LOS ANGELES — Jeff Green was asked how many NBA players could start a game defending 7-foot forward Pau Gasol, then switch onto the 6-foot-6 Kobe Bryant.
Green pondered the question and smiled.
"Only a handful,” he said.
Then Green laughed.
"I’m one of them."
The Thunder’s third-year forward flaunted his flexibility in Sunday’s 87-79 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, proving he could guard both Gasol and Bryant.
Bryant had a team-high 21 points, but the Lakers’ All-Star guard netted just six points on 2-for-5 shooting while matched up against Green in the fourth quarter. In the second quarter, when Bryant also was defended by Green, Bryant went 1-for-4 with two turnovers and got five of his eight points at the foul line. Gasol, meanwhile, had 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in the first and third periods while being defended primarily by Green. And few of Gasol’s baskets came easy.
"I love being in that position to guard guys like that,” Green said. "It’s some of the best players on that team. It was fun for me, a great challenge. I handled my own.”
With the Thunder staring at a 0-1 hole with Game 2 tonight at 9:30 inside Staples Center, Green knows he must turn in an even better performance this go-round.
The Lakers shot just 41 percent and didn’t put away the Thunder until the final minute because of Oklahoma City’s determined team defense. And on Sunday, no player’s effort embodied the Thunder’s commitment to team more than Green’s willingness to wing it.
In one quarter, the 6-foot-9 Green needed to overcome a three-inch height and 15-pound weight disadvantage in the post on Gasol. And in the next, Green had to surmount Bryant’s superior athleticism, skill and quickness.
"It has to change quick,” Green said of his mindset.