And finally, a show of purple

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix had the Thunder #12 in his Power Ratings Monday, four behind the Lakers. At the time, I thought he was kidding.

Then the Lakers showed up at the Ford and ran off the first nine points. Things looked grim. But OKC fought back, down only one at the half, and after 48 minutes the game was tied at 90. What did not happen: the return of Kevin Durant’s mojo. Kid Delicious had knocked down 28 points in three quarters, which was heartening, but he went scoreless in those last 17 minutes, and L. A. took advantage of his silence to squeak by with a 101-98 win.

One thing about the Lakers: their legendary depth, well, isn’t, at least not this year. Phil Jackson sent up six reserves, who scored all of six points, and Josh Powell had four of them. All the starters except Derek Fisher put in way over 40 minutes out of a possible 53. They made the numbers — Kobe turned in a 31-point night, and both Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest broke into the twenties — but they couldn’t have gone on too much longer, Bynum and Bryant each committing five fouls.

Big Poet Etan Thomas was a major factor in keeping the Lakers bottled up: he played nearly 35 minutes, scored nine points, blocked three shots and hauled in 11 rebounds, more production than the entire L. A. bench. (James Harden also scored nine.) Jeff Green rattled home 18 points, with Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook recording 12 each. Assists were back up to par, OKC out-diming L. A. 23-19; rebounds were about even.

So my apologies to Chris Mannix. On this night, anyway, the Thunder were almost as good as the Lakers. And it’s not like we’ll never see them again.

Off to Houston on Friday night, followed by a single home game (the Magic on Sunday) and a three-game road trip. It would be nice to finish that stretch at 5-4 or even 6-3, but it’s gonna take some work — and a bit more mojo.


  1. Shawn »

    4 November 2009 · 3:57 am

    Had to be one of the greatest Thunder games I’d seen as of yet. Crazy fun to watch. Wonderful glimpse of our future hopes coming to fruition. Excellent example of just what can be done in a short amount of time when your heart is in the right place (i.e. Bennett bringing it for the home town vs Schultz doing it for the investment). Long way to go still, but we are beginning to see a manageable journey ahead and not an endless struggle.

  2. MikeH »

    4 November 2009 · 8:37 am

    Attended my first Thunder game yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although a Laker fan since back when Chick Hearn masterfully painted the art of Wilt Chamberlain for me on radio waves, I was a full-blooded Thunder fan last night. Even the Laker rooting section behind me had to admit a new found fondness for OKC basketball.

    One thing that was apparent to me in last night’s game was the “sphincter factor”. Perhaps it was too much enthusiastic pressure from the crowd, or just the inexperience, but when I saw the Thunder come out in overtime they were so tense it reflected in their movement. The Lakers looked fluid and relaxed, the Thunder were stiff and jerky. They may have lost the game, yet the maturity gained last night just might payoff down the road.

  3. CGHill »

    4 November 2009 · 8:51 am

    It’s an inexperience thing, backed up by “Kevin will save us.” And they did okay in regulation while Durant was not hitting shots; overtime, apparently, is a whole ‘nother kind of pressure.

    Still, this whole We Are Not Doormats thing will help the team along the way. Doormats would have taken that 9-0 opening run to heart and lost by something like 132-86.

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