Lakers try to rebound from Game 1 rout in OKC
(Sports Network) - Oklahoma City made an emphatic statement Monday, annihilating the title-tested Los Angeles Lakers, 119-90, in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
There are no style points in the NBA, however, and the Lakers can still accomplish what they set out to so in the Sooner State by rebounding in Game 2 set for Wednesday night.
The Thunder, well-rested following an opening-round sweep of the defending champion Mavericks, led by as many as 35 in Monday's rout thanks to 53 percent shooting and productive games by their All-Star duo and Sixth Man of the Year.
Russell Westbrook totaled 27 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, while Kevin Durant added 25 points and eight boards for Oklahoma City, which also got 17 points off the bench from James Harden.
"We did a great job taking care of the basketball," head coach Scott Brooks said, referring to the Thunder's four turnovers. "We're excited we got the win, but we're moving on."
Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant also netted 20 points, but Los Angeles was already looking forward to Game 2 by the time the fourth quarter rolled around.
Pau Gasol, coming off a 23-point, 17-rebound performance in Game 7 vs. Denver, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in just under 30 minutes.
Two days after winning a deciding Game 7 against the Nuggets, Los Angeles trailed by 15 at halftime and was outscored 39-24 in third.
A raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd was spirited throughout, showing their displeasure whenever Metta World Peace touched the ball. The Lakers forward was suspended seven games by the league after his vicious elbow caught an unsuspecting Harden in the head during the teams' last regular season meeting on April 22.
World Peace returned Saturday and sparked LA to a first-round win, but it was Los Angeles taking an uppercut from the second-seeded Thunder on Monday.
"Westbrook and Durant got loose for some mid-range jump shots that weren't contested as much as we wanted to," Lakers head coach Mike Brown said. "They got aggressive and started going downhill."
The 30-point differential entering the fourth resulted in the starters from both teams seeing limited minutes in the last quarter.
World Peace, who scored 12 points, and Harden both went to the ground while battling for rebounding position early in the final quarter, but there was no confrontation. Lakers forward Devin Ebanks was ejected, however, with 2:18 remaining in the fourth quarter for arguing with the referees.
On the injury front, OKC center Kendrick Perkins, an unheralded player who is a great screen setter and interior defender, aggravated a strained muscle in his right hip during Game 1 and will be a game-time decision on Wednesday.
"He is as tough as they come and he wants to play, but if he's not ready to play, we won't play him," Brooks said.
Winning Game is key for L.A. The Lakers are just 2-17 when losing the first two games of a best-of-seven series.
"The one thing we have to do, we have to make sure that we give multiple efforts when we're defending the pick-and-roll," Brown said on Tuesday. "They do a great job of sprinting out to the ball screen and creating separation. We've got to run with them and we've got to make sure that we affect the ball at the point of the screen as opposed for waiting for the ball to come to us."
Brooks understands that Game 2 is likely shaping up as a much more difficult affair for the Thunder.
"The Lakers are as competitive as any team in the league and Kobe is that guy that you always look at, that you say, 'This guy competes every possession,'" the OKC mentor said. "Every play, he wants to take your heart out."
These teams are very familiar with each other, having played three times during the regular season. Oklahoma City won the first two contests by 15 points (at Chesapeake Energy Arena) and nine (Staples Center) before the Lakers rebounded to win the final meeting in Hollywood by eight in double- overtime.
In the playoffs this rivalry dates back to 1978 when the Oklahoma City franchise was known as the Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics beat the Lakers in 1978 and '79 when they reached the NBA Finals in both years. The franchise hasn't beaten them since, losing in 1980, '87, '89, '95 and '98 as well as 2010 as the Thunder.
Game 3 of the set is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles.