The final score from Game 4: Thunder 110, Lakers 89.
Whoa. Like whoa.
Mrs. Daily Thunder put it best I thought: “Who would’ve thought with eight minutes left to go in a playoff game in Oklahoma City, it would probably be OK to leave?”
But here’s the thing. Nobody did. Kevin Durant didn’t play a minute in the fourth quarter. Neither did Russell Westbrook. Kobe Bryant slipped off to the locker room about halfway through the last quarter. We got a steady diet of the basketballing styling of Byron Mullens, Etan Thomas and Kevin Ollie’s mustache. Yet no one budged. Instead the last 12 minutes were basically a victory lap for the Thunder. Chants of “Beat LA!” rang out periodically. Bursts of random noise filled the Ford Center for no reason. And despite the wide margin, Thunder fans were still engaged pumping out “DEE-FENSE!” chants, exploding on an Eric Maynor 3 and standing for the majority of it. Game 3 welcomed the world to Loud City. Game 4 showed everyone just how awesome it really is.
So how did we get to that point? Let’s revisit the first quarter. Oklahoma City came out of the tip with a new energy and confidence and I don’t think the Lakers were ready for it. Pau Gasol missed two free throws setting a tone for the Lakers early (11 missed free throws). Russell Westbrook torched Derek Fisher, Kevin Durant started 3-3 from the floor and OKC played some serious defense. The Thunder built a 12-point lead after one and really never looked back. They led by 13 at the half, 22 after three and 21 by the final horn. Don’t forget, this was against the Los Angeles Lakers. In the playoffs. In a pivotal game. And OKC blew the doors off them.
These past two games were entirely different, but equally awesome at the same time. Game 3 was the celebration, the culmination of a long, hard road for Oklahoma City. It was emotional and the final score just kind of accented the night for us. The fact there was a game at all was almost enough. But tonight was about business. There was a basketball game to be won and by golly, this team was going to take care of their job. Westbrook played darn near perfect (18-8-6 and no turnovers). KD was efficient (22 on 12 shots). Jeff Green played solid (15 points and nine rebounds, though he was 5-17 from the floor). And the Thunder bench piled it on. I don’t know that OKC can play a much better game than that. The Thunder shot 48 free throws (!), making 42, outrebounded LA 50-43 and blew out a team by 21 despite shooting just 40 percent. That’s pretty wild.
- Remember that stat we saw yesterday that said something like, “The last five times Phil Jackson’s team lost a Game 2, they were 5-0 in Game 3 and went on to win the series”? Remember that one? Well you can toss that one out I suppose.
- KD’s mom was in her normal seat, but tonight she was wearing a Serge Ibaka jersey. I found this incredibly awesome. To me, it was kind of the perfect example of just how much this team has bought into “team” and “togetherness”. Even player’s mothers are actively supporting teammates.
- Like many others, I thought the key for the Lakers was for them to pound the ball inside to their bigs. And they tried early, especially Kobe. Number 24 didn’t take a shot until there was nine minutes left in the second quarter and finished with only 12 for the game. Gasol and Andrew Bynum scored 26 together and at times had their way, but it wasn’t something LA could rely on. OKC’s help and recover defense was just too good and it forced the bigs to give up the ball.
- I saw at least 10 people with earplugs tonight. I’m serious. Welcome to Thunderdome baby.
- The Lakers really looked a little old and slow tonight. As OKC got out in transition and scored on athletic plays, the Lakers played slow, trying to grind out possessions. OKC was in every passing lane and constantly pushed the action. LA really played on its heels the entire game. The Thunder threw the first punch and it must’ve been a good one, because the Lakers never even took a swing back.
- Think about this for a minute: LA has lost three straight in Oklahoma City, by an average margin of 13.3 points per game. I like how people are saying, “Should the Lakers be worried?” Of course they should be. If the Thunder can pull out Game 5, they could have a chance to finish off the Lakers in a place LA really struggles. I’d be worried.
- My three favorite plays of the night: 1) Kevin Durant’s first quarter dunk. 2) Westbrook dropping it off to KD for another huge dunk. And 3), Jeff Green’s up and under. How fancy.
- Kevin Durant excelled in transition Saturday night, scoring half of his 22 points in those situations. In the first three games of the series, Durant scored just 15 of his 85 points in transition. (per ESPN Stats and Information).
- OKC is 0-2 in games they won the opening tip. They are 2-0 in games they didn’t. I will be rooting against Uncle Jeff when the ball goes up Tuesday night. Yes, I’m superstitious like this. And not ashamed about it at all.
- Rumble was awesome tonight. He seriously is an amazing mascot. He did a stunt where he dunked on roller skates which was outstanding and then played drums at the half with one of my favorite halftime acts, Peter Rabbit.
- Do we all see why James Harden was drafted now? 15 points on 3-6 shooting. Remember, he’s a rookie. We’re seeing what a difference maker he can be.
- I was as dumbfounded as anyone as to how Kobe got that traveling call reversed. The original call was wrong. I don’t disagree there. But that’s a pretty dangerous precedent to set that a player was able to react and argue his way into getting a call changed. Doesn’t that just encourage more griping and complaining from players? If it’s actually possible that you can get a call reversed, why not argue? Remember how people used to joke when a player was barking at an official saying things like, “It doesn’t matter how much you talk to him, you’re going to get that foul back”? Well, I guess maybe it’s worth a shot because it’s possible you can.
- However, you won’t hear a peep from me about officiating. Though I thought Jeff Green couldn’t buy a call early, the fact OKC took 48 free throws means I need to shut up. If LA had taken that many, I would’ve been throwing and breaking expensive things.
- Have you stopped today and thought about the fact that in three years OKC’s four best players will still be under the age of 25. I think this should be a daily exercise for Thunder fans.
- The team that wins Game 5 in a 2-2 tie wins the series 83 percent of the time. But then again, as we learned earlier, trends don’t mean jack to this Thunder team.
The Thunder will board a plane Monday for a trip to the Staples Center with a chance to have Game 6 back at home and an opportunity to win this series. The fact there even will be a Game 6 in OKC is fires me up more than John Goodman at an all-you-can-eat. After a close call in Game 2, I was pretty much satisfied with the experience OKC got from this playoff run. Good thing the team wasn’t. They have visions of winning this thing, and I’m starting to see it that way too. We have a swing game Tuesday night in LA. And a chance to bring it home to Loud City for a close. Like, whoa.