The Oklahoma City Thunder have captivated their city and fans and are just four games away from making even more history. Forget the fact that the Thunder are the first team in the last decade plus not named the Lakers, Spurs or Mavericks to get to the promise land. This is the 4th Conference Championship for the franchise and the first since 1996.
But the excitement of this game will be the natural match-ups – LeBron against KD, Wade against Westbrook, Bosch against Ibaka…and you can count on veterans like Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins and even Nazr Mohmmad to provide a steady hand to the young guns on the Thunder squad.
“Once you get to the finals, it’s just about will and heart,” Thunder PF/C Kedrick Perkins said. “You could do all the scouting that you want to do and try to get ready for them, but at the end of the day, you done worked so hard to get here that it’s just coming from within. You’ve just got to dig deep… By Game 4 or 5, you’ll see guys getting tired because of the season being long or whatever. It’s just digging deep and seeing who wants it more.”
Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals begins Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. on ABC Television.
Bryant puts loss on Gasol
The Los Angeles Lakers have been so up and down this season but right in the thick of the playoffs is not a place for a downswing as the Oklahoma City Thunder go back home for game six. Should the Thunder win, it will mark a new chapter for the team that was once known as the Supersonics.
“We know we have a big challenge ahead to close out a team. Nobody wants to go home early. We know the Lakers are a championship-level team,” Thunder Coach Scotty Brooks said. “They’re not just going to give us game four. We have to win game No. 4. We know it’s always tough to close out a team, especially a team with championship DNA. A guy with Kobe on their team is not going to give up.”
For the Lakers, winning two games in a row seems nearly impossible and Kobe has pretty much called out the entire team and specifically Pau Gasol who did not attempt one FG in the crucial 4th quarter and specifically with 33.9 seconds left in a tied game.
During a timeout, Gasol went to Bryant and set up a pick and roll play. Once the ball was inbound, Bryant swung the ball to Gasol who promptly tossed it to Kevin Durant.
“Pau’s got to be more assertive,” Bryant said. “He’s the guy out there that we need. When he’s getting the ball he’s looking to pass. He’s got to be aggressive. He’s got to shoot the ball. He’s got to drive the ball to the basket and he will in the next game.”
Bryant is right on that point, but it’s more than just Gasol, the whole Lakers team has to step up. While Gasol’s playoff best in points with the Lakers was in 2010 where he averaged 19.6 points a game (2012 playoff he’s averaging 12.4) the Lakers overall are only averaging 94.4 points a game. Hardly playoff basketball.
Meanwhile, the Thunder keep humming along averaging nearly 100 points a game (99.3ppg) and, more importantly keeping a calm, cool attitude that the Lakers were once known for.
The Teacher becomes the Student….this is the way of the NBA.
Oklahoma turned their home court advantage into the Peoples Court and delivered a verdict that left the Lakers team and fans stunned. Not to say that this couldn’t happen what with the way the Lakers struggled to put away the Nuggets in seven games and the Nuggets are nowhere near as athletic as the Thunder.
The Thunder handled the Lakers to take a 15-point halftime lead and everybody figured that the Lakers would make halftime adjustments and come out in the third ready to game but, that didn’t happen. Instead, the Thunder opened the third with a 15-2 blitz and never looked back.
“It’s their explosiveness,” Bryant said of the Thunder during postgame interviews. “When they go on runs, they go on big runs. We have to do a better job when those runs take place to cut that water off right away. Once they get going, it goes downhill quickly.”
The Thunder also set a new franchise record with only 4-turnovers for the entire game.
”I think that’s huge,” coach Scott Brooks said. ”Four – we’ve had that the first 6 minutes of games at times.”
The Lakers will have to regroup and hope for a little more rest and a better outcome.
”Obviously, they’re (more) well-rested than we are but I don’t think it made that much of a difference for us,” Bryant said. We could have had the same amount of days off. They’re just younger and faster. And tonight, what you saw is them executing extremely well.”
The Lakers/Thunder Game 2 is May 16, 2012. Be sure to get your tickets soon!