- GAME RECAP
- GAME HIGHLIGHTS
- COACH PREVIEW
- GAME PREVIEW
- SCOUTING REPORT
- INJURY REPORT
- GAME NOTES
Durant's surge lifts Thunder in home playoff debut
By Randy Renner, NBA.com
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant was struggling through another tough shooting night against the Los Angeles Lakers, hitting just one of his first seven shots and just four of his first 16 when he stood in the team huddle and knew what he had to do.
"My shot wasn't falling so I just tried to do other things to help my team," he told reporters.
So Durant went out and set a career high in rebounds with 19, played stout defense against Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter and still managed to score 29 points in leading his Thunder to a thrilling come-from-behind 101-96 win over the Lakers.
"It feels good to finally get a win in this series against the reining champs," Durant said. "I probably only guarded Kobe 10 or 11 possessions in the regular season but [Thunder assistant] coach Ron Adams told me it was my turn so I just wanted to play my hardest. It's a chance to make me better, guarding the best player in the world."
Bryant was held to just four points in the fourth quarter on 2-for-10 shooting. He had helped torch the Thunderon Tuesday night in L.A. with 15 points coming down the stretch.
Bryant had been guarded by Thunder defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha most of the game with Jeff Green and James Harden also taking turns. But seeing Durant come out on him for the final 12 minutes was not something the Lakers superstar was expecting.
"It was a matchup that caught me by surprise," Bryant admitted to reporters after the game. "He did a good job."
Bryant still managed 24 points to lead the Lakers on 10-for-29 shooting, but Bryant, for one of the few times in his career, did not score a point from the free throw line, didn't even make it to the line.
"Yeah those days are few and far between," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, "The key factor in the game was free throws. They shot 34 and we shot 12. And that goes with their aggressiveness, not the referees."
Another factor was the largest crowd to pack into the Ford Center all season, a standing room only gathering of 18,342 that was roaring long before the opening tip.
"It was so loud, it was an emotional start to the game," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks who was given the NBA Coach of the Year Award before the game by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
"Our crowd was amazing, they helped us along," Brooks had told reporters at his team's shoot around if the game was close in the fourth quarter, "our crowd can bring us home with the win."
But the excitement of Oklahoma City's first-ever NBA playoff game may have been too much for the home team at the start of the contest. The Thunder turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions and missed a shot on the other.
The Lakers meanwhile quieted a raucous Ford Center crowd by hitting their first six shots to jump out to 10-0 and 12-3 leads.
The Lakers wanted to try to take the crowd out of the game early and that strategy paid off for the first several minutes.
The Thunder seemed to calm down after the shaky start to get back into the game and cut into the Lakers' margin bringing the roaring crowd back into play. Oklahoma City got as close as four points, 39-35, after a pair of James Harden free throws but Bryant hit a trio of 3-pointers and another basket to push his team out to a more comfortable nine point lead at 50-41 before OKC's Russell Westbrook scored the last points of the half to bring the Thunder to within seven at 50-43.
The Lakers threatened to knock the Thunder out in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 10 points at 62-52 but the youngest team in the NBA refused to buckle, battling back to tie the game on consecutive 3-pointers from Harden and Durant and then go in front to begin the fourth quarter on consecutive baskets from rookie Serge Ibaka.
"The crowd was phenomenal, I couldn't hear myself there at the end of the third quarter," Durant said. "They kept us in the game. It was a great atmosphere out there."
Durant's 29 points led all scorers, his sidekick, point guard Russell Westbrook added 27, grabbed eight rebounds and dished four assists. Harden dropped in 18 after being shutout in the first two games of the series.
"That first three was just a relief," Harden said. "It was the loudest I'd ever heard a crowd anywhere."
The Thunder's slow start sank them in the first two games and threatened to in the third but OKC limited Los Angeles to just 46 second half points, 21 in the fourth quarter when the Lakers were just 8-for-20.
"We kept our composure," said Thunder forward Jeff Green who had 10 points. "We just kept doing what got us to this point and that was defense."
Oklahoma City outrebounded the Lakers 53-39 and doubled them on the offensive glass 14-7. The Thunder also ran on the Lakers outscoring them 23-7 on the break.
In addition to Bryant's 24, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol each added 17 with Gasol pulling down 15 rebounds.
The Thunder will now host game four on Saturday to try to pull even in the best-of-seven series.
"I thought this was a must win tonight," said Durant, "and now we need to get another one to even it up."
1 Of 10 shots made by Kobe Bryant in an uncharacteristic fourth quarter. He led the Lakers with 24 points and eight assists, but took 29 shots.
3 Blocked shots for the Thunder a game after swatting 17 shots in L.A.; OKC instead grabbed 14 offensive boards after getting just seven in Game 2.
19 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, helping to make up for a slow shooting night (4-of-17 through three quarters, 8-of-24 overall).
22 More free throws attempted by the Thunder than the Lakers (34-12), which Phil Jackson said was the biggest reason for L.A.’s loss (crediting OKC’s aggressiveness).
31 Three-pointers hoisted by the Lakers, tying an all-time playoff high. Jackson bemoaned the team’s failure to get the ball inside particularly late in the game.
Mike Trudell, Lakers.com
Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson
On the loss:
“Well they had an inspired second half. Came out and did some different things that broke our defense down and got some penetration. They had an inspirational finish to that third quarter coming into the fourth quarter. They had us on our heels most of the fourth quarter.”
On the effect of the crowd:
“I think they reacted to the team a lot of it.”
On the game:
“There were a lot of things we didn’t do that I was not happy about out there. We took too many three point shots. We made some in the first half and we were cautioning them in the first half about not settling for three-point shots and continue to work their offense. Those shots will start going awry in second half and they did tonight. They out rebounded, our team didn’t get the offensive rebounds, and the other night we offensive rebounded better then that and they beat us on the boards and in the transition game.”
Lakers’ Guard Kobe Bryant
On if Oklahoma City won the game or if they lost it:
"No, I think they won it. They had a moment there during a stretch of the ball game where they made big plays and made free-throws down the stretch. (Russell) Westbrook made a big 3-point play and knocked down a big 3-point shot. These are things that they did. We will have to make adjustments, but that is what the playoffs are about."
On Oklahoma City's crowd:
"It was great, it was great. It was one of the loudest crowds I have ever played in front of in the postseason. At the end of the third quarter, it was like the barn in Sacramento. It was really loud."
On if there was a letdown by his team after going up 10-0:
"No, it had nothing to do with us slacking up. We did a good job of keeping pace and keeping control of the game for the most part. The end of that third quarter was tough. Russ (Westbrook) made an incredibly athletic play. (James) Harden comes down and knocks down a three and (Kevin) Durant knocks down a three and all of a sudden the crowd is back into it and they have a lot more life and energy."
Lakers’ Forward Ron Artest
On struggling to defend Oklahoma City in the second half:
“We have to play with better effort. We have to play better as a unit. We needed to get some stops as a unit and we didn’t. They had some good momentum going. They just woke up. They were asleep for a minute, but they woke up. They just took advantage.”
On what they can attribute to the loss:
“We just fell asleep. You have to respect the possessions and you have to respect the game. You have to respect every single possession as a unit. You can’t take anything for granted.
On the team shooting 31 3-pointers:
“I thought it was okay. A couple came late in the shot clock. They did a good job of keeping us away from the basket at times. I thought at times we were aggressive.”
Lakers’ Forward Pau Gasol
On if their game plan changed in the second half:
“No, not really. We just stopped converting like we were in the first half when we started effectively hitting shots and going inside and finishing well. Obviously, that is an advantage. In the second half we couldn’t do it as much. We wanted to make sure we started off well. They made their run and we made our run to get back in the lead.
On struggling defensively:
“They shot the ball well at times. Our defense didn’t change. We allowed (Russell) Westbrook to get in the lane a couple of times. That gave them (Oklahoma City) momentum and they hit two big threes in transition. One wide open, the other contested. That is how they got in the game.”
On the team shooting 31 3-pointers:
“We tend to settle sometimes a little too much. We have to create penetration, we have to take advantage of our size. We have to figure out how to do so. We shot the ball a little bit better tonight than we did the first two games. Still, too many threes for our ball club.”
Thunder Coach Scott Brooks
On the game:
“It was a good team win, everybody chipped in, and made plays, helped us win.
On Kevin Durant’s night:
“Kevin wasn’t having a good shooting night, but he made a lot of winning basketball plays, 19 rebounds, 4 assists… he did a good job on Kobe”
On James Harden:
“James gave us a good first half, he made some shots. I believe in James, and he had good opportunities to have a good game tonight.”
On the start of the game:
“I wasn’t the start I anticipated when I woke up this morning, they chipped in, battled back, and found a way to score.”
Thunder’s Forward Kevin Durant
On Guarding Kobe Bryant:
“I've probably guarded Kobe in the regular season like 10 possessions… coach Ron Adams said, it’s your turn, so I just tried my hardest. My teammates did a great job of helping me, and it was far from just being myself.”
On First playoff win and atmosphere:
“It was phenomenal, I couldn’t hear myself at one point. They kept us in the game, its truly the meaning of home court advantage.”
On tough shooting night:
“My shot wasn’t falling for me, I tried to do other things, get some rebounds, and get some assists”
James Harden on what got him going:
“I just wanted to be aggressive. The first two games in LA wasn’t the way I play. I put some extra shot in at practice, and just took it down on the court. My teammates needed me. Russell (Westbrook) did a great job, Kevin (Durant) did a great job in finding me.”
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Guard Russell Westbrook
On the game:
“James stepped up big tonight and even though Kevin was a little down but everybody did a great job of stepping up tonight. We’re always going to be more comfortable at home but you can’t lie down. The Lakers got off to a great start with a 10-0 run and that kind of surprised us a little but we knew we could come back.”
“I just try to keep attacking the basket and see what I can do to help my team. We needed that to get over the hump and to get the crowd pumped-up…that was the turning point for us.”
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Forward Jeff Green
On the game:
“We kept our composure. We just kept doing what got us to this point, and that was defense. I think we played outstanding defense in the fourth quarter and the third. We were converting on the offensive end with Kevin and Russell which helped us pulled through.”
“It was just effort. That’s what we got to bring to beat this team. We can’t allow them to get second chance points. We tried to get them to take quick shots and then start us in a transition. If we continue to play like we did in the third and the fourth while picking up our defense a little, we’ll be in good shape against them.”
By JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Back when the Thunder were 3-29 last season, the notion of the playoffs coming to Oklahoma City any time soon was unimaginable.
But it was that same miserable stretch that made general manager Sam Presti confident that coach Scott Brooks was the right man to lead his team into the future.
While Oklahoma City struggled to the worst start in the NBA, Presti was impressed by the way Brooks stayed the course and never tried to force immediate changes in hopes of making the Thunder better. He has now taken the youngest roster in the league and turned the team into a 50-game winner and a playoff team just one season after the horrendous start.
For that best-in-the NBA turnaround, Brooks was recognized Wednesday as the NBA’s coach of the year. He received 71 of 123 first-place votes and 480 points to finish ahead of Milwaukee’s Scott Skiles (26 first-place votes, 313 points) and Portland’s Nate McMillan (9, 107).
“He’s someone that I think is incredibly consistent as a person. He is unaffected through adversities and also through successes, and I think that’s an important quality we want to have as we move forward,” Presti said.
Even as he was receiving a statue of Red Auerbach, Brooks faced another daunting turnaround: an 0-2 deficit in the Thunder’s best-of-seven series against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson.
Game 3 is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
“This is the first-time playoff experience for a lot of us, including myself, and you’re playing against one of the best coaches of all sports, one of the best players ever and a team that has 1,000 (games of) playoff experience to ours,” Brooks said. “But you learn from playing against the best players and the best teams, and we’re going to keep fighting and figuring out ways to beat them.”
While the Thunder didn’t immediately start winning after Brooks took over for the fired P.J. Carlesimo, there were signs of progress. His decision to move Kevin Durant from shooting guard to small forward increased his production, and the addition of Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Krstic plus defensive-minded assistant Ron Adams started to pay dividends, too.
“We were improved once he took over as the coach. We still lost some games that were tough but we were learning and we were getting better each day in practice,” said Durant, who developed into the NBA’s youngest scoring champion this season.
“I knew if we continued to do that and not come in and just say, `Our season’s done. Ain’t no need to practice. Ain’t no need to work hard.’ We still came in and worked every day, and he made sure he brought it every day as a coach.”
Brooks can sound like a broken record at times, harping on Oklahoma City’s need to constantly improve every day, but it’s exactly the tune that Presti wants to hear. It’s why he gave Brooks a multi-year contract at the end of last season even though the Thunder had only gone 22-47 under his leadership.
Of the eight NBA interim coaches with losing records over the past three seasons, only Brooks and Toronto’s Jay Triano got a chance to come back for another try. That patience paid off with a 27-win turnaround that brought the franchise its first playoff appearance since 2004-05 in Seattle.
Making the improvement even more unbelievable is that it came without a significant free agent signing. Instead, it’s primarily the same group of players as last season plus rookies James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor.
“They’re coachable. I’ve been around young, talented, non-coachable players. I’ve been around veteran, talented, non-coachable players,” Brooks said. “No matter what you do, sooner or later—even if a coach comes in that’s able to connect with them—if that’s who they are, they’re going to go back to it.”
Forward Nick Collison, who has been with the franchise longer than any current player, said Brooks’ strength is that he’s “not a guy that likes to just hear himself speak.”
“The thing that sticks out with me is he’s got a really good pulse what’s going on with the team,” Collison said. “He can sense when we’re slipping a little bit and kind of light a fire under us or get on us. Or he can sense when maybe we need a little confidence and not push so hard and try to pick us up a little bit.”
Brooks played 11 seasons in the NBA and was a reserve on Houston’s 1994 NBA championship team. He got his coaching start in the ABA before George Karl hired him as an NBA assistant in 2003. Presti gave him an interview for the SuperSonics’ head coaching position in 2007 and then asked Carlesimo to bring him in as an assistant.
“I think the things that shaped him into the type of player he was in the NBA are similar to the type of things that made him a successful coach, and that is consistency, passion for the game and an appreciation for hard work and humility,” Presti said. “Those are the kind of attributes that we want to continue to try to bring into our organization.”
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
Lakers-Thunder Scouting Report
As we prepare for Game 3 the continuing point of emphasis is to minimize the transition opportunities of the Thunder. The more we can get them to play in the half court the more that works in our favor. The way we do that is primarily by keeping our turnover number low. The next part of that equation is making sure we have the proper floor balance when our shot goes up so that we can have the best chance to get back and stop their attack.
Regster to Lakers Courtside Connection to read more.
Lakers-Thunder Injury Report
Ron Artest (sprained left thumb) will play.
Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant (avulsion fracture, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum (left Achilles strain) is probable.
Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring) is probable.
DJ Mbenga (retinal surgery, left eye) is probable.
Sasha Vujacic (severe sprain, left ankle) is out.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.
Nenad Krstic (right knee contusion) is day-to-day
Lakers-Thunder Game Notes
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won the season series with Oklahoma City 3-1 after sweeping last
season’s series with the Thunder (3-0) for the second straight year, having gone
4-0 against the Thunder in 2007-08. This was the 5th consecutive season series
victory for the Lakers over the Thunder. The two teams have met 218 times but
just seven times since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-
09 season. Los Angeles leads the all-time series 134-84. In their most recent
meeting, however, the Lakers lost to the Thunder 75-91 at the Ford Center,
snapping their 12-game win streak over the Thunder and marking their first loss
to Oklahoma City since the team’s relocation from Seattle. The Lakers are 13-2
in their last 15 games against Oklahoma City and have won 12 of their last 13
against the Thunder overall. On the road against the Thunder, the Lakers have
gone 8-2 in their last 10 overall. The Lakers have now played six times during
the regular season at Ford Center in Oklahoma City, going 0-2 against the New
Orleans Hornets while the team was temporarily relocated from 2005-07 but 3-1
against the Thunder. At home, the Lakers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games
against the Thunder and are 14-8 all-time against Oklahoma City at STAPLES
Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-12 against the
Thunder. In 2006-07, Kobe Bryant established a Lakers series record with 46
points 4/6/07 at KeyArena only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points
4/15/07 at home against the then Sonics. In those games, he surpassed the old
mark of 45 points established by himself in January of 2003 and Jerry West in
December of 1970. In 50 career games including 43 starts, Bryant is averaging
25.1 points against the Thunder.
LAKERS vs. OKLAHOMA CITY IN THE POSTSEASON
The Lakers and Thunder have met seven times in the postseason (1978, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 1998) with Los Angeles advancing on five occasions (1980, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1998). The Lakers have won their last five straight playoff series versus the Thunder. The Lakers are 1-1 in the First Round against Oklahoma City, defeating the Thunder in 1995 (3-1) but losing in 1978 (1-2). Los Angeles has gone 2-1 against the Thunder in the Conference Semifinals, winning in 1998 (4-1) and 1989 (4-0) but dropping the 1979 series (1-4). In Conference Finals matchups, the Lakers are 2-0, defeating the Thunder in both 1987 (4-0) and 1980 (4-1). Overall, the Lakers are 23-9 all-time against the Thunder in the postseason, going 14-2 at home and 9-7 on the road.
BRYANT 16 POINTS SHY OF JERRY WEST FOR 1st ON LAKERS ALL-TIME PLAYOFF SCORING LIST; 5th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME LIST
With 39 points 4/20 vs. Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant (4,441) moved within 16 points of Jerry West (4,457) for 1st on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list and 5th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Last postseason, with 32 points 5/21 vs. Denver, Bryant moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) for 2nd on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list. Overall, in the 2009 Playoffs, Bryant moved past Larry Bird (3,897) for 6th, past John Havlicek (3,776) for 7th, past Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755) for 8th and past Earvin “Magic” Johnson (3,701) for 9th the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list and 3rd on the Lakers franchise playoff scoring list. Next up on the all-time NBA list after West (5th/4,457) is Karl Malone (4th/4,761). Among all players with 2,500+ postseason points, only Michael Jordan (33.4), Jerry West (29.1), Elgin Baylor (27.0), Hakeem Olajuwon (25.9) and Shaquille O’Neal (25.2) have a higher postseason scoring average than Bryant (25.1).
JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT AFTER WINNING GAME 1
When Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any playoff series, best-of-five or best-of-seven, his teams are 44-0, having gone 24-0 with Chicago and 20-0 with the Lakers.
JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT WHEN LEADING A PLAYOFF SERIES
When holding a series lead of any kind, Phil Jackson, currently in his 19th postseason as a head coach, is 51-1 all-time. Overall, Jackson owns a 211-91 postseason record, with his 211 victories being the most of any NBA coach in playoff history. Additionally, Jackson’s 302 career playoff games are also the most of any coach in playoff history, while his .699 postseason win percentage is tops among all coaches as well. Currently at 100 playoff victories with the Lakers, Jackson is two wins shy of Pat Riley (102) for most playoff victories in Lakers franchise history. With the Lakers 2009 NBA Championship, Jackson (10 as head coach, 2 as player) surpassed legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach for most championships won by a head coach while also passing fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell (11) for most championships won by a player/coach. Should the Lakers reach the NBA Finals this season, it will be the 13th time he has taken a team to the final round, tying him with NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman for most trips to the finals in a major pro sport played in the U.S.
OPENING ROUND HISTORY (Los Angeles era only)
The Lakers have opened the Playoffs in the FIRST Round 38 times and in the SECOND round on seven occasions (1962, 63, 65, 66, 80, 82, 83) since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season. The Lakers have won 35-of-45 opening playoff series over that span and are now 134-67 (.667) in opening round games. In Game 1’s of their first postseason series, the Lakers are now 34-12. When the Lakers have had home-court advantage in the opening round, they have posted a 32-2 series record. When winning Game 1 in the opening round, the Lakers have a series record of 32-1. Their lone loss came to the Phoenix Suns (2-3) in 1993. With their victory over the Thunder in Game 1 of the First Round on April 18, Phil Jackson-led teams (Bulls and Lakers) improved to 15-0 when opening their postseason at home.
HOW CHAMPIONS HAVE FARED THE NEXT SEASON
Since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1946-47, 20 of 63 winners of the NBA Finals have followed their championship seasons by winning the NBA Finals. Among the other 43 teams, nine lost in the NBA Finals, 17 lost in the Conference Finals, 10 lost in the Conference Semifinals, five lost in the First Round and two failed to make the playoffs.
THREE OR MORE CONSECUTIVE VISITS TO THE FINALS
Since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1946-47, 11 teams have advanced to the NBA Finals three or more consecutive seasons with the Lakers doing so on five separate occasions (1952-54; 1968-79; 1982-85; 1987-89; 2000-02). Among the other teams to advance to three or more consecutive Finals, only the Celtics did so more than three straight seasons (New York: 1951-53; Boston: 1958-66; Boston: 1984-87; Detroit: 1988-90; Chicago: 1990-92; Chicago: 1996-98).