LOS ANGELES — Something woke up the Lakers.
Maybe the tricks of wise old Phil Jackson. Maybe the sky-is-falling attitude of Laker fans on LA radio. Maybe the ringing in their ears from that jet-engine Ford Center crowd three nights earlier. Maybe the gold megaphones handed out to fans to encourage a little counter noise to the Oklahoma City phenomenon.
Whatever it was, it goes in the alarm clock hall of fame.
The Lakers awakened with no blur in their eyes or stagger in their step.
In routing the Thunder 111-87 Tuesday night at the Staples Center, they looked like the Lakers of old, as opposed to the old Lakers.
“We got our butts kicked,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “There’s no way around it. They outplayed us from the opening tip to the end of the game.”
The Lakers avalanched the Thunder from the opening tip, which is nothing new in this series. But unlike Games 1-3, the Thunder never recovered.
Andrew Bynum led a dunkfest. Kobe Bryant put the clamps on Russell Westbrook (yes, Russell Westbrook). The Lakers couldn't miss; the Thunder couldn't make.
And now Thunder victory in Game 6, which seemed assured after the Boomers ran the Lakers out of Oklahoma City, is not so certain. And if the Thunder makes it back to LA, it will be trying to buck more than the NBA's Game 7 roadkill history. The Thunder will be dealing with a team that feels absolutely invincible in front of its celebrity fans.
“The crowd was a lot better than it was in the first two games here,” said Thunder star Kevin Durant. “I guess that brought them energy, just like our crowd brings us energy in Oklahoma City.”
This series stood on the brink before this Game 5. Were the Lakers a crumbling champion or merely a coasting team that can turn it on whenever necessary?
The latter, it would seem. The Lakers did to the Thunder what the Thunder did to the Lakers in Game 4. An embarrassing thrashing.
The Thunder took this series to 2-2 through four games and had made America question the Lakers' present and future. Made America wonder if the Lakers' demise was now.
Not so fast. Invigorated by Jackson's move of putting Kobe on Westbrook and letting outmanned point guard Derek Fisher chase no-threat Thabo Sefolosha, the Lakers dominated from the start.
The Thunder missed its first 13 shots. The Lakers made 12 of their first 15, which is not hard to do when you're dunking all the time. The Thunder looked lost on defense; Bynum had three dunks before the Thunder had a field goal. He finished with five dunks and 21 points.
“We moved the basketball a lot better today,” said Bynum, and the Lakers’ 27 assists on 42 baskets prove it. “Everybody was passing, cutting and we were just getting good offensive opportunities every time.”
Jackson's move of Kobe onto Westbrook — seemed like a no-brainer; what took Jackson so long? — befuddled the Thunder roadrunner. Westbrook, the best player in this series through four games, had a miserable game. Five turnovers in the first half alone. Westbrook finished with eight turnovers, though he at least stayed aggressive, unlike some of his teammates.