It’s a seven game series.
Kevin Durant has said it multiple times. And it’s best you keep that in mind. Especially after Game 5. Because boy, that was not fun.
It was just a spanking. A total butt-kicking. It was ugly from the start and stayed ugly for pretty much the entire 48. But it only counts as one loss. We knew that Oklahoma City would have to win one game in Los Angeles if the Thunder wanted to take this series. Obviously, this wasn’t the one.
So what happened? What went wrong? Why did OKC just get its doors blown off? I think you could point to a number of things. The Thunder didn’t play like themselves at all. They didn’t run. They didn’t play loose. They forced shots. They played too much one-on-one. They didn’t make adjustments while the Lakers did. They missed good looks. The Lakers didn’t. They didn’t defend. Should I keep going?
But credit the Lakers for a lot of that. Much has been made of OKC’s transition game, but LA made a key move tonight. Instead of crashing the offense glass, on most shots the Lakers dropped four men back on the release. And obviously the big change of putting Kobe on Russell Westbrook. I can already see the universe flipping its collective crap over this, but here’s reality: Kobe didn’t do anything special on Westbrook. Russ missed shots he was making in the other four games, and didn’t play with any confidence or swagger. What we Thunder fans know is that this was to be expected from Westbrook. He’s been excellent all season, but at times has been inconsistent.
But here’s what switching Kobe did accomplish: The Lakers weren’t spoiling his excellent defense on Thabo Sefolosha, who as we all know, isn’t the world’s best offensive player. So while Kobe wasn’t doing anything overwhelming on Westbrook, it improved the overall team defense. The Lakers were able to rotate better, funnel Westbrook away from the rim a little and basically cancel out a liability in Fisher with Thabo. What’s odd, is that it took LA five games to make this adjustment.
- You could see the problems coming early on in this one. OKC wasn’t the aggressor and wasn’t attacking. Instead of the Thunder putting the Lakers on their heels, it was the opposite. Scott Brooks talks a lot about hitting first and not only did LA hit first, they hit second, third and fourth.
- Remember this about the Thunder: They are young. I know you know that, but I feel like everyone has to be reminded. Keep it all in perspective, y’know?
- OKC didn’t score until four minutes in, started 0-12 from the floor and its first field goal came over six minutes in. Other than Game 4, LA has dominated the first quarter.
- I’m not really for messing with things that got you somewhere, but I’m ready to pull the plug on Nenad Krstic starting. Other than Game 4, OKC has been plowed early in each game and a lot of that is because LA was able to dominate the paint in the first four minutes. I like Krstic, but let’s face it. Unless he’s hitting his little jumper, he doesn’t have a ton of value against the Lakers’ towers.
- Just seven fast break points for OKC. Meanwhile, LA went inside, scoring 58 points in the paint.
- One other thing about OKC’s lack of a running game: It’s hard to run when there’s not a rebound to grab. When the Lakers are shooting almost 60 percent, it’s hard to get out in transition.
- It’s funny how up and down a playoff series can be. One night we’re riding high, feeling like world-beaters and talking about how we can beat ANYONE. The next, we’re left questioning our existence, talking about roster changes and calling out coaching. You can tell we’re new at this.
- Hey, Serge Ibaka was kind of impressive tonight. 12 points on 6-11 shooting and nine boards. His mid-range game is coming along nicely. So that’s one positive in this sea of sadness.
- My losing the tip theory failed me tonight. OKC lost the tip and the game. That makes the Thunder 2-1 in this series when losing the tip.
- Kind of eerie how similar the score was tonight to Game 4′s blowout? But Game 4 was much closer than this. OKC wasn’t competitive really at all in this one. LA was within striking distance in Game 4 until mid-way through the third.
- Again, yes, Westbrook went 4-13. And while Kobe deserves some credit for that, it’s not like he forced Russ into it. A good example would be right before the half when Russ beat everyone and just blew a layup at the rim. Doug Collins raved about Kobe’s defense all night, highlighting one possession where he got back and stopped Westbrook in transition. The reality was, Westbrook pulled the ball out because he was going one on four, not because Kobe stopped him.
- Early on, OKC wasn’t getting the whistle and you could see it affected them. The Thunder started griping a bit and lost some focus. Everyone knew the whistle would tilt toward LA (I still wish I knew why this happens) but OKC was going to have to press through it. They didn’t do a very good job of it.
- OKC lost this game in the first three minutes. LA set the tone, the tempo and the everything for this game. We know things will be different (hopefully) in Game 6 in OKC. But we can’t just assume the Thunder will win in Loud City. They’ve got to get back to their game and what worked. If they don’t, they won’t win, despite the incredible homecourt advantage.
This series isn’t over. The Lakers have the advantage because they don’t have to win inside the Thunderdome, while OKC would have to steal one on the road. But I still see this going seven and in a Game 7, anything can happen. OKC might finally learn something and correct some mistakes. They might figure out how to squeak one out. But they probably won’t. And that’s alright. I think when we’re all able to separate ourselves from the emotions and frustrations of this postseason everyone will realize just how amazing this season has been. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the Right Now, but once we all step back, we’ll see that this was the biggest step in the right direction we could have hoped for. I’m writing this paragraph as if OKC will lose this series, but my point is, win or lose, this has just been the best thing ever for all parties involved.
Tonight’s game went about as poorly as possible. It was a major downer, especially after we all got our hopes up a little. But it’s not over. Remember, it’s a seven game series.