Oklahoma City down two, 15 seconds left, with possession. Quick, you have 20 seconds to decide what you want to do.
Me? It was simple. I had my mind made up before the team made it to Scott Brooks to talk about it. Go for the win. Live or die, right here, right now. Win or lose. You came to Los Angeles to let it all hang out, so why stop now? With the way the whistle was turning in the last two minutes and the fact you’re on the road in Staples, what do you like better? A 3 to win, or overtime? Plus you have a guy like Kevin Durant to take it for you. I pick the 3 to win every stinking time.
And it was a good look. A clean look. One that Kevin Durant is entirely capable of hitting and has on multiple occasions. It just didn’t drop this time. If it does, boy, I don’t think I’m writing this recap right now. I’m probably outside, knocking on neighbors doors, yelling profanities of joy. But it didn’t go. Not this time. Next time, it will. But this time for Kevin Durant, it came up just short.
The Thunder lost and dropped down two games to none. And you know what? I think I’m fine with this. Of course I’d rather OKC have won the game. Of course we wanted to come back with a split. But step back and analyze this with a clear mind. Think short-term. Remember the shellshocked team when saw in the first quarter Sunday? Think how much they grew up just since THAT game. Heck, tonight in the first the Thunder looked frantic again. They scored just 18 points, turned it over six times and only made six baskets. Yet they recovered and darn near beat the defending champs on the road. There’s nothing to be upset about here. Nothing. It was a tough loss and a big time learning experience for this team. After the first quarter, I was ready to throw something. After the fourth, I wasn’t even mad, despite a loss. That’s how hard these guys played.
The entire game, one word kept coming to mind: resiliency. The Thunder just wouldn’t say no. The 21-8 run to close the first half nearly killed me. The tough third quarter block party where OKC just WOULD NOT let LA score an easy bucket was inspirational. And the gritty fourth quarter where they scratched, clawed, scratched some more and gave themselves a chance to win was encouraging. Maybe not for this series. But for the process we’ve all bought into, a game like this is something to build on.
Now, a couple things I thought were curious: 1) No Thabo for virtually the entire second half. In the first, he was masterful on Kobe, holding him to 6-16 shooting. In the second half, Scott Brooks chose to go with Jeff Green on Kobe instead and sat Thabo. Kobe went 6-12 in the second and took the game over in stretches. Hindsight being what it is, I realize Brooks was trying to go offense over defense, but with Jeff Green playing so poo poo offensively (2-10 from the floor), would it really have been that bad to stick with Thabo?
2) Not enough Serge Ibaka. Serge proved in Game 1 that he’s going to be a major X-Factor. He’s the only guy the Thunder has that can match the Lakers inside. He had seven freaking blocks tonight and controlled the paint. But he didn’t play at all in the first quarter and didn’t check in until late in the third. I think he should’ve gotten 30 minutes. Again, hindsight, but I feel like a lineup of Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Collison might’ve suited OKC a little better down the stretch. OK, enough second guessing.
- Kevin Durant totally shook off Game 1 and was dynamite tonight. He went for 32 on 12-26 shooting, had four blocks and grabbed eight rebounds. I’m ignoring his eight turnovers because he was fouled on 60 percent of them, yet Ron Artest got off unscathed. But KD started to evolve into that player we know he’s going to be. It wasn’t his fault we lost tonight. He laid it out there and I think when he’s 29 and considered maybe the best in the league, he might point to this game as one he really grew up in.
- Russell Westbrook got into foul trouble early and it totally changed the complexion of this game. Before he picked up his second, OKC was plus-two. After, they were a minus-13. He came back in, got things under control and finished with a great night, going for 19 on 5-10 shooting.
- I’d be remiss if I ignored some of the calls in crunch time. Artest bear hugs Durant the entire game, yet KD gets whistled on a big possession for a little separation pushoff. Crucial call. As Chuck Barkley put it, “Turrible call right there in that situation.” Then Kobe gets a favorable call on the other end and Durant doesn’t get one on the next possession. THEN, Jeff Green makes a bucket to cut it to 93-92, but doesn’t pick up what should’ve been an and-1. Life in Staples blah blah blah, but at that point, it doesn’t make it any easier to take. Despite all that, KD had a shot at a 3 to potentially win it. And he missed. End of story.
- I think Ibaka’s little tussle with Lamar Odom was a big moment. Ibaka has been OKC’s enforcer of sorts and he didn’t back down one bit. Andrew Bynum threw a little shiver at Jeff Green in Game 1, so Ibaka was ready to stick up for his guys. I liked that.
- Seventeen blocks for OKC. Wow.
- Also, 17 turnovers. OKC allowed 19 offensive rebounds and was outboarded 49-37.
- I feel like I should comment on Ron Artest’s hair, but I don’t think I can come anywhere close to doing it justice.
- The Thunder shot 39 percent and LA shot 37.5. Yet this was just an excellent game. High intensity for all 48, a ton of action, big shots, big plays – it was a ton of fun to watch. I nearly died at five or six points of it, but boy, it was a good time. And isn’t that was this is all about?
- Scott Brooks got his hair under control tonight. He went back to the gelled/sprayed look, which I’m sure helped during timeouts as his team didn’t have to be distracted by his poofy doo.
- Another thing on Coach Scotty: I love him. He’s a great coach. But he’s not the best in-game motivational speaker. It all seems a little forced. I’m typically a huge fan of any mic’d up situation, but not so much out of Thunder timeouts.
- You hate to think about things like this, but what if Durant doesn’t doink that dunk? Alas.
- OKC got out in transition much more tonight. The pace moved up to 96.0 and the Thunder ran was purpose. I thought they did a good job picking spots.
- Also, Durant was the focal point to the offense in the first quarter. He took nine shots. But boy, was that quarter frustrating. I honestly think it was worse than Game 1. Just no flow, bad turnovers, loose ball getting away and a ton of missed easy looks. OKC could’ve been up 10 after one, but instead trailed by eight.
- I have no idea why the Lakers don’t pound it inside to Gasol. He could score 40 on OKC, easy. Hope you don’t read this Phil.
- Here’s how you know you’re in a playoff series with someone: I hated with every fiber of my being Pau Gasol even watching him doing good things during an NBA Cares spot. Just his stupid face and dumb hair made me sick as he read to cancer-riddled children. I’m a horrible person.
- I think the last two minutes of the first half are the biggest in the Thunder’s short history. OKC may not have won, but that right there made it all fun. I didn’t have a lot of fun in Game 1. But this was a taste of just how incredible this all could be. That was huge just in terms for the development for this team. They aren’t ready to win yet. We know this. But they need to build that killer instinct and that attitude that they can walk in and play with anyone. It takes a little seasoning and a little roughing up for that to happen.
- Jeff Green has got to do something here. Either snap out of the shooting slump or go to the rim. He was 1-6 from 3 and he honestly had 10 or 12 open looks from there. He’s such a good finisher, but I think he’s a little intimidated by LA’s size inside. I’m a fan of Green and he definitely has value to this team both long-term and in this series. But right now, it’s kind of hard to figure out where he can fit and help this team against the Lakers.
- Who really didn’t think Green’s 3 was going down? I was convinced it was. I had no doubt.
- Hey, anyone know why James Harden didn’t make the flight out LA with the team? We sure could’ve used him.
I know you’re sick of hearing it, but think back to how we defined success at the beginning of the season. The playoffs were a pipe-dream. If I told you we’d get the eight-seed just to be swept by the Lakers, I think we’d have jumped, skipped and leaped at the chance. It’s easy to get wrapped up in THIS season and forget that Thunder basketball doesn’t end forever after this series. There will be a next year. And a next. And a next.
But there’s also a next game in this series. It’s not over yet. The Lakers are coming to Oklahoma City where they’ll find a fanbase frothing at the mouth to be as loud as humanly possible. Yeah, if the series were 1-1, I think we’d all be a little more excited and we’d be having visions of maybe winning this thing. But it’s not over yet. The Thunder proved tonight they can play with these guys every step of the way. Now they just have to hit that one shot next time.