On the first Laker possession, 7-foot-something, 285-pound all-star Andrew Bynum bulled toward the basket and launched a shot.
Kendrick Perkins blocked it.
On the Lakers' second possession, Kobe Bryant drove the lane and tried to lay the ball in the basket. Perk blocked it again.
On the Lakers' third possession, Bynum backed in, then whirled for a turnaround jumper. Perkins stayed right on him, body to body. The ball bounced off.
Exactly one year ago, Thunder mastermind Sam Presti pulled off a blockbuster trade with one primary design.
Beat the Lakers.
Thursday night, the Thunder did just that, 100-85 in a game that launches your heroes into the All-Star break with an NBA-best record of 27-7.
The Feb. 24, 2011, trade that brought Perkins from Boston and lifted Serge Ibaka into the lineup transformed the Thunder from a team that talked about sabertooth defense to a team that played sabertooth defense.
A team that could counter the Los Angeles gargantuans with girth, guile and basket protection, if not actual height.
Laker big men Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 36 points but made just 14 of 29 shots combined. Gasol scored 22 points, but he was heroic in doing so. Made a ton of tough shots.
Remember the first three minutes of Game 1 of that playoff series two years ago, when Gasol and Bynum seemed to drop shot after shot from point-blank range?
The baskets don't come so easy now. Against the nasty Perkins and the fly-swatting Ibaka, Gasol and Bynum don't get tap-ins anymore. On the rare occasions they shot from the spots they like, they were sandwiched. All the liberty of being in a briar patch.
“It was a physical game,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. “It was a game of physical and mental toughness.
“Perk and Serge did a terrific job of making their bigs earn every spot on the floor. When they got it, they were forcing them to make tough shots. They deserve a lot of credit for this win.”
When Bynum and Gasol struggle to score, that heats the pressure on Kobe Bryant, who scored 24 points but needed 24 shots, making just seven.
“When they're going into their bigs, he (Kobe) gets a chance to rest,” said Perk's backup, Nazr Mohammed, who also arrived via trade on Feb. 24, 2011. “They carry him at times. We just wanted to make sure they couldn't carry him so much.”
The Lakers shot just 38.5 percent from the field and corralled just eight offensive rebounds.
Even more impressive for the Thunder, two of its best defenders, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, missed the game with injuries.
But others took their place. James Harden, hampered by a sore wrist, was more valuable on defense than offense, which might be a first in his three Thunder seasons. Harden dogged Kobe into frustration.
And Mohammed and Cole Aldrich gave precious relief to Perkins and Ibaka. While Bynum played 40 minutes, 30 seconds and Gasol played 38:15, the Thunder got by with 33:27 from Ibaka and 31:20 from Perk. The Thunder duo clearly was fresher down the stretch.
This game hopefully puts to rest the notion that Perkins is somehow expendable, just because you can't find gaudy numbers on his box-score line.
The post defense that Gran Torino plays is invaluable. The attitude he brings is the same.
“He has a mindset that it doesn't bother him to hit people,” Brooks said. “He loves to be tough and he loves to be physical. He's changed how we play.
“Perk is a defensive player. He wakes up thinking about stopping somebody from getting to the basket.”
In the fourth quarter, Bynum got free for a dunk on Mohammed and a short hook shot on Aldrich. Perkins returned to the game, and soon thereafter, Bynum got loose for a dunk.
Brooks summoned Perkins and joked, “Don't let it happen again.”
But Gran Torino doesn't joke. Not during a ballgame. “Oh yes, Coach, I won't,” he said.
Bynum got the ball back in the post on the Lakers' next possession and was muscled by Perkins into a bad shot. Bynum never got off another, and the Thunder won going away.
Of course, beating the Lakers, now or in the playoffs, doesn't mean winning the West. It's not 2010 anymore.
But beating the Lakers, beating them like this, shows the plan is working. Happy birthday to the trade.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.