OKC – 77
LAL – 75
OKC: Kevin Durant – 22 Points, 7 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 2 Steals
LAL: Pau Gasol – 14 Points, 11 Rebounds
Game 2 was a far closer game than Game 1. Rather than Oklahoma City thrashing the Lakers, this was a back and forth game from tip to finish. It was a gritty low scoring game for both teams. Neither team shot particularly well from the field and both teams racked up turnover after turnover. This game was very sloppy, dirty, and slow.
The excitement of the game came in the fourth quarter. The Lakers started the quarter hot and the Thunder started off with a lackluster shooting performance, though they caught their stride midway and kept their pace. The Lakers jumped out to a seemingly convincing seven point lead after an Andrew Bynum bucket with just over two minutes left. That basket was the last time the Lakers put the ball in the hoop. Ensuing that bucket came the game changing moments.
Kobe Bryant, renowned for being the best closer in the game, came up with consecutive turnovers and a terrible 3-point shot attempt in the closing minutes. These led to Oklahoma City’s turnaround including two fast break baskets and Kevin Durant’s game winning baseline floater. Durant’s shot capped an 8-0 run, putting the Thunder up by one with 18.6 seconds left. Kobe displayed questionable decision making at this point. The Lakers had 18.6 seconds to score, which is more than enough time to get several shots off, and he decided to dribble out the clock. About 13 seconds were wasted before Thabo Sefolosha fouled Kobe with a foul left to give. This left the Lakers with just over five seconds to inbound the ball and get a decent shot attempt. Kobe was heavily defended and the inbounding Metta World Peace elected to pass the ball to a wide open Steve Blake, who missed the go ahead 3-pointer. According to Kobe in the press conference, he had gotten open, but by that time Blake had already shot the ball. Kevin Durant then made a free throw to go up two points, and missed the second intentionally. This left 0.3 seconds left on the clock for one desperation heave, but the game was over by that point.
The criticism may be heavy on Metta World Peace for passing to Steve Blake, and likewise, it may fall on Blake who missed the shot. Perhaps Kobe gets all the blame for his turnovers and decision making down the stretch. Whatever the case may be, the one thing that is certain is that this game was not lost in one play.
The Thunder stole this game from the Lakers, which puts Los Angeles in a must win situation upon returning to the Staples Center. The post play was better this game and must continue for the Lakers to compete. They will need to find scoring from players outside of the Big 3 of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Those three accounted for 54 of the Lakers’ 75 points. Every player counts.
In order for the Thunder to make this a quick series, they’ll need to capture Game 3 in Los Angeles. They will not be able to waltz in and just steal a game, so they will need to compete at a similar, if not higher, level of play than they have been. They will have to cut down on their turnovers because the Lakers were able to take advantage of them and push the break. The Thunder’s halfcourt set is not as efficient as it needs to be for a championship-bound team. This is one advantage the Lakers have had against them. However, the Thunder have been very aggressive defensively, gambling for blocks and steals. These defensive plays lead to the break which is where the Thunder excel. The fast break will eventually open up the Lakers’ defense which will allow Durant and Russell Westbrook to get into their groove offensively. James Harden, the X-Factor, is the key going forward, because he brings energy the Thunder need when Durant and Westbrook are not on the floor and he is an additional offensive threat that needs to be addressed.
Tune into Game 3 in Los Angeles on Friday at 10:30 PM on ESPN.