Game 5: Los Angeles at Oklahoma City
Every game with this Thunder team teaches us something new or reiterates that which we already know: they’re pretty damn good right now and they’re playing at an extremely high level; especially in the final period, when they need to step up the most. They again pulled away in the final session and dominated the last half of basketball. However, the game was closer than the final score makes it appear.
Both teams came out scoring, going into halftime with the score OKC 54 - LAL 51.
Kobe was lights out all night in route to a 42 point game on 18 for 33 shooting, but as he’s intimately familiar with at this point, he didn’t get much help. Besides Kobe, there were 3 other Lakers in double figures. Metta finished with a highly efficient 4/5 shooting and 1/2 from beyond the arc for 11 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals; now if only he could keep his cool, he’d be perfect. Pau Gasol came out attacking the rim, which is what Kobe probably hoped for when he took a couple implicit digs at the Spaniard’s lack of offensive aggression after game 4. Gasol finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only other guy in double figures was Andrew Bynum with 10 points and a measly 4 rebounds with no blocks. You can be sure Laker nation will be pointing at him when they’re trying to figure out who’s to blame. But the Thunder are a better basketball team. Everyone knew that going in, and I’m not sure even better play from Bynum could have changed LA’s fortunes.
The Thunder’s big 3 were just too much. As Kobe said after the game “They’re explosive.” Westbrook finished with 28 points on 12 for 25 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals—including that huge one in the 3rd when he got the lucky and 1 call after Session’s fouled him. Durant was 9 for 21 from the field for 25 points, but he also hit the glass to collect 10 boards and dished for 4 assists. You’re damn right you can rock a muddled pocket-square to the press conference after a game like that.
Harden is the final piece to the Thunder offensive attack, and he poured in a modest 17 points on 6 for 10 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. But it was more about Durant and Russ down the final stretch of this semifinal series. As Scott Brooks subbed his young superstars out in the final couple minutes, the crowd rose in unison to cheer for their beloved Thunder. As a fan you can sense they’re rapidly becoming the new juggernaut in the West.
They will now face the Spurs, who have been the juggernaut for close to a decade and a half. Duncan & Co. will be a much tougher out if the Thunder are to improve on last year’s Western Conference Final appearance. They’re ready though: Russ said in the post game that they’re not done, and they’re looking to get over that last hump. It’s gonna be damn fun to watch them try.
The Lakers are now in the hands of Mitch Kupchak and what to do with Kobe’s last couple years of relevance. He tried to will his team to a victory tonight and was very successful scoring that ball, which isn’t new. But the Lakers need something more or they need to mix it up. As the seconds ticked towards the end of their season, the TNT cameraman presciently closed in on Mitch Kupchak’s face, which bore a stern mask of dissatisfaction. It could have been the look on any face among Laker fans. Only Kupchak knows the answers, and Lakers fans will have to wait for his solutions.
It’s gonna be either the Thunder or the Spurs coming out of the West. God, I love this game.
Final: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 106 - Los Angeles Lakers 90
The Thunder win the series 4-1