Game Notes: Thunder at Lakers
Do You Believe in Miracles? No!
– Last time I came to do game notes at Staples, I almost got crushed to death trying to catch a glimpse of LeBron James and, against all odds, was able to get one question in to him. Before the Thunder game, me and two other reporters were hanging out in the locker room with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
– Durant, to my shock and indignation, has nothing prepared at this point for the H-O-R-S-E All-Star competition, saying his agent called him up about it out of the blue. NBA, I am filled with righteous indignation at you. How hard would it have been to ask beat writers or players and figure out who the H-O-R-S-E ringers of the NBA are? Instead of guaranteeing a legendary contest, you’ve gone for the quick-and-dirty route of getting the biggest names available. For shame. FOR SHAME.
– Anyway, Durant says he “definitely” plans to go behind the backboard and possibly go into the parking lot, saying that his advantage is his range. He thinks he might get tripped up by lefty stuff.
– When asked how things turned out so differently for him and the preceding college Player of the Year and fellow pure scorer Adam Morrison, currently getting ready to enjoy a DNP in the Laker locker room, Durant responds that he and Morrison found themselves in very different situation, with Morrison trying to fit into a team with established guys and Durant finding himself on a new team. This reporter thinks that being much better at basketball than Adam Morrison might have something to do with it, but does not say so.
– When asked about how his year in college improved him, Durant says it made him “stronger” and that it allowed him to add a physical game. He’s happy he spent his year at Texas and that the rule was in place. We both note that Kobe—the offensive player he seems to resemble more and more every day—did okay for himself without the extra year in college, however.
– Russell Westbrook, who I’m hoping won’t figure out that I’m in the class opposite his at USC, says that he never thinks about the Rookie of the Year Trophy, Durant replies that he doesn’t know where he keeps his, and Westbrook says he plans to D-up Durant tough during the rookie game.
– The Lakers come out a little tentative, with Kobe missing some jumpers and no real flow established, and the high-energy Thunder jump out to an early 17-14 lead going into the first time-out.
– Russell Westbrook is absolutely all over the place on offense and defense, and the Thunder are looking to break every play and definitely have the Lakers out of their comfort zone.
– Matched up one-on-one with Durant, Kobe gets fancy and starts to try and put some serious Rucker-park type shimmy moves on him, only to have Durant stay on his feet and force Kobe into an airball.
– A baseball-pass jam for Kobe allows the Lakers to get out of Q1 with a tie.
– Kobe breaks 23,000 points—absolutely massive ovation at Staples.
– Kobe tries to shake Durant again, only to get stripped, which leads to a Durant dunk at the other end.
– Neither Kobe or Durant has it going from the outside, but both get their points, and Kobe finishes the half with a quiet 20, with a good amount coming off second-chance buckets.
– Kobe makes a RIDICULOUS move to cap the half off with the Lakers in control, 60-47.
– OKC comes out in the 2nd determined not to go away and starts driving and kicking to cut the lead to 68-61.
– L.A. stuffs the run by abusing a completely overmatched Kyle Weaver in the post twice, including one move that made Luke Walton look like Carmelo. 76-69 LAL.
– OKC refuses to die in the 4th quarter, fighting at about a 10-point lead and playing hard until the buzzer rings, well after the crowd makes its exodus at about the 1:20 mark.
– Neither Durant or Kobe had their jumper going, with Kobe going 4-17 on jumpers and Durant going 2-12 on jumpers, but both got their 30 on decent percentages and showed that there’s more to a perimeter game than a shooting stroke.
Westbrook says that his energy and attempt to push the break was nothing more than a reflection of what he tries to do every game.
Westbrook also says that he’s confident with his jumper, which he showed several times during the game, and that if he gets space he’ll shoot it every time.
He says that while they go out to win every game, they do take pride in taking such a tough Laker team to a tough game and never folding, and notes that they continue to play and go right to the final buzzer.
Durant says that he tries to go out and play hard, concentrating on defense first. He says the game was a tale of two halves, with the team letting the Lakers jump on them at the end of the first half but playing them tough through the second. When I asked if he knew his jumper wasn’t falling as much, he responded that he knew he’d missed some easy ones and came out determined to fight through it by getting to the basket and getting to the foul line.
When I ask if he noted that Kobe was trying to take him one-on-one, Durant responded that Kobe does that to everyone because that’s the type of player that he is, and that Durant showed he wasn’t scared and knew his teammates were behind him.
Pau Gasol says that staying patient against a high-energy but small-sized team like the Thunder can be tough because they want to run, they try to run every time, even after made baskets, and that what you try to do is take advantage of your strengths and get easy looks while controlling the tempo.
So that’s how it was: Small-market hustle and moxie, along with hospitality, getting stomped out by the juggernaut that’s destroying everyone straight up until the All-Star Game. Inspiring.