My thoughts begin with a humble preface. I admit it, I'm late to the party. But now I consider myself an OKC Thunder FAN. I celebrate their entire catalog.
Seriously, I've only watched them six or seven times this season, and I'm truly sorry. Overlook my fair weather fan-ness and save a seat for me on the bandwagon, entrenched fanatics, because I've seen the light.
Hell, I'm just like you.
I too am awed by the incomparable Kevin Durant. I'm shocked by Russell Westbrook's shooting improvement and ascension to elite lead guard status. I'm intrigued by James Harden's prospects as a big two-guard in the Association and I'm only slightly annoyed by his Al Qaeda beard.
I promise not to call Serge Ibaka "Chewbacca" anymore, lest my children beg me to turn the channel. If that's not enough, I hate Jeff Green with the heat of thousand fiery suns. Almost as much as I hate the Jazz.
Can I sit down now? Thanks.
So, as a newly sworn-in member of the
Austin OKC Thunder fan club, here's what I saw in last night's contest.
1) I thought the biggest adjustment the Thunder made, unlike games 1 and 2, was relentlessly attacking the rim. Artest can't stay in front of Durant and there isn't a player on the Laker's roster that can stay in front of Westbrook.
I thought the Thunder settled for way too many jump shots in Los Angeles, especially when you consider the Lakers are an aging, banged up squad that's begging you to bail out their old legs with perimeter shots. OKC has to attack the paint and make the Lakers move their feet and defend. The 34 foul shots last night prove this adjustment bears fruit. Keep attacking, fellas.
2) But you couldn't have point 1 without point 2, which was the personnel adjustment to go with Harden over Green for long stretches. Harden's presence had two huge effects in this game.
It spread the floor allowing Durant and Westbrook to attack the rim. It also forced Kobe to expend some energy on the defensive end which doesn't happen when Bryant's guarding Sefolosia.
To Harden's credit, he didn't back down on the defensive end, forcing Kobe to make some difficult shots. Plus, unlike Green, Harden is also not a pussy.
Yes, also not a pussy.
3) Andrew Bynum is not nearly as explosive or active as he was in games 1 and 2. Achilles heel injuries are tricky in that one false step or tweak has a huge effect if the player's not 100% fully healed.
What's it been, 3 weeks since Bynum had the original injury? It's certainly something to keep an eye on the rest of the series.
4) The difference down the stretch had to be Coach Brooks' decision to put Kevin Durant on Kobe Bryant to close out the game. As a result, Kobe was something like 1-9 in the fourth quarter.
Durant's length forced Kobe out of his "winning time" comfort zone which is posting up smaller guards for feathery turnarounds. Plus, Kobe's posting style, much like Michael Jordan's, doesn't require all that much effort and energy. In fact it's a way for the Laker star to rest and still find offense. You don't have to move to get the ball in the post and you can avoid the pounding it takes to blow-by and get to the rim on the dribble.
Did you notice how many bail out 3's Kobe took against Durant? Now contrast that with how often Bryant tried to penetrate against the Thunder star. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Brooks can't employ this matchup for large stretches of the game he'd be risking fatigue in his own star, and invites early foul trouble when Kobe's legs are fresh. But it'll be an important arrow in the Thunder's quiver for the rest of the series to fire in the final quarter.
5) Then finally there's Kevin Durant the emerging mega-star, whose all around game was a fitting performance in the first post season victory for both franchise and player. KD didn't have a stellar shooting night, but he was the best defender and rebounder on the floor for either squad.
Still KD's performance was enough to get TNT's Kenny Smith to posit that Durantula will be the best player in basketball in three years.
I tend to agree. The wonder kid does it all and he'll only get better.
Simply put, KD treated Kobe Bryant like a Colorado hotel employee. Thank goodness Kevin isn't married, otherwise he'd have to buy his wife a $6 million ring.
Kobe, pass me the rock.
I'm interested in your thoughts, and appreciate you Thunder fans saving my seat, even if it's coach.