The Los Angeles Lakers played Game 1 of the much-anticipated Western Conference Semi-Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The last time these two teams played in the post-season, the Thunder were the up-and-coming team going against the conference contenders.
The roles have switched a little, but the Lakers wanted to come out and establish their place in the league.
The Lakers came off a Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets, while the Thunder had nine days off after sweeping the Mavericks. It was interesting to see just how much of an impact rest versus rust would play.
Despite the negativity from the crowd and perhaps the nerves of a new series, the Lakers played well on the offensive end to open the game. Metta World Peace opened things up with a three-point shot and the other Lakers were also able to hit their shots. With 9:55 to play in the quarter, the Lakers were up 7-6.
The Lakers continued to play well on offense and everyone was getting involved. The team began the game shooting 6-8 and players like Andrew Bynum and World Peace were the main contributors. Bynum had eight early points, World Peace knocked down two three-pointers and the Lakers were up 18-16 with 6:00 to play.
However, the Thunder used an 8-0 run to get back into the game and the Lakers’ inability to score helped the opponents’ cause. The Lakers missed five consecutive shots and that allowed the Thunder to get back on top. At the 3:57 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 22-19.
After 12 minutes of play, the Thunder opened up a 30-23 lead behind eight from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. As for the Lakers, they ended the quarter shooting 44 percent with five turnovers.
The Lakers had only two starters on the court to open the quarter, but their offense did improve. The team was able to get inside the paint their shots were coming a little easier. With 9:00 to play in the half, the Lakers were down 35-29. Gasol was improving in the paint in terms of rebounds, but the Thunder constantly made timely shots and free-throws.
Los Angeles continued to struggle on the defensive end and Oklahoma City was getting everything it wanted on the court. The Lakers played zone in the quarter, but the Thunder got many easy dunks in the paint. James Harden hurt the Lakers mightily and he helped the team go up 44-31 with 6:34 to play in the half.
The Lakers did gain some ground as the quarter progressed and it was due to their ability to attack the basket. When the Lakers slowed the pace of the game and fed the ball in the paint, they had success. With 3:22 to play in the quarter, the Lakers were down eight, 40-32.
Through two quarters, the Lakers were down by 15, 59-44. The Lakers shot 42 percent from the floor and their eight turnovers proved to be killer.
The Thunder opened the second half extremely well and all of their shots were falling down. Kevin Durant was left open on the perimeter several times and the allowed him to get a nice look at the basket. The Lakers did not come out with energy and were trailing 66-44 with 10:41 to play.
Nothing was going well for the Lakers and the Thunder were in complete control of the momentum. Durant continued to hit his shots and the Lakers’ turnovers hurt them. Oklahoma City was beating the Lakers on both ends of the court and it opened up a 77-48 lead with 8:00 to play in the quarter.
As the quarter progressed, the Thunder maintained their lead and they were well on their way to win the game. Everything was falling for Oklahoma City and the Lakers could do little to stop them. To make matters worse, the Lakers were struggling on offense and could not get anything to go.
After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers were facing a 30-point deficit, 98-68, after losing the period 39-24 to the Thunder.
Nothing changed for the Lakers to open the fourth quarter and the outcome of the game was already decided. The Lakers had some starters on the court in the final period and it was surprising to still see them racking up minutes. With 8:50 to play, the Lakers were facing a 104-72 hole.
As the game dwindled down, coach Mike Brown took off his starters and gave them some extra minutes of rest. The Lakers had to gear up for Game 2 and after their grueling Game 7 series against Denver, the rest was well needed.
With the bench players in the game, it offered them some playing time which hopefully boosted their confidence. The role players had not played well in Game 1 and allowing them to get on the court might have helped them for the future.
To add insult to injury, Lakers forward Devin Ebanks was ejected out of the game at the 2:18 mark following a scuffle on the Thunder’s end of the court.
The Thunder had wrapped up the game before the fourth quarter began and when the final buzzer rang, they were up 119-90.
Game 2 will be held on Wednesday in Oklahoma City at 9:30 p.m. PST.