The Thunder scored 42 more points in Game 1 (119) than in Game 2 (77), and astonishingly was victorious both times against the Los Angeles Lakers.
How does OKC return to triple-digits Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Game 3 of the Western Cofnerence semifinals at Staples Center?
Better shooting is an obvious place to start: The Thunder shot 53.0 percent from the field in Game 1, but 42.0 percent in Game 2.
Taking care of the ball is another: OKC had just four turnovers in Game 1, but 13 in Game 2.
Second-chance points add up: The Thunder had 21 second-chance points and 13 offensive rebounds in Game 1, but managed just four second-chance points and six offensive boards in Game 2.
Getting to the free-throw line helps: OKC made 24 of 29 free throws in Game 1, but 13 of 16 in Game 2.
The Lakers also dictate what the scoreboard reads.
“They did a good job of not taking quick shots,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They kind of slowed the game down and we really can't do much with that. They shot a lot under 10 seconds and even under five seconds (remaining on the 24-second shot clock).”
The Thunder had 14 more field-goal attempts in Game 1 (44 for 83) than in Game 2 (29 for 69).
Yet at the same time, the Lakers are down 2-0 and might try to make some changes.
“They're going to play desperate,” Brooks said. “They're going to really come at us.”
More pressure often leads to a faster tempo, which is where OKC excels.
“It seems like everybody is prepared to make big plays,” Brooks said. “That's what good teams do and we are a very good team.”
On a potential game-winning sequence for the Lakers late in Game 2, reserve guard Steve Blake snuck his way into the right corner for a wide-open 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left that wound up being off the mark.
Russell Westbrook (allegedly) was defending Blake, but all Thunder defenders were facing Kobe Bryant to keep an eye on the most obvious choice to take the last shot.
Even while eying Bryant, OKC defenders still were responsible for the player they were assigned. When the ball was thrown to Blake, Westbrook quickly turned and leaped out at Blake to contest the shot.
Asked to describe Westbrook's defense on the play, Brooks smiled and said: “It, uh, was not good.”
Did Westbrook know he made a mistake?
“He'll know about it today,” Brooks said, still smiling.
The Thunder ended Game 2 on a 9-0 run. One player who could have helped the Lakers was sitting on the Thunder bench: reserve point guard Derek Fisher, whom the Lakers traded in March and OKC signed as a free agent.
Fisher has advanced to the playoffs in 14 of his 16 seasons in the league, with 12 of those years coming with the Lakers. He has made numerous big shots, including a game-winning 16-footer at the buzzer against San Antonio in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals.
Fisher is averaging 8.8 points in 215 postseason games and is shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
Brooks was asked if he thought the Lakers panicked in the final 2:08 of Game 2.
“I don't know if they panicked, but I know our defense definitely was good all night,” Brooks said. “We were really active at the end, got a lot of hands on the ball. They didn't shoot the ball well, but we played defense throughout the game.”
Brooks on starting center Kendrick Perkins, who played 32 minutes Wednesday night despite aggravating a right hip muscle strain. “As I said before, he is a character unto himself – 'Perk.' He's an angry basketball player. He doesn't want to make friends with his opponent, and I love that.”