The Lakers are now 11 and 0 in the first round of NBA playoff series when they are the number one seed. Phil Jackson’s Lakers are also 24-11 in playoff series closeout games. In his illustrious coaching career, Phil Jackson is 45-0 in playoff series’ after winning the first game. The fact that last night the Lakers were inconsistent as Jackson admitted, and they nearly blew the win after leading most of the game, doesn’t matter now, as they have secured another notch on their journey to a repeat championship.
The arena was just three decimals shy of that of a rock concert (112dm). The great fans of Oklahoma City cheered their Thunder on to a first quarter lead 27 to 26. But by half time the Lakers would hold a slight momentum 53 to 47. The Lakers shot 45% from the field in the first half compared to just 33% for Oklahoma. After missing his first seven shots, Kevin Durant finally hit a jumper with 6:32 left in the 2nd quarter. Durant and Kobe would both finish the fist half with 14 points apiece. Thunder made 17 of 21 free-throws, and the Lakers 8 of 12. LA was 5 of 10 from three-point land compared to 2 of 7 for Oklahoma. The Lakers were also +12 in bench points (20) for the first half.
In my article titled What’s Wrong With The Lakers I suggested Coach Jackson needed to utilize his time-outs better to control momentum, rather than let his team play through tough situations like he normally does. The Thunder started the second half with a quick run to cut the lead to one point. As a result at the 10:42 mark Jackson called a time out. The next two minutes out of the time out Kobe led his team with 8 points en route to a 16 point quarter.
A reaching foul gave Kobe his 4th foul and sent him to the bench with 2:30 to go in the third. The Thunder took advantage of Kobe’s absence, and cut the lead, 76-73.
Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, and Pau Gasol started the fourth quarter for LA. Walton who had been 1 of 5 in the series thus far scored two important baskets to start the 4th for a total of five points.
Jackson once again used an important time-out at 6:21 to go in the 4th when the lead was cut, 95-94. Ron Artest who has notably struggled all series on offense hit a three pointer and a long two as the shot clock expired.
Kobe Bryant returned to the game at the 6:21 mark. His defense was shaky giving up two baskets to Westbrook who would finish with 21 points, 9 assists, and 3 steals.
Kevin Durant had struggled all night with only 5 of 23 field goals, 14 of 15 free-throws for 26 total points (1 point more than his series average). Yet as most great players do, he nailed a huge three pointer with 4:24 remaining in the game. Oklahoma’s 8-0 run would give them their largest lead of the night, 3 points with 3:21 remaining. Momentum had certainly swung in the young Thunder’s favor. It appeared for a moment that a game 7 might be in the future.
Lamar Odom inserted into the game for Andrew Bynum would come up huge on the defensive end with two crucial rebounds. Down by one point with 15 seconds to play, the Lakers elected not to call time out and instead ran an isolation clear-out for Kobe Bryant on the right side of the floor. Bryant’s fade away jumper bounced off the right side of the rim. The Thunder players failed to box out and Pau Gasol gained his 18th rebound and put the ball back into the cylinder to give the Lakers the lead for good with a half second remaining.
Derek Fisher finished with 11 points on 50% shooting to go with 6 assists. Ron Artest had 7 points on 30% shooting. Kobe Bryant finished with 32 points and 7 rebounds.
The Thunder defeated the Lakers in fast break points 13 to 5 and points in the paint 48 to 36, and had only 6 turnovers in the game compared to 15 for the Lakers. But the stats victories are little consolation, as they lose the game and are knocked out of the playoffs by the defending champion Lakers.
The victory celebration is diminished by the news that an MRI today shows Andrew Bynum has a right knee injury that could sideline him for the next round of the playoffs.