The Thunder euthanize LA in game one.
Posted by: SPQR on May 15, 2012 - 12:34 AM
The Thunder came prepared for a street fight. The heard the talk: the veteran Lakers were coming to town. The Lakers who knew how to win, led by the biggest winner extant in today’s NBA-Kobe Bryant. The return of the Big Elbow, who they last saw decapitating James Harden when LA had perhaps their best, most improbable win of the year. And so they came, ready for a knockdown, drag out fight with Kobe, Metta and the Lakers, who knew how to win.|
But when they arrived at the stadium for the assignation, they didn’t find what they expected.......
No reason to really recap this route in detail. Some simple stats say it all. Against a team that ranked 30th in the league in turnovers, the Lakers managed to produce a paltry 4 compared to 15 of their own. And the Thunder converted those for 22 points while we managed 6 off our turnovers. And even worse, it seemed like almost every turnover on our part led to a fast break or layup. No resistance at all.
Westbrook went for 27 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 1 turnover. Durant hit for 25 points, and 8 boards, while Harden lit us up for 17.
What Westbrook did was no surprise. This team simply cannot put pressure on even a mediocre point guard, let alone of the elites. It has been our story all year. Really for two years.
The Thunder big three did what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted. It was that easy.
The bench was outscored 50-26, with most of our bench points coming in garbage time. Blake, a hero of the Denver series, scored zero. Hill, who looks like he is playing in Houston again, had four. When two important bench players have that little production, you know it’s gonna be a long night.
Fast break points, 13-0. Though it seemed like the Thunder had 33.
You knew it was over in the third, when Kobe started jacking up long shots even when covered. Because against this team, that kind of intellectually lazy, mentally unfocused approach is death. I am sure Kobe thought he would bring us back, god knows, he has done it before. But against this team, against the tough defenders- Harden and Sefolsha- at the they put on him, age of 33, the only thing that mindset will bring is us from 15 points back to 30 points back.
If Kobe falls into that trap over and over, against this team, we will be hard pressed to win one game, let alone a series. It is no mystery why Kobe has had such problems with this team. And forcing things against them is exactly what they want him to do. Basketball is about matchups and this team, because of the nature of its defenders, is a very bad matchup for Kobe hero ball. He needs to understand that, now.
It was fitting to see Devin Ebanks tossed and removing his shirt. The last time we saw that was Andrew Bynum against Dallas. And this game showed that we are in as much peril for a very quick playoff exit, and the team collectively taking off all their shirts for the last time this year, as we were last year against the Mavericks.
The Lakers must somehow find a way to regroup. And there will be talk that the Thunder won’t be able to hit jump shots like that all series. But they are a jump shooting team. It’s their identity. And they are really good at getting open and hitting them. Just ask Dallas about how often they can do it. For the Lakers to hope for them to cool off is tantamount to suicide. They have to find their own recipe, their own identity to try win some of these game.
And so it was. The younger, faster, more athletic team showing just why speed and athleticism kills, and how it is better to have a star in his prime, than one past his, having their way with a team that was the best, a few years ago.
After the game, the young star in his prime, Kevin Durant, was asked about the series loss to LA two years ago. And he replied with cold, true logic: “That was two years ago.” And he is right. Two years can be a lifetime in athletics, in balancing the scales of which team is rising, which is falling and who is the real championship contender.
And those two long years, really may just the whole thing here. Time passed for one team, time now for the other.
And so the Thunder came for a gang fight. But instead of finding a ready, willing, capable foe........
they found a prostrate, sick, weak form in front of them. An opponent that could only look up and stare, hardly able to even move. And since this is all about killing off your opponent, this is all about finishing the other off and moving on, they did what they had to do.
They put their hand over our eyes, put a gun to our temple and squeezed the trigger, leaving our brains all over the wall. It was just that easy and fast.
In some quarters, when you do that to the terminally ill, it is called euthanasia. A mercy killing.
We have played the Thunder four games now. And the only win we have was a perfectly played game that enabled us to barely win at home, coming back from 18 points down. Can this Lakers team, which looks just like the unsteady, unstable, rudderless team we have seen all year and in the Denver series, come up with that kind of brilliance?
Next gang fight is scheduled for Wednesday night. But can a team without the speed, without the athleticism, without an identity all year, even try to make it one? That is the only question right now.