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Lakers flip the switch, grab Game 1 win

By Bryan Chu, for
Posted Sunday April 18, 2010 8:22PM

LOS ANGELES ( exclusive) -- On a play away from the ball in the first quarter, Andrew Bynum may have very well set the tone not only for himself, but for the rest of the series.

After getting tripped up on a previous defensive play by Oklahoma City's Jeff Green, Bynum bounced up and barreled into Green's chest. No whistle. No harm. But it was a play Bynum felt he needed to make.

"I wasn't going to just let that happen without retaliating," said Bynum following the Lakers wire-to-wire, 87-79 victory against the Thunder in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference playoffs.

"That's just part of being aggressive and letting people know and having a presence out there."

With the victory, the defending champions take a 1-0 lead in the opening round with Game 2 at home on Tuesday. Historically speaking, Lakers coach Phil Jackson's track record bodes poorly for the Thunder, who have now lost eight straight at Staples Center.

After winning Game 1 in any length of series, Jackson is 44-0 (Chicago 24-0; Lakers 20-0).

Couple that with the presence of Bynum, who came back from a 13-game absence with a strained left Achilles' tendon and finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 30 minutes, and the team's defensive intensity, the Lakers seemed to have flipped the switch back on.

Bynum wasn't the only Laker to set the tone for the best-of-seven series.

Ron Artest locked down Kevin Durant, who finished with a game-high 24 points but was 7-for-24 shooting. It was a disappointing playoff debut.

"It was a tough one for us tonight," Durant said. "I had some good looks. Some great looks. I wasn't able to make them. That's discouraging."

Durant had only three field goals in the second half. What won't be on his highlight reel: a blown layup; a soft jumper swatted away by Kobe Bryant; a 3-pointer that didn't draw iron.

On how the team guarded Durant, Jackson was remise not to take a shot after talking earlier in the week about the NBA's leading scorer's knack of drawing fouls.

"We tried to keep our arms out of there so he couldn't get those reach-in fouls that send him to the line," Jackson said. "He still got there 11 times, which is incredible."

If anything, this game encapsulated what the Lakers were hoping for in acquiring Artest. Though he had a forgettable game offensively (3-for-11 shooting, 1-for-8 from deep), Artest bodied up Durant in what was a throwback game for him.

"When I was in my prime, I wasn't in the playoffs that deep," Artest said. "That's part of the reason why I lost weight so I can show people how I was when they didn't get to see me and how I played defense. No not at all (playing like I was in my prime). I think I have a chance to get better."

So do the Thunder.

Despite trailing for the entire game and at one point down by as many as 17, Oklahoma City managed to keep the game within eight points thanks to second-year point guard Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook was the blue blur.

During a span of eight minutes between the end of the second and beginning of the third quarter, Westbrook scored 15 of the Thunder's 16 points. He ended the game with 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting and eight assists. The Lakers had no answer for the speedy guard as the Thunder outscored the Lakers in the paint 42-34.

"Russell with his speed is really how they hurt us," Derek Fisher said. "In transition when we had turned the ball over...that's when we really got hurt. We'll have to do a better job Tuesday night."

Up eight into the fourth quarter, the Lakers continued to trade baskets with the Thunder. The final minutes were anticlimactic as both sides committed their share of fouls and free throw attempts.

The closest the Thunder got to within in the second half was 77-71, but then a late Fisher 3-pointer closed the game out.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks was proud of his team in their first playoff game.

"I thought our effort was really good this afternoon," he said. "Nervous, I didn't see that. I saw a team that played with a lot of effort (and) didn't hit shots."

After missing four of his last five games taking time off to rest his knee and fractured finger, Bryant struggled from the field. He scored a team-high 21 points, but on 6-for-19 shooting. He was also uncharacteristically poor from the line (7-for-12) too. In the month of April, Bryant is 27-for-79 from the field.

"I'm sure Kobe's not happy with his game," Jackson said. "I think it's a rhythm problem more than anything else. It's just a lack of playing in the last month."

The first half was all Lakers.

Behind Bynum, Pau Gasol, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Fisher's hot hand, Los Angeles took a 27-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Active hands helped caused nine Thunder turnovers and a season-low of 13 points in the first quarter. Oklahoma City also tied a season low in the first half (39 points).

Bynum served up a facial on Nenad Krstic, slamming a one-hander on Krstic's dome in the second quarter.

"That kind of got me going a little bit, that play just because I was able to get that dunk," Bynum said.

Fisher on Bynum's play: "He looked comfortable. He looked strong. He looked explosive. He was decisive with his movements and he didn't look afraid to load up the Achilles and push himself...he's going to be a guy teams are going to have difficulty holding him down."

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