You've seen this before. Thunder-Lakers. Tough, physical game. Intensity abundant. Baskets scarce. Excitement galore.
Lakers win in the end.
Now you know why the Thunder needs Kendrick Perkins. Not to start playing good defense. That, the Thunder can do and did Sunday in a 90-87 loss downtown.
The Thunder needs Perkins so it can start playing great defense. Come spring, come the playoffs, come another Laker post-season series, that's how you win.
You don't beat LA 105-101. You beat the Lakers 87-84. Or they'll beat you 90-87.
“Tough to score against 'em,” said Thunder dirty worker Nick Collison. “We defended them pretty well. Not a lot of easy buckets for either team.”
Just like that playoff series last April, which included scores of 87-79, 95-92 and 95-94. Average score: Lakers 96, Thunder 94.
“Exciting to watch,” said Nazr Mohammed, after his first game on the Thunder bench since being traded four days ago. “Playoff type atmosphere, with the physicality of the game.”
Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden played wondrous defense on Kobe Bryant, who needed 22 shots to get 17 points and made nary a trip to the foul line.
But just like last April, the Lakers played wondrous defense on Kevin Durant, who shot 8-of-20 and scored 21 points.
And that won't change if these teams meet in the post-season. Ron Artest and Bryant are fierce defenders, and if Durant gets past them, Redwoods Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol await in the paint.
Nope, the way to beat the Lakers — and probably the Spurs and Mavericks, too — is not to outscore them, but to outdefend. Which is why Perkins can't get in the lineup soon enough.
And the new man himself was impressed with the Thunder D. “They didn't score on us in our halfcourt defense,” Perkins said.
Instead, the Lakers scored nine fast-break points, some off the Thunder's 19 turnovers, and 10 points on direct putbacks from Bynum or Gasol.
The Thunder rebounded well. But when the Lakers got an offensive rebound, the ball usually went straight back into the hoop. Perkins will help stop that.
The Thunder's second-half offense stunk: 31 points, 30 percent shooting, 10 turnovers.
And in the final 3:45, the Thunder's seven possessions were awful:
* Russell Westbrook threw away the ball trailing 87-84.
* Durant shot an air ball on an 18-footer, trailing 88-84.
* Westbrook sank a desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock neared zero, making it 88-87.
* Harden missed a layup on a rugged drive trailing 88-87.
* Artest stripped the ball from Durant, with the Lakers up 90-87.
* Gasol drew a charging foul on Westbrook with 17 seconds left.
* Durant and Harden missed desperation 3-pointers in the final five seconds in what actually was OKC's best possession down the stretch.
Get used to such basketball. That's how you win in the playoffs.
The Lakers won the NBA Finals last June by averaging 91 points in seven games against the Celtics. Boston averaged 87.
That's the kind of defense the Thunder must play to win in the playoffs. But good news. Even without Kendrick Perkins, that's close to the kind of defense they played against the Lakers.
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.