No one is going to believe the box score of this one. Kobe Bryant, you have to figure, would play 50 minutes if he could; in this game, he departed early with some sort of ulnar nerve contusion, and came back in five minutes because he’s Kobe Bryant and would play 50 minutes if he could. The Lakers were down only five, 110-105, with 5:34 left; the final was 122-105, which should tell you something about the ferocity of the Thunder defense.
You might look askance at those 40 free-throw attempts by the Lakers, 31 of which they made. (The Thunder went 22-24.) Then again, OKC took 19 more shots. (They shot 48 percent, versus 40 for L.A.) But the two figures I’m staring at are utterly improbable. The Lakers blocked exactly one shot all night and made no steals; the Thunder had all of two turnovers, tying the all-time league record for 48 minutes. This is ball control deluxe.
And it was, once again, Russell Westbrook’s night. The Lakers have never had an answer for Westbrook; tonight he went off for 37 points and pulled in ten rebounds. Kevin Durant’s just-about-average 26 was icing on the cake. And since I’ve been griping about bench production, allow me to mention that three OKC reserves scored in double figures — and that one of them was Derek Fisher. For some inscrutable reason, he plays well against the Lakers.
With Pau Gasol still out, Earl Clark got to play at the four; he came up with the Lakers’ only double-double, with 13 points and 11 boards. Dwight Howard had a stirring 16 rebounds before fouling out with a couple minutes left. And Kobe didn’t quite make 40 minutes, but he did collect 30 points, with Steve Nash at his side gathering 20 more. Then again, nobody is going to believe that box score, and besides, the Lakers have to play the Sea Birds tomorrow.
Back East, it’s a back-to-back for the Thunder: Thursday in New York, Friday in Charlotte. OKC is a glittering 31-9 against the West but only 13-7 against the East, so I’m not counting either of these as a gimme.