Before what undoubtedly was the biggest game of their professional careers, both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant said they didn’t feel any more pressure going into Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It’s just another game for us,” Durant said. "It feels like a regular game. We do know the importance of it, but we try not to put too much pressure on ourselves.” Said Westbrook, "Like I emphasized when we first started this series, I try to just stay cool and continue to do the same things we’ve been doing all season long, and I think that will work out for us win or lose.”
Has Bryant lost a step?TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley on Monday night attributed Kobe Bryant’s unusual ineffectiveness in this series to old age. Entering Game 5, Bryant was averaging 24 points, the lowest since the 2000 playoffs, and shooting just 38.4 percent, his lowest mark since his rookie year. "Kobe Bryant is an old basketball player,” Barkley said. "He’s one of the greatest basketball players ever. But once you’ve been playing as long as he has, you’re going to get banged up and you’re not going to have the same explosiveness. Now he’s against a (21)-year-old kid (Durant) who’s got some talent. "People are saying, ‘Kobe Bryant doesn’t explode like he used to.’ Of course he doesn’t. He’s been in the NBA for 13 or 14 years. He’s played in the Olympics and in the playoffs. He’s still a terrific player, but age takes its toll on everybody.” Before the game, Durant said he doesn’t understand why people insist that Bryant has lost a step. "He’s the greatest player in the game,” Durant said. "You can’t say that he’s lost a step. He’s the same Kobe from a while back. Maybe he’s not dunking on a lot of guys like he was back in ’01, ’02. But he’s still the same Kobe.”
Television scheduleIf Game 7 is necessary, it will be played at 2:30 p.m. CDT at the Staples Center. The game will be televised on ABC.
Ibaka garnering attentionAfter recording seven of the Thunder’s franchise-playoff record 17 blocked shots the last time he was inside Staples Center, rookie Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night drew the most attention he’s ever received before a game. Media members huddled around the post player from Congo and asked about everything from his shot-blocking skills to the energy he’s provided the Thunder off the bench. Ibaka, who still is learning English, said he’s now a lot more comfortable in English interviews.