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Oklahoma City Thunder: Revelations from Game 1

by Berry Tramel Published: May 15, 2012

Here’s what happens when the Thunder routs the Lakers 119-90 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. You forget some really cool stuff. So many wild things happened, great things for the Thunder, that it was hard to keep it all straight get it in the paper. So here’s what I would have mentioned if I had had time to reflect:

* The Lakers led 4-3, Metta World Chaos had just drained a 3-pointer to let Oklahomans know they would have absolutely no effect on him, and we still didn’t know how Kevin Durant would match up with Chaos, who two years ago dogged Durant into a miserable playoff series. Durant got the ball near the top of the circle, drove the left side and threw down a dunk left-handed. Left-handed. If Durant has done that before, I haven’t seen it.

Then and there, you figured Chaos’ dominating D on Durant was over. And sure, Durant had a solid game. Nothing spectacular — 8-of-16 shooting, 25 points in 28-plus minutes. But we’ve moved on from 2010. Chaos remains a quality defender. But Durant’s offense now trumps Chaos’ defense.

* Conversely, Thabo Sefolosha’s defense has made some inroads on Kobe Bryant’s offense. Two years ago, Thabo did an excellent job guarding Kobe. But excellent back then meant you weren’t completely embarrassed. Now, it means something different.

Thabo played just 17 minutes Monday night. During those 17 minutes, Kobe was on the court the entire time. And he scored four points. Four points! Can you believe that? Kobe finished with 20 points in 32 minutes. With Thabo on the court, Kobe made one of six shots and was 2-of-2 from the foul line. Think about that. Two foul shots for Kobe. One field goal.

With Thabo on the bench, Kobe made six of 11 shots and 3-of-5 foul shots, for 16 points. Kobe already is tired of Thabo.

*  Meanwhile, Kendrick Perkins’ defense on Andrew Bynum wasn’t dominating. Perk played just 17 minutes (and seven seconds), and in those 17 minutes Bynum scored 12 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, with two foul shots. I know, Perk’s defense is valuable even when Bynum is effective. Playing Bynum one-on-one — which Perkins does and few other NBA centers attempt — means the Lakers don’t get wide open shots on the perimeter. Kobe is the only Laker who can score while being semi-guarded on the perimeter. Steve Blake shot Denver out of the playoffs in Game 7 Saturday night, but when he’s guarded, he looks like the second-leading scorer for Hickory High. Perk makes that happen.

But still, Perk’s defense on Bynum was down from the usual standard. I think Gran Torino still was slowed. Then he re-aggravated the injury early in the third quarter. Scotty Brooks said Perk wanted to return, and maybe he could have. I saw Perkins leaving the arena, and he seemed to be walking fine.

His health is important in this series. But I’m not sure it’s paramount. I think the Thunder can beat the Lakers, probably with ease, even without Perkins.

* About the only troubling aspect of this game was the first-half rebounding. The Lakers had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half, five by Pau Gasol. The good news: the Lakers finished with just 13 offensive rebounds, and two of the three offensive rebounds in the second half came from Troy Murphy and Devin Ebanks in the waning minutes.

But of Gasol’s five offensive rebounds, only two came with Serge Ibaka on the court. That ridiculous stretch in which Gasol and Jordan Hill played volleyball at the basket before a Gasol tip-in brought the Lakers within 35-29? Ibaka was on the bench. The Thunder is most effective when Ibaka is on the court with Gasol.

The Lakers seemed to react to the Thunder rotations Monday night. When Brooks subbed, Laker coach Mike Brown responded. Perhaps Brooks should counter. Make Brown tip his hand. Play his guys until they drop, then when rest is mandatory, Brooks can substitute. The Thunder has fresher legs. Use them.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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