Many hoped tonight’s game would be a preview of things to come for the Western Conference finals. The Thunder, however, had a different idea. Their high scoring duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant proved to be too much for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 114-108 on Friday night. In the first half, Russell Westbrook led the way, scoring 27 of his 33 points while using a variety of moves to get to the rim. He was too fast for any of the Laker guards, blowing by them to the basket time after time. By halftime Oklahoma City was up 14 and with 7:42 left in the game, pushed the lead back to 19.
Los Angeles made a run in the fourth, but it was too little, too late. Trailing by 12 in the last few minutes, the Lakers clawed back to within four, but an air ball by Jodie Meeks ended the rally and the game. The final score makes the game seem close, but it was far from that. Anyone watching saw a Thunder team that looked faster, stronger, and overall, the better basketball team tonight. Durant took over in the second half for his running mate and showed why he’s one of the most feared scorers in the league. He finished with 36 on the night.
After losing James Harden in the offseason, many speculated that the Thunder had taken a step back on their path to catch the Heat. So far this season, they look great, appearing like they haven’t lost a beat. They leave Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 16-4 record and the look of a championship caliber team. Personally, I think it’s a little early to jump to those conclusions but the young duo definitely has Miami a little worried.
If there is one thing we can be certain from tonight’s game, it’s that Steve Nash’s return means everything to this Laker team. We saw a great performance tonight by Kobe Bryant, looking like the only one playing with the heart necessary to beat a team with this talent. Lets be real though. He’s not going to be able to keep up this effort all year long. One of the other bright spots tonight was Jodie Meeks. He’s been shooting with consistency and was able to get to the line eight times tonight, scoring 17. The rest of the team looked lackluster, at best.
Even Dwight Howard looked out of place, at times. Sure, he scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. But he had 6 turnovers and on one play, was out-muscled by forward Nick Collison. That just shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially the self-proclaimed “Superman.” At this moment, the name, without a doubt, still belongs to Shaq.
Many, including coach Mike D’Antoni, are hoping for Steve Nash to come in and be the savior for this team. Run the offense, teach the system, make things work between Howard and Gasol, and the toughest, keep Kobe happy. That’s a lot on the plate for someone coming off injury, even a two-time MVP. If things don’t work out as planned, Los Angeles may be in for a long season. The way I see it is if there’s any guard in the league who can pull off a feat like this, it’s the veteran from Canada. Here’s to hoping for better times in the future, L.A. Hurry back Steve.