Even more impressive for the Thunder, two of its best defenders, Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison, missed the game with injuries.
But others took their place. James Harden, hampered by a sore wrist, was more valuable on defense than offense, which might be a first in his three Thunder seasons. Harden dogged Kobe into frustration.
And Mohammed and Cole Aldrich gave precious relief to Perkins and Ibaka. While Bynum played 40 minutes, 30 seconds and Gasol played 38:15, the Thunder got by with 33:27 from Ibaka and 31:20 from Perk. The Thunder duo clearly was fresher down the stretch.
This game hopefully puts to rest the notion that Perkins is somehow expendable, just because you can't find gaudy numbers on his box-score line.
The post defense that Gran Torino plays is invaluable. The attitude he brings is the same.
“He has a mindset that it doesn't bother him to hit people,” Brooks said. “He loves to be tough and he loves to be physical. He's changed how we play.
“Perk is a defensive player. He wakes up thinking about stopping somebody from getting to the basket.”
In the fourth quarter, Bynum got free for a dunk on Mohammed and a short hook shot on Aldrich. Perkins returned to the game, and soon thereafter, Bynum got loose for a dunk.
Brooks summoned Perkins and joked, “Don't let it happen again.”
But Gran Torino doesn't joke. Not during a ballgame. “Oh yes, Coach, I won't,” he said.
Bynum got the ball back in the post on the Lakers' next possession and was muscled by Perkins into a bad shot. Bynum never got off another, and the Thunder won going away.
Of course, beating the Lakers, now or in the playoffs, doesn't mean winning the West. It's not 2010 anymore.
But beating the Lakers, beating them like this, shows the plan is working. Happy birthday to the trade.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.