Lakers steal thunder from steely Thunder by thundering out to 17-point lead and weathering storm when Westbrook and OKC storm back
Bruin Star Russell Westbrook played in his first ever Playoff game on Sunday at Staples, and he almost stole it for the Thunder. It’s hard to believe, but even with All-World Kobe Bryant and NBA Scoring Leader Kevin Durant in the contest, WESTBROOK was hands down the best, most efficient, and most spectacular player on the Court.
The TNT Announcers couldn’t stop praising the OKC Point Guard, who at one point completely CARRIED the Thunder back into the game. The game NEEDED “getting back into” because the Lakers exploded late in the 1st Quarter, as the inside strength of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol overwhelmed OKC. Bynum came back from his injury with a vengeance, quickly taking over the Paint, on his way to a 13-11 Double-Double. The Lakers were able to build a 17-point lead thanks to their Twin Towers, as well as to their Team Defense on Durant. Kevin was also playing in his first Playoff game, but he didn’t have as much success as Westbrook. It wasn’t nerves, though — It was Phil Jackson’s Defensive scheme. Ron Artest was the catalyst, making Durant work for everything, but the rest of the Lakers pitched in, favoring Durant during all Defensive decisions.
The pressure worked, as Durant scored 24, which is well under his average, because he went only 7-for-24 from the field. By favoring Durant, the Lakers allowed other Thunder players some open space, and Westbrook responded, but he was the only one.
After going scoreless in a butterfly-filled 1st Post-season quarter ever, Westbrook settled down and went on a tear. Westbrook scored 17 of his 23 Points during this 11-minute segment, which spanned Halftime, and which included NOT ONE SINGLE BASKET BY ANYONE ELSE ON OKLAHOMA CITY. Westbrook scored 17 of his team’s 18 Points, as they got back into the game, narrowing the margin from 17 to 6. Westbrook also dished out 8 Assists for the game, collected 4 Rebounds, and snagged 2 Steals, and, he absolutely dominated the game for over 10 minutes.
Derek Fisher could not stay in front of Westbrook, so Russell kept driving right to the hoop. And as Westbrook fans know, he is an acrobatic Finisher — and he repeatedly proved it against the Lakers. He made 4 straight shots to close out the 1st half, and continued on to make 8 straight, and most of them were short pull-up jumpers, leaners, and tough lay-ups where he was getting fouled by groups of Laker big men.
The Thunder stayed within about 10 points for most of the rest of the game, cutting it to 6 several times. With about 10 minutes to go in the game, and with the Thunder having the momentum, Jordan Farmar finally stepped up and hit two straight jumpers, putting the lead back up to 11. But that was it for Farmar, and the game was still within reach in the final moments. While it was Bynum that sparked the Lakers early, it was 4 others who came through down the stretch. Kobe, Fisher, Lamar Odom, and Gasol each hit a big shot to keep the Thunder at bay. Oklahoma City never got closer than 6, and the Lakers held on for the 87-79 Game 1 victory, in the only Playoff match-up that features a Bruin on both sides. And in this meeting, Westbrook was the Star individually, but Farmar goes home with the “W,” at least knowing that he contributed with a couple of big 4th quarter baskets.
The Lakers look like they are too long and tall for the Thunder, and should cruise through this Series. However, if they lose containment on Durant and he is allowed to “go off,” OKC could certainly win all 3 of their home games and make a Series out of it — especially if Westbrook performs like he did on Sunday. I’m not saying that Westbrook is an instant Hall of Famer, but the way he was mixing strength, guts, and sheer athletic ability, creating his own shot and scoring at will, he reminded me of Miami’s Dwyane Wade. And a couple of Westbrook’s Assists were wickedly-slick Magic Johnson type passes into teammates open under the basket. Westbrook seriously looks like he is going to be around for a long, long career, representing UCLA in a very positive light.
On the other side of that coin is Matt Barnes, who has always played his ass off to overachieve, but has lately been showing questionable composure and judgment (at least against Kobe). Barnes’ Orlando Magic beat Charlotte to go up 1-0 in that Series. Of course, that is no surprise, as 7 of 8 Home Teams won their Game 1’s. Only Phoenix lost (to a Portland team missing top scorer Brandon Roy).
What that means is that Milwaukee lost to Atlanta, so Dan Gadzuric and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are down 0-1. There is some hope for the Bucks, who are also missing thier Star, injured Andrew Bogut — Like OKC, they came back to make a game of it, showing Luc-style heart after falling down big early on the road. That pattern seemed to show up all over: Chicago and Taj Gibson made Cleveland and LeBron sweat by erasing most of a huge lead too, and San Antonio got close to Dallas before going down.
The other Bruin playing is Arron Afflalo, and his Nuggets held serve in Denver, beating Utah. The Jazz lost Mehmet Okur to injury in that game, for the whole year — which sucks — but it makes Afflalo’s road a little easier. The only other trojan is Brian Scalabrine, and his Celtics held off Miami, but lost Kevin Garnett to a suspension, so Boston might lose their Home Court Advantage… especially if Scalabrine has to play now.
Now, as promised: Batch 2 of song girl photos, containing 22 more pics from the Swim With Mike charity event. If you like the photos, please go to swimwithmike.org to donate to the cause. And if you have any money left over, donate some to this website. If you do, you can write in and request special delivery of the full-sized photos that I can’t publish on the website. Click on the contact/donate link for an easy Paypal page.
Don’t forget: All the photos enlarge if you click on them, and they all have pop-up captions if your cursor comes to rest on the photo. Enjoy — There are still a lot more after these 22, coming soon. And finally, remember: Hold your complaints on this one occasion please, because these shots are raising money for a very worthy charity. See yesterday’s article for details, and 38 more photos. Yeah, it was .38 Special. But now, on this page, you just get to catch 22.