Rust? What rust?
Elbows? What elbows?
It was evident pretty quickly that the Thunder weren’t focusing whatsoever on any of that extracurricular noise. Forget all the storylines and angles leading into this thing. It was basketball, and basketball only in Game 1. It was about executing a plan, playing your game and handling business. And they did that to the tune of a 29-point hammering of the Lakers to take a 1-0 lead.
“There’s no question we have a team full of gym rats,” Scott Brooks said. “They want to play basketball. That’s all they want to do. They want to play basketball. They’re basketball players. They probably don’t have much of a life off the court. You’re concerned, you’re a little worried that rust would be there, but we did a lot of scrimmaging, we did a lot of drills, we did a lot of things we did in training camp that prepared us. But I wasn’t anticipating this type of game.”
Russell Westbrook — fantastic. He went for 27-9-7 in three quarters. Kevin Durant scored almost a silent 25 points, doing it in his fabulously efficient way. James Harden added 17 off the bench to help OKC’s second unit pile up 50 total points. I’ve said it before, but when those three all play well on the same night, you’re not beating the Thunder. When the jumpers fall, when they attack and on the rare occasion they only turn it over a total of four times, there’s just no way you’re stopping this team. Honestly, losing by only 29 is probably an achievement in that case.
Think about it: four. Four turnovers. That’s a franchise low for the playoffs, but come on man, with the struggles this team has had in that department? I mean, seriously? As Scott Brooks said, “That’s huge. Four, we’ve had that the first six minutes of the game at times.” Westbrook turns the ball over four times when he gets out of bed in the morning. To go through an entire game, in the playoffs, only giving it away four times? Unheard of. KD called the ball security “decent.” Related: Kate Upton looks “decent.”
The midrange game will likely dry up one of these games. You can’t expect to consistently drop those shots four straight games, even if the Thunder have done it well this season. There surely will be a game where it becomes a grind, where it comes down to possessions and stops and rebounds. Where it comes down to executing a critical inbounds play, to putting together a string of well run halfcourt sets. It’s going to take that. This was quite the treat and certainly the best way ever to begin a series, but this isn’t going to be the norm.
There was some worry — from myself included — of rust, or a certain tightness whether it be from anxiousness or whatever. Obviously not a factor. The Thunder were popping early, scoring 30 in the first quarter en route to a 59-44 halftime lead. Then exploding out of halftime on a 7-0 run in about a minute that was essentially an elbow right to the temple of the Lakers. The Thunder didn’t just throw the first punch. They roundhouse-dropkick-elbow-punched Lakers in the head. The way they started well, kept it going and then finished well was most impressive.
All went according to plan. The Thunder took Game 1, looked dominant in doing it, let their game do all their talking and set an incredible tone for the series. The Thunder straight declared war on World Peace. And the rest of the Lakers.
But… take a small breath. It’s one, and four are needed. Here’s some sobering reality: The Lakers need only to take one of these two games in Oklahoma City to feel like they’ve got a great chance in this series. Lose Wednesday, and you completely erase everything good that happened here. Lose Wednesday, and it might as well been a one-point buzzer-beater that bounced around all over the rim. The way the Thunder outclassed the Lakers tonight definitely affirmed the way I felt about this matchup, but it’s one. One game. Three more to go.
Savor this butt-kicking for sure, soak it in. I know it has to feel good for the Thunder. Considering the circumstances, they wanted this one. They’re certainly not going to admit it, but that felt good. But bask in it too long and give one away Wednesday and it doesn’t mean anything more than an ugly two-point victory. The Thunder absolutely sent a clear message, but winning by 29 doesn’t count for anymore than for one.
- The reaction to World Peace: It honestly wasn’t anything that over the top. The crowd booed, and booed loudly when he was introduced. Then wouldn’t you know it, he hit a 3 on his very first touch. But I enjoyed the fact the crowd kept up the booing on each touch. There was even kind of a funny moment when World Peace caught a pass, gave it up, got it back, gave it up and got it back. Boo, quiet, boo, quiet, boo.
- However, Harden’s ovation when he checked in was louder than World Peace’s booing when he was introduced. As it should’ve been. I thought the Thunder crowd handled it perfectly. They let World Peace know, but nothing crazy or over the top. If there’s a word for it, it was “appropriate.”
- Kendrick Perkins re-aggravated his hip injury in the third quarter and exited the game and immediately went to the locker room. He returned to the bench and the team says he was available to return, but obviously wasn’t needed. Brooks said following the game he’ll get treatment and will be re-evaluated though.
- There are no two bigger basketball buzzwords than “adjustments” and “aggressive.” If only a team could make adjustments and be aggressive. They’d be unstoppable. That’s all the Lakers said after the game.
- The first half was the best I’ve seen Andrew Bynum play against OKC. He had 14 points and nine rebounds at the break, but finished with six and five in the second.
- After not playing really at all in the opening round, Nazr Mohammed came in and did quite the job off the bench. He was effective offensively, did well on Bynum and handled business on the boards. Encouraging sign.
- Cole Aldrich: seven points and six rebounds in nine minutes.
- Nick Collison had two terrific dunks tonight. Related: My heart skipped a beat twice tonight.
- Devin Ebanks got ejected late in the fourth quarter by getting two technicals and then ripped his jersey off going to the locker room. Doesn’t he know he needs to wait three more games to pull that?
- Tony Brothers got in his stupid technical foul of the night, calling Ibaka for I guess, landing near Kobe after a blocked shot attempt.
- The Thunder can put the Lakers in some real difficult matchup situations. It was obvious Mike Brown had his head spinning to try and keep up with Scott Brooks’ substitutions. In the second quarter, Brooks went small and you would’ve thought Brown had never heard of such a concept. He had Jordan Hill on Durant, then Hill on Derek Fisher, then he switched Gasol to Fisher. The Thunder can put the Lakers in matchup hell. I’m not sure the Lakers have any lineup OKC can’t match.
- If you’re too cool to put on the free t-shirt over your graphic tee or pink collared button up, I’d rather you give your ticket to someone else.
- Ramon Sessions is painfully passive offensively. The Thunder didn’t respect him outside of 18 feet at all.
- Kobe is seriously the only player in the league afforded a wild reaction in front of an official. Westbrook does that, he gets five technicals, all at once.
- After the game, Russell Westbrook was wearing a shirt with fishing lures on it and red glasses from the Sally Jesse Rapheal collection.
- Fast break points: 13 for the Thunder, zero for the Lakers.
- Metta World Peace on the situation with Harden: “Right now, it’s about basketball, you know. I think after the season if fans want to talk to me, you know tweet me or hit me up online on ronartest.com or go to my podcast, the Ron and Metta Show. I think that after the season we can talk about that, but right now it’s more about basketball for me.”
- Metta World Peace on the crowd: “I mean, I think the Oklahoma City fans do a good job of supporting their players and their team. Obviously, the city of Oklahoma has to be some of the best fans in the NBA. They took on a team that needed shelter and they were able to support their team and able to pay the players. So obviously they love basketball here.”
- The Lakers had 87 possessions tonight, the Thunder 88. Offensive efficiencies: Lakers, 103.4. Thunder, 135.2
- Very, very few Laker fans in the building.
- Berry Tramel made a great point late during the third quarter: Why not put Cole Aldrich in early? Give him a chance to defend Bynum, which might be necessary in real minutes at some point if Perk isn’t healthy.
- It was way weirder than I thought having the new PA guy. Especially during starting lineups. I’d gotten used to the old cadences and calls, so when the new guy called out Kevin Durant’s name in his way, it was strange.
Next up: Game 2 Wednesday in OKC.