|Written by Michael|
Bet on the NBAGoing into the postseason, it was always clear that the Lakers were the third option in the Western Conference. Could they get past the Spurs or the Thunder, two incredibly hot and talented teams? Well, that question was answered last night as the young Thunder team blew out the Lakers in Oklahoma City, ending their series in five games.
Kobe Bryant had one of those kinds of nights, scoring over 40 points and racking up five dunks. Five dunks at age 33 in a road game is almost unfathomable, but the Black Mamba really wanted to win and bring the game back to Los Angeles. Without production from his role players, though, Kobe just could not carry the team the entire way through.
Pau Gasol had a decent game, at least grabbing double-digit rebounds, but their other big man, Andrew Bynum, had a lackluster night both on offense and defense. Without a good night (let alone a great night) from the mercurial Bynum, the Thunder had an opportunity to distance themselves from the Lakers down the stretch. In the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was a 6 point game; by the end, the Lakers were lucky to be down by only 16 rather than 20 or 22.
Throughout this series, it has been possible to watch the evolution of Kevin Durant. From simply a scoring champion during the regular season, he became the Thunder's go-to guy in the clutch, coming up with huge shots to help OKC steal Games 2 and 4 from LA. He also stepped up his defense, covering Kobe at key points during fourth quarters. His height and wingspan closed off the Mamba's looks at the basket, as well as led to a few costly turnovers. Could Durant guard Kobe all game? Probably not, but he could do it for stretches of 10 to 12 minutes at a time.
This sets up an incredible series between the Spurs and the Thunder, the two best teams left in the league. With the Heat missing Chris Bosh and the Celtics taking off games, whoever wins the Thunder-Spurs series may have one of the easiest roads to an NBA Title in years.