Sometimes losses are weird. You know your team played well. You know they gave absolute max effort. You know they did everything you want against a great team. By all accounts, you should feel good about the game, regardless of result. But any time you come up on the short end of the score, it stinks. It just does.
Oklahoma City played the defending champs to the wire, losing 111-108 against a fully healthy Laker team. Russell Westbrook had a shot to tie and it just rimmed out. And it’s all you could hope for coming in – a shot to tie with seconds remaining. But still… how sweet a win would’ve been.
And to think what may have been. What if Kevin Durant doesn’t foul out on that ticky-tack call? What if HE gets that last shot? What impact could he have had? It’s the question you’re left with after a hard fought loss and the questions you’ll never get answered. Durant was awesome – 30 points, three rebounds, four assists – and really rose to the challenge. I’m no complainer (well, maybe I am), but does Kobe Bryant foul out on that call with three minutes left? You wonder.
Really, across the board, the Thunder played outstanding. Westbrook was fantastic. Thabo Sefolosha shot out of his mind. Serge Ibaka made change pants at least three times in the second half. James Harden had some big plays. You saw the whole future of the Thunder on display tonight and it looked good. OKC played about as good as it could, but when you’re playing the Lakers, on the road, sometimes perfect isn’t good enough.
I know some people are going to say the trade for Eric Maynor probably kicked Russell Westbrook’s rear into gear. And if that was the case, awesome. I don’t care if his hamster died before the game and he was playing in its honor – he was terrific. Twenty-one points on 9-21 shooting, 13 assists and seven rebounds. Here’s the thing about Russ: When his shot is falling, he’s good. REALLY good. I know that sounds simple, but it’s the truth. I thought he took all smart shots and actually his numbers don’t do him justice. He missed two tough putbacks, two end-of-the-shot-clock jumpers and even had a falling layup lip out. Subtract those and he’s something like 9-16 from the floor with a super sexy line. He did have 10 assists in the first half and just three in the second, but honestly, the Thunder just didn’t shoot as well in the second half.
- Five Thunder players scored in double figures (Westbrook, Harden, Green, Thabo and Durant). In the first half, OKC played as well as they possible could. Hitting open shots, finding open men, playing with energy. Everything clicked. The Thunder dropped 61 on what’s probably the best defensive team in basketball. That’s darn impressive.
- Remember last summer when we were wondering whether or not Serge Ibaka would come over and then when he did, we wondered if he’d be in Tulsa or OKC? Yeah, remember that? He was huge off the pine again (eight points, 14 rebounds, one block). His energy is just awesome. I’m fine with Nenad Krstic, but in games like this, he brings no value compared to Ibaka. Krstic couldn’t match LA inside at all and Serge was a factor on the glass. Krstic just doesn’t work hard on the boards all the time. That’s why Ibaka sometimes is a better option. He may get out of position, but you’ll never accuse him of not working. Let’s put it this way: Ibaka was a plus-10. Krstic a minus-14.
- It’s learning: Early in the game, Westbrook was on a 3-3 break with Durant and Green on his wings. Westbrook was patient and used a hesitation dribble to get around Fisher. Normally he would go bull in a china shop and wildly attack the bucket, running straight at his defender. This time, he waited, surveyed and attacked wisely. He’s getting it people. Give him time.
- Nick Collison not all that production tonight. 12 minutes, one point, one rebound and six fouls.
- Man, I really thought Kobe hurt himself when he came down awkward. That just looked bad. I’m glad he was alright.
- All five Laker starters scored in double-figures, led by Kobe Bryant’s 40. I still thought Thabo did decent work on him. Westbrook guarded Bryant a lot as well, so not all 40 are on Thabo. But Thabo challenged, frustrated and played Kobe pretty darn well. He’s just Kobe Bryant and he’s awesome. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do. The LA bench had just two guys score for a total of 18 points.
- This is the first time OKC has lost when it scored 100 or more points. Also, the first time to lose when Westbrook dishes out 10 or more assists.
- Just 12 total turnovers for OKC tonight. And LA, who had a decided advantage inside, just beat the Thunder 47-40 on the glass.
- I really have no idea why Russ got tagged with a T. The Thunder got the foul call and it looked like Russ was upset the ball didn’t roll in for Krstic because he wanted an and-1. Didn’t seem to warrant a technical in my mind.
- Speaking of officiating, I’ll say this and leave it at this: Playing the Lakers in Staples is very frustrating. VERY frustrating.
- A rare dumb play by Nick Collison that hurt OKC. The Thunder held possession with 20 seconds left in the third. Westbrook drove and missed a shot with a second left but Collison came crashing in wildly, fouling Pau Gasol. It gave LA two free points at the end of the third and extended their lead to six heading into the fourth.
- I’m beginning to understand why people hate Laker fans. After the Daily Dime chat tonight, it opened my eyes. Some of those people are, well, wrapped up in their team a little.
- Did it just seem like OKC was a little unlucky tonight? I remember three buckets the Lakers got that came because the ball bounced right for them. OKC had possession or was about to and the ball bounced funny or was tipped and the Lakers wound up with two. Take those away and, you know.
So many times I wanted to put OKC away. After LA outscored OKC 34-21 in the third, I thought the Lakers would run away in the fourth. Then after LA jumped out to an 11-point lead, I think the Thunder would fold. But they fought. They clawed. They scratched. It’s what you want to see from your young club. They looked into the face of The Champs and didn’t blink. They toed the line and just came up short. Yes, OKC drops below .500 for the first time in almost a month. But there is nothing to be upset about after this one. Well, except for the fact the Thunder had three fewer points on the scoreboard than the Lakers.
Next up is Phoenix Wednesday night. Hopefully OKC can get some legs back because Lord knows that one won’t be easy.