Five Quick Thoughts From Thunder-Lakers
1) World Peace will pay. Metta World Peace will be suspended. You can count on that. I don’t know how many games his vicious blow to the head of James Harden will command. But you can expect World Peace to pay the price. The consensus among media members, players and executives here at Staples Center is that Artest will be suspended five games at a minimum. Regardless of what World Peace said after the game, it was a cheap shot. It looked to be intentional, and he’ll have to suffer the consequences of letting his emotions get the best of him.
2) This was a bad loss. There’s no way around it. The fight the Thunder showed in both overtimes means absolutely nothing. Unless, of course, you believe in moral victories. It shouldn’t even be brought up. The way the Thunder collapsed — again — in the second half was unbelievable. OKC was ahead 79-62 with 10 1/2 minutes left. And lost. In the fourth quarter and overtime, the Thunder went 9-of-36 from the field and was outscored 53-29. It’s the third straight defeat in which the Thunder collapsed in the second half. Consider the Thunder’s inability to close a full blown problem. We’re not talking about sealing the deal against cupcakes, or even against playoff teams with nothing to play for. When the stakes have been high, and messages are being sent, the Thunder has struggled to finish. At this point, there is little reason to believe that won’t change eventually come playoff time.
3) The stars have got to step up. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can’t combine to shoot 14-of-56. I don’t care if it’s against the Bobcats. There’s no way those two should have that much of an off night on the same night. Westbrook took questionable shots from the start. Durant simply took way too many jumpers. With James Harden KO’d with a concussion, all the heavy lifting was on KD and Westbrook’s shoulders. And neither stopped settling for jump shots until it was too late. Durant in particular got a ton of quality shots. But until the Thunder learns to consistently pass up good shots for great shots (especially when the good ones aren’t falling), OKC will continue to struggle in times like these. Notice what Kobe Bryant did tonight? He drove and dished to Pau Gasol. He made the extra pass to Steve Blake. He forced the action and got the shot he wanted instead of the shot the Thunder’s defense allowed him to take. That’s where Durant and Westbrook need to get. We’ve seen it at times. But consistency is key.
4) Kendrick Perkins’ D was incredible. Add this one to Perk’s season resume. He shut down Andrew Bynum to the point that Lakers coach Mike Brown had no choice but to bench the big man in favor of the more effective Jordan Hill. Bynum finished with 10 points on 5-of-15 shooting. But he scored just six points on 3-of-8 shooting against Perk. Of those three shots by Bynum, one was a dunk off an offensive rebound in which Perk had to cover Gasol, one was a 17-foot jumper from the top of the key and the other was a reverse slam in which Bynum got free from Perk. You couldn’t have asked for a better defensive effort by Perk tonight.
5) The 2-ssed suits the Thunder. Even after the Lakers’ impressive comeback (or was it the Thunder’s monumental collapse?), did you see anything in L.A. that frightened you? Me neither. The Thunder is built to beat the Lakers. Plain and simple. If, of course, OKC can get past (presumably) Dallas in the first round. For as flawed as this team has been, and continues to be, the dominoes have fallen in such a way that the Thunder has as clear of a path as it can get to the Western Conference Finals at the very least. The Mavs still have a shot to beat the Thunder, but the Lakers in the second round could be a six-game series. Maybe even five. Kobe has proven to be a good option defensively on Westbrook. But the Lakers still would have to account for Harden and Durant, while Perk and Serge Ibaka have shown they can handle Bynum and Gasol. It would be an entertaining series, but the Thunder should advance.
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