NBA Playoffs: How the Lakers helped the Thunder grow up fast
COMMENTARY -- Competing against these Lakers has put the Thunder on the fast track, but not so fast that anyone should overlook the momentous moment that stands before Oklahoma City on Monday night.
One reader stood out among the avalanche of responses to the Thunder's Game 3 loss in Los Angeles, centered mostly on officiating and a little on coaching snafus.
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But this trusty fan found sea among the sand. A rose among the thorns. Oh, well, he said. This gives the Thunder the chance to close out at home.
And so we arrive Monday night at Chesapeake Arena, where the Lakers will fight for their season and the Thunder hopes to ignite a celebration worthy of the street party outside on Reno.
Should the Thunder take out the Lakers, streamers will fall, and fans will roar, and long, tall basketball players will hug like it's V-J Day.
All will be justified. Beating the Lakers is no small accomplishment.
Beat the Lakers, and you've beaten more than Kobe Bryant's will and Andrew Bynum's unmatched size/skill combo and Metta World Chaos' villainy and the Laker Girls' glamour and the LA market's money.
Beat the Lakers, and you've slain something most powerful in American sport. Divine right. The idea that certain organizations — the Yankees, the Lakers, a dozen college football monsters, a few college hoop squads — are destined to always win. The notion you can see everywhere from Jack Nicholson's fandom to the Laker roster, which always commands multiple superstars.
“They're one of the top franchises in all sports,” said Scotty Brooks. “They do a great job competing every year. They always seem to be at a high level.”
The Thunder is the better team. Of that there is no doubt. But that doesn't mean closing out the Lakers is easy. Heck, the last three games have proved that. After a Game 1 blowout, Thunder-Lakers has been a series of mosh-pit basketball. Both teams fighting for an inch of air space; the Thunder is up 3-1 not because of a player or two but because of a play or two, here or there.
“To beat the Lakers, you have to play well,” Brooks said. “To beat 'em, you have to do a lot of things well. You have to prevent them from doing things well. They're a great team, a great organization.
“We know we have a big challenge ahead to close out a team. Nobody wants to go home early. We know the Lakers are a championship-level team. They're not just going to give us game four. We have to win game No. 4.