It doesn’t get much better than that.
From the opening tip this game had a different feel to it. You could sense it in the arena and you could almost tangibly experience the amplified emotion whether you were in the stands or on your couch. This game meant something. This game had the intensity the Thunder will see in a few weeks and boy, did they ever respond.
We’ll go over who had monster games and what player, I swear, had the ball glowing in his hand with tiny sparks shooting off of the Spalding leather each time he touched it, but this game began and ended (at about the opening of the third quarter, can’t believe I get to type that the game was over a few minutes into the third quarter against the Lakers!) with DEFENSE. The kind of defense you hold up signs for, the kind of defense other teams shake their heads at and let out a big exhale when they know they have to play you in your building. In fact, I’m not even sure I can properly describe just how suffocating, no, just how absent of all atmosphere in the cold and lifeless void of space…ing, the Thunder’s team defense was from the get-go so I’m just going to send you some stats.
- The Lakers had 7 assists…for the entire game. An all-time franchise worst.
- The Lakers, yes, the defending champs, had 7 fast break points.
- Kobe Bryant had only 11 points on 4-11 shooting AND 9 TURNOVERS.
- Only two Lakers’ players scored in double figures.
- No Laker player had double-digit rebounds.
- Kobe Bryant was the only Laker player to have more than 1 assist. Yes, you read that correctly. Kobe had 3 assists. The rest of the Lakers had 4 assists…COMBINED.
- The Los Angeles Lakers shot 39.2% from the field and Lamar Odom was the only Laker starter to shoot better than 40% from the field.
- The Thunder had three players with 3 or more STEALS (Russ had 4, Green had 3 and Harden had 3).
- The Thunder only had two players score more than 10 points…and they still led by 34 at one point before the starters sat.
I could go on and on and on but I’ll stop there and just encourage you (you better have DVR-ed this sucker) to watch the game as many times as you want because you will not see a better display of individual and team defense than you did tonight. There should be a DVD made of this for coaches and schools and the Lakers should probably get some royalties to make up for the absolute woodshed trauma they had to endure tonight in the Ford Center.
Along those lines, even though the entire team was phenomenal defensively, especially on help side rotations and filling the gaps off-the-ball, but I have to stand and applaud the job Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden did on Kobe Bryant, the second best shooting guard of all time and a Top 10 player in NBA history. There is literally nothing those two could have done more to disrupt the tremendous game of one of the league’s best players. They didn’t throw a perfect game against him, but it was definitely a no-hitter.
Now then, down to offensive business. Remember how we all have wished (even maybe slightly feared the worst) that Westbrook’s recent slump had to end for this team to right the ship heading into the playoffs because this team is on an entirely different level when he’s making his jumpshot, slashing to the rim and dishing with an aggressiveness and quickness that few point guards possess in the game today?
Well poor Derek Fisher found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time tonight. Heck, the Lakers found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time tonight.
BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA! That was honestly the most frightening I think I’ve ever seen Russell Westbrook look as an offensive force. His stat line is jaw-dropping: 23 points on 10-13 shooting, 6 assists to only 2 turnovers and 4 steals in only 28 MINUTES.
When Russell Westbrook is playing at even 80% of that level and the Thunder defend like we know they can, they are a terrifying team. One you know every top seed in the playoffs wants to avoid if they can because not only can KD light you up, can Westbrook slice and dice, but DID YOU HEAR THE FORD CENTER?! The crowd deserves a giant game ball because if that’s how the Ford Center will be in the playoffs, it will instantly become one of the best home court advantages in the entire league.
I could gush about this game for another 2,000 words (seriously, don’t tempt me), but I’m just going to try and wrap this up by saying that this was the game every Thunder fan had been waiting to see. Doubters will try and say that the Lakers just had an off game, that they were missing Andrew Bynum and that one game doesn’t mean anything, and that they just didn’t get up for this one because of how intense the Spurs game was two nights ago.
Explicate involving a bull and excrement expulsion.
The Lakers came to play this game. There was no lack of effort or focus. The Thunder simply threw a haymaker in the first five minutes and the players and every screaming fan in the stands smelled blood and thus the frenzied rout was on. The Thunder might as well have been a pack of wild dogs on defense tonight because I think I even saw Scott Brooks flinch during television timeouts when the five-man swarm ran off the court and towards him.
The Lakers didn’t give this game away; the Thunder ripped it violently away from them before the Lakers could even whimper. It’s called killer instinct. And we saw it against the Western Conference’s hands-down best team. The statement was made tonight.
- Nenad Krstic, ladies and gentleman. Now everyone knows I’m harder on Krstic than most but he’s been more impressive as of late. But I definitely didn’t see this coming. Against one of the league’s elite big men, the Serbian comb enthusiast had an astounding performance to the tune of 10 points on 4-5 shooting and 10 rebounds in only 22 minutes, holding Pau Gasol to 9 points on 3-10 shooting and only 5 rebounds. Wow.
- Kevin Durant: 26 points on 9-19 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and numerous highlight reel dunks…and no one’s surprised. I’m going to say we might already be taking him for granted.
- I know that everyone is on a “we just crushed the defending champs” high but I have to get this off my chest so I can be fair and balanced. 11.1% shooting on 3PT tonight? 2-18?! Really? Maybe after the first 10 three’s go clanking off of the rim you rethink slashing to the rim or taking a few steps in on your jumper boys?
- And yet the Thunder still crushed the Lakers. What? I said I had to get it off of my chest, I never said I couldn’t spin it into the joyous positive that I am taking it as.
- Finally…THE CURSE IS OVER! No, I’m not talking about the Thunder finally beating the Lakers. I’m talking about the J.G. Recap curse because if any game would have killed it, tonight’s was the night. This victory proves (especially since the Thunder’s only J.G. scheduled recap win before this one was over the Nets) that I have finally taken my lumps and got enough reps that the Thunder can now beat any opponent no matter what obscure web writer is slated to recap their game. I feel like Andy Dufresne after the half mile crawl through the poo pipe where he comes out clean on the other side in the rain.
So take that Sam Amico and Phil Jackson. And savor the flavor on the bus rides to the next three games. Maybe you should have stayed in OKC, huh?
Now excuse me while I go cue this bad boy up on my DVR and watch it one…hundred more times. Feel free to join in because, wow, what a night.
Oh, and one more thing. Let’s do this, Portland.