Lakers 101, Thunder 85: Just your average YouTube-makin', Black Eyed Peas-singin', Jay-Z Jumbotronin' Sunday night win
Sunday funday, indeed.
... and other stuff from Kobe Bryant: The stat line was robust, for sure (26 points, six boards, seven assists) but tonight fans were treated to the full range of Kobe's skills. He put balls up from behind the backboard (see above), capped the first quarter with a quick, left-handed grab'n'shoot off a loose ball to beat the buzzer, a sick step-back, hesitation drive and finish against Thabo Sefalosha, and so on. In the first half, he crushed Oklahoma City rook James Harden in the post.
-Andrew Bynum: 9-11 from the floor, 7-7 from the stripe en route to 25 points, to go along with nine rebounds and a pair of blocks, in only 28:37 of PT. He was active on both sides of the ball, and while after the game he said the right ankle injury that kept him out of practice over the previous two days was still sore, he didn't seem affected by it. A couple weeks ago, after a disappointing three rebound effort against the Hawks, Bynum vowed to do a better job against teams where he recognized mismatches, particularly on the boards but both in scoring and defending as well. Tonight, I thought he did that, working to establish solid position early in the lane and exploiting a mismatch against whatever defender he saw, and was appropriately assertive when matched up with Nenad Kristic. He kept plays alive on the offensive boards, got a tip in, helped trap effectively on the defensive end, and so on.
-Defense and details: We talked about it in the video, but despite all the zazz associated with tonight's game (rare is the night we post two YouTube clips before the postgame report is even started), the Lakers won by doing the little things that good teams do, starting on the defensive end. As you'll see in the video below, Phil Jackson even praised their work defending the bucket, something he rarely does even in easy wins. The trapping was particularly effective, as the Lakers disrupted the pick and roll, created six first quarter turnovers and consistently forced the Thunder into jump shots. There were no chippies, and Oklahoma City was limited to only 16 points in the opening frame. Meanwhile, the Lakers dominated in the paint, scoring 24 of their 35 points close to the bucket, grabbing five offensive boards, and preventing the Thunder from getting out on the break. The second quarter was so strong defensively for LA that despite opening the quarter 2-11 and shooting 32.1% for the frame, they still won the quarter 22-18. Why? Four TOs for OKC, only one for LA, and seven offensive boards for the home team.
"They're long, they protect the rim, they protect the paint, they make you play to the weak side and it's tough to get over there," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "They're not playing with their hands down... They are just a physical team, and we didn't do a very good job of handling them."
Hear that? A physical team. Whoda thunk it?
Ron Artest was a big part of that, bodying up Kevin Durant and helping limit him to a 2-9 first half, and Derek Fisher was strong against Russell Westbrook, harassing his dribble, working through screens, and contributing to his three first half TOs. Brooks was effusive in his praise. "Derek Fisher never gets enough credit. The guy is a star. He battles and competes. I admire his play every year since he's been in this league," he said. "If you want your son to be a point guard, they should look at his tape and be committed to what he does. He plays for the team, and that's what you expect from a point guard at that level. He's an amazing player."
ONE BIG THING:
-Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum: It wasn't a great shooting night for the Spaniard, who looked a little gassed in his second game back (for players coming off a long absence, Game 2.0 is often tougher than the introductory version), but more important than his 5-13 effort were the six assists, and moments where the impact of having both guys on the floor together could be seen. In LA's visit to OKC earlier in the month, the Thunder had good success putting the strong, physical Etan Thomas against Bynum in the post. Tonight, Brooks tried it again, but Thomas could only guard one guy at a time. In one first half sequence, he was forced to switch on to Gasol near the left elbow. That left the talented-but-smaller Jeff Green on Bynum on the block. Easy feed, easy bucket.
That's going to happen a lot. Teams may have one guy on the floor who can guard Bynum or Gasol, but most don't have two. Bynum told me after the game (see the video below) that as the two continue to develop chemistry, particularly in their high-low game things will get even better.
ONE WEIRD STAT:
-The Lakers dominated virtually every facet of the game, but interestingly enough 10 of the 12 guys who saw the floor had at least one shot blocked. Overall, OKC blocked 15 shots, led by Serge Ibaka's five.
Kobe, on shooting from behind the backboard:
More Bryant, on Shannon Brown's silly hops, Gasol's impact, and Andrew Bynum:
Phil Jackson, on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum:
Bynum, on his game, ankle, and playing with Gasol: