BOX SCORE: Lakers 114, Thunder 106 (2OT)
This isn’t going to be the normal good/bad/ugly recap like you normally see out of me. I suppose you can say that I’m mailing in my recap much like the Lakers did today against the Thunder.
Until the 4th quarter, that is.
Of course, we’ll have to talk about Metta World Peace… Ron Artest elbowing James Harden to the head after he made his third dunk of the game. Up to that time, MWP had been playing the hardest out of all the Lakers and they had all the momentum in the world as they cut the lead down to 48-47. Whatever you think of that elbow (intentional, accidental, etc.), it was vicious and I won’t be surprised if he gets suspended 10 games or even more. At the time, it seemed like a death knell for the Lakers as they just seemed to go through the motions (they were as down as many as 18 points). Andrew Bynum, despite having 5 swats, looked sleepy out there. Heck, if someone told me I needed to play basketball at around 12:30 P.M., I’d probably stay in bed, too. But Bynum is a professional basketball player in the NBA and if he’s going to loaf around like that, then he doesn’t deserve to play. And he didn’t play after the third quarter as Jordan Hill (she sounds hot!) and his infectious energy was needed more out there.
Kobe Bryant. What can you say? This is why he is Kobe Bryant. He made most of them big shots. That 3-point runner in the 4th. That 3-pointer in Sefolosha’s face right after. His defense against Russell Westbrook (who finished 3-for-22) was PHENOMENAL. Kobe finished with 26 points and while he didn’t shoot well overall, he put the team on his back (sorry, NSFW video) and willed this team to victory.
I like that Mike Brown actually stuck with his line-up of Kobe, Pau Gasol, Devin Ebanks, Steve Blake, and Jordan Hill. Ebanks hustled relentlessly (10 freethrow attempts and did a nice job guarding Kevin Durant) and Blake made some timely threes (his threes in the fourth quarter were huge in this comeback). But you really gotta give fistbumps to Jordan Hill. The guy basically revived his career with a 14-point, 15-rebound, and 3-block performance. We just hope that Brown actually gives Ebanks and Hill some minutes from here on out because these hustle guys are too important to let them stew on the pine. Also gotta give props to Gasol. He didn’t look too hot earlier but he finished with a near triple-double with 20 points, 14 boards, and 9 dimes. He got the whole team involved with his great passing.
Oklahoma City was hurt with the loss of Harden (who is a great playmaker and third scorer) but they were up by as many as 18 points. Their fourth-quarter execution needs work and kudos to the Lakers for not giving up and taking advantage. I hope Bynum was observing intently during this game. I hope he learned that you just can’t walk on the court and expect to get 15 boards without trying.
Some have said that the Lakers should be worried that it took two overtimes to beat a Thunder team without Harden. Some have also said we should be worried for the Lakers’ lack of effort in the first three quarters. But there are going to be players that will put forth the maximum effort like Jordan Hill and we should be encouraged that the Lakers actually now have another big man beyond Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy.
No matter how you look at it, this was a HUGE win for the Lakers and their psyche. They’re down to one more game left in the regular season (against Sacramento on Thursday). And hopefully, they can punctuate their wild and wacky season with a win over that lowly squad. Even if Ron doesn’t see action for the rest of the year, we now know that they have guys that can step up and fill that gap. This COULD be a blessing in disguise as we have clamored for Devin Ebanks to get a spot on the rotation.
Get ready for the playoffs, ladies and gentlemen.