was Durant, who else, who scored the go-ahead basket. He finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Zach Lowe wrote about the Thunder setting up screens to free Durant. That’s how his go-ahead shot came. A screen to free him of the pesky World Peace, forcing Bynum to come outside. From there it was an easy road to a shot over Pau Gasol from close range.
And so, the Lakers weren’t embarrassed, but have plenty of questions and doubts – They couldn’t have performed better defensively; They couldn’t have had the Thunder on a worst offensive day. Russell Westbrook on one of those nights when nothing drops for him, finishing with 15 points an 5-17 from the field. James Harden was cooled with only 13 points. No one else stepped up to aid them in the scoring.
But the Thunder have a great crunch time defense. They do fall asleep on it at times, but not in the postseason so far. Bryant said the Thunder gambled and won because of that. Maybe he’s trying to diminish his role in the loss and his crunch time disappointing performance. Above all, the Lakers know they blew what might be their best chance of winning in Oklahoma City; They might have blown their shot of somehow winning this series.
One last question – What was Derek Fisher (3 points) thinking when he saw Steve Blake miss that last shot? Koolkevin said on youtube – If you bitches kept me, I would have made that shot for ya. Probably not too far from the truth.