The champions showed they know how to dish out lumps come playoff time, and now the challengers know what those bruises look like. By clamping down on Kevin Durant and throwing their haymakers early, the Lakers took a 1-0 lead in their first round series against the Thunder with an 87-79 win.
Durant, so brilliant in leading the NBA in scoring this season, did not have a good game. He scored just 24 points on 24 shots, going a woeful 1-of-8 from beyond the arc and struggling as the Lakers threw the length and tenacity of Ron Artest at him time and again. Russell Westbrook would pick up the slack for the Thunder, abusing the slower, older Derek Fisher for 24 points and eight assists and committing just one turnover, but preventing Durant has to be the strategy when playing Oklahoma City, and the Lakers did just that today.
What the Lakers couldn't do is pull away. After a 27-13 first quarter, the Thunder won the second quarter and the teams matched tallies in the third and fourth frames. Blame Kobe Bryant's poor shooting (6-of-19 for 21 points), or the offensive futility of Lamar Odom and Artest (14 points combined), but Los Angeles struggled to score via jump shots after the Thunder settled in, relying on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to bang for buckets inside.
It's a strategy that should work, barring Durant heating up: Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green aren't in the same class as Bynum and Gasol. But with their first playoff game on the books, the Thunder might not fall into an early hole in Game 2 -- and that, considering the contentiousness of this series through the first 48 minutes, might produce a bunch of pitched battles.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.