Lakers/Thunder Game 1 Recap
Durant fails to get things done.
Shut down Kevin Durant and you shut down the Thunder.
It’s that easy, at least the Lakers made it appear that way.
The defending NBA Champions harassed Durant from the opening tip until the final buzzer sounded on Sunday. All told, the regular season scoring champ finished with 24 points, on 7-24 shooting, in the Thunder’s 87-79 loss at Staples Center.
Perhaps we should give Durant the benefit of the doubt. You know, chalk it up as one of those rare off-nights. Everyone has them right? It was, after all, the first NBA Playoff game of his young career. Maybe nerves got the best of him.
Perhaps we should give the Lakers some credit.
Perhaps they figured something out in Game 1.
Ron Artest was largely, though not solely responsible, for locking down Durant. Come to think of it, you get the feeling Ron-Ron lives for challenges like that, he lives for the chance to be a difference-maker on the defensive end of the floor.
It took Durant nearly five minutes to score his first basket of the game, on a 19-footer at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter to cut the Lakers lead down to four points. Getting off to a good start was never an option, not on this afternoon.
“If you let Artest stay close to your body you’re going to have trouble moving,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re going to have to do a better job of setting screens and KD’s going to have to do a better job of running him off of those screens and make him chase instead of playing his game.”
Even when Durant managed to ditch Artest, the Lakers rotated over with help. In the second quarter, Durant got open out in transition, and with only Derek Fisher standing in between him and the basket, an easy layup looked like a sure thing.
That was, of course, until Kobe Bryant came out of nowhere to block Durant’s shot. It was an authoritative left-handed swat, as if to send a message.
Durant was rattled, no doubt about it.
Each and every time he took the ball down the middle of the lane thereafter, twin towers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were there to greet him.
He ended up missing three of his four shots in a second quarter that we‘re sure he’d like to forget as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it was more of the same after the halftime break. More Durant firing up brick after brick.
He made only one of four attempts in the third quarter. His three-pointer at 8:03 didn’t draw iron, that’s how bad things got. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma City ended up trailing by eight points heading into the final 12 minutes.
Finishing 2-7 from the field in the fourth quarter certainly didn’t help matters for Durant‘s overall statistics. When all was said and done, he was 1-8 from beyond the three-point arc and had more turnovers (4) than assists (2).
“I was frustrated,” Durant said to several members of the media afterward during post-game interviews. “I was missing shots I normally make. They felt good leaving my hand. If I made 4-5 more shots, maybe it’s a different game.”
Fair enough. Now let’s see if he’s one of those all talk, no action types.
If the Thunder are going to actually make things interesting, perhaps steal a game or two from the Lakers, Durant must score. And score a lot, to the tune of 30-35 points per game. If not, this series is going to end quick.
The Lakers would like nothing more than to dispose of Durant & Co. in a sweep so their veterans can get some additional rest for the postseason push.
That said, it’s reasonable to expect more of the same moving forward. More of the Lakers looking to lock down Durant. It worked the first time around.