Ideally, the Thunder would have been up two games to none while they made their way back home, but obviously that did not happen. Instead, the Lakers won the first two games of the series and most casual observers, and a lot of die hard Oklahoma City fans, have already written this first round off as a learning experience for the young team. I am here to tell you, that is a big mistake.
Most veteran basketball analysts like to say that a playoff series does not truly begin until someone loses on the home floor. That has not happened. So far, the Thunder have lost two games that they were, even if they could not be labeled as playoff virgins, supposed to lose. Let me say that again: They were SUPPOSED to lose those two games.
Anyone who predicted the team would steal one in Los Angeles, was either overly optimistic, or else trying to sell some newspapers by being contrary. The Thunder went into one of the toughest venues in professional basketball to get their first taste of playoff basketball and did so against the team that has most recently lifted the championship trophy. As expected, they showed up looking timid and overwhelmed. They missed shots they normally make, made mental errors, and allowed their emotions to negatively effect their play.
Even so, they barely lost. Laker fans, even though they are, should not be overly confident after the play of their team. The defending champs with the best record in the Western Conference lost three out of the four quarters in game one and barely squeaked by in game two despite the Thunder’s best matchup advantage missing half the game with foul trouble. Now they lose home court for the next two games.
Of course, game three is a MUST WIN for Oklahoma City if they even hope to make a splash and if they pull that off, game four is almost as important. For that to happen, though, the Thunder do not have to play a great deal better. To win they simply need a couple of these things to happen:
DURANT NEEDS TO BE DURANT
K.D. was the team’s leading scorer in both games in Los Angeles, but did anyone watch his performance and think he even played to the level we have become accustomed to over the past couple of months? As much as the Laker Nation wants to believe that their investment in Ron Artest is finally starting to pay off, the truth is more likely that Durant simply wilted a bit under the bright spotlight. Think about it, the media has been incredibly focused on the young superstar, Laker coach Phil Jackson has been playing mind games with him, and no one is harder on Durant than Durant.
Well, he is back home now, has had a chance to breathe, and took the Lakers’ best punch already. If he bounces back and puts together a complete game like he had been doing night in and night out leading up to the playoffs, the Lakers will also have to improve their play.