Welcome to the Eastern Conference.
Welcome to a world where you don't score 119 points. Welcome to a world where the basketball is meat-grinder, not greyhound. Welcome to a world where you have to win with defense and sometimes will the ball into the hoop.
Welcome to a world where the Thunder is up 2-0 in a series against the Lakers, embarrassing LA in Game 1 and breaking its heart in Game 2.
The Thunder beat the Lakers 77-75 Wednesday night, and it was just as grueling as it sounds.
The Thunder needed ferocious defense all night and some stardust in the final two minutes to outscore the Lakers 9-0 down the stretch.
Kevin Durant's Charmin-soft running one-hander with 18.6 seconds left gave the Thunder the lead, then the good guys held on to remain unbeaten in these NBA playoffs.
Wasn't as much fun as that 119-90 rout in Game 1. Not for the nervous fans. Not for the frustrated players. Not for chairman Clay Bennett, who didn't hesitate when I asked him which win was more fun. “Game 1,” he said.
But Scott Brooks wasn't all that sure.
“I like ‘em both,” said Foreman Scotty. “I like competitive basketball. We all live for these moments. Playing close games. Our guys love the moments. There were so many critical moments.”
The Thunder loves these moments? Maybe it's so.
In Game 1 against Dallas, the Thunder trailed by seven points with 2:18 left, yet won 99-98 – on a feathery Durant shot. This is becoming common.
“In this league, it's all about fighting to the end,” Durant said. “Both teams grinding it out. Coach called a timeout, told us we could do it. We came out and made plays.
“We just kept fighting. This team is tough, on defense and offense. Our DNA is always keep pressing, keeping our composure.”
The Thunder turned up the heat offensively – scored on five of its last six possessions, after it had made only seven field goals the entire second half.
But this game was won on defense.
“Played great defense throughout that game,” Brooks said. “We can play multiple ways. I thought our guys did a good job grinding it out.”
The Thunder hounded Kobe Bryant into a miserable night, nine of 25 shooting. Kobe credited the Thunder defense for pushing him too far from the basket, sometimes starting out 25 feet away.
The Thunder also made Andrew Bynum labor for his 20 points.
The Thunder MVP was Kendrick Perkins. Gran Torino, playing with that sore hip, bodied and bullied Bynum into an 8-of-19 shooting night.
“Perk was really good,” Brooks said. “Going into today, not really sure he was going to play tonight. The guy gives everything he has to his team.
“You can never discount the heart of a champion. I'm proud of him. He's banged up. He understands it's NBA basketball. You gotta put yourself out there to help your team win.”
The Thunder looked world-class in Game 1. But in a game like that, heart is no factor. Heart was a big factor Wednesday night.
Not just Perkins, but all his ‘mates, displayed the heart of a champion.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.