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.