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Thunder's Rout of Lakers Has Familiar Feeling for L.A.

Apr 25, 2010 – 3:00 AM
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Chris Tomasson

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- With five minutes remaining Saturday night, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks looked up at the scoreboard.

The Thunder was beating the Lakers by 29 points. The Phil Jackson Lakers, not a Frank Hamblen version. In the playoffs, not the preseason.

"(It) did cross my mind that, 'Wow, we're up on the Lakers by 29," Brooks said. "And a big part of me thought that. You don't expect that. This is the defending champs. A lot of pride. A lot of talented players.''

It was indeed a magical evening at the Ford Center for a team playing just its second season here. But did the Thunder beat the Lakers by too much in tying the best-of-seven West first-round series at 2-2?

The final score was 110-89, and it wasn't as if Oklahoma City was firing up three-pointers at the end. But the margin was enough that one prominent Laker already was plotting his revenge afterward in the locker room.

"Yes, to me it does,'' center Pau Gasol said in an interview with FanHouse about the walloping getting his attention. "It gets me going. We needed to take advantage of the rest we have in between. But it really puts me in a place where I'm ready to go for Tuesday (in Game 5) and send them a message. ... Maybe (a lopsided loss will be good for the Lakers). Right now, that has to be in our mind, and making sure that we win in L.A. and we win it convincingly. (To send a message) would be good. I think that would be appropriate."


To steal from the Thunder's motto that is on T-shirts being handed out to fans, there is a recent history about the Lakers being able to "Rise Together'' in the playoffs after a lopsided defeat. In Game 4 of a West semifinal last May at Houston, the Lakers were crushed 99-87 (trailing by 29 points entering the fourth quarter) to tie the series 2-2 before coming back to throttle the Rockets 118-78 in Game 5 at home.



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It might not be something to advertise too much that it would happen again in the same series, with host Houston winning Game 6 95-80 before the Lakers won 89-70 at home in Game 7. Still, the end result was pretty good as the Lakers eventually won the championship.

"That's why we're champions,'' forward Lamar Odom said of the Lakers' ability to put ugly losses behind them in the postseason.

And this one was ugly. While the Thunder, which got a game-high 22 points from forward Kevin Durant, ran fast breaks, the Lakers looked like slow snakes. Oklahoma City had a whopping 24-2 edge in fast-break points.

After the Lakers trailed 55-42 at halftime, you might have thought they would come out with some fight. Inside they were as aggressive in the second half as if Steve Urkel was playing center.

"It was a pretty good meltdown,'' Jackson said in his 1-minute, 44-second postgame press conference, which he appropriately started with, "There's not much you can say.''

That statement caught the attention of guard Derek Fisher, who has played under Jackson for eight of his 10 Laker seasons.

"I don't know if I've ever heard him say that, to be honest,'' Fisher said. "I could be wrong. Not that I can remember any time that I've been with him where he felt like we melted down, and we didn't give ourselves a chance.''

The Lakers were beaten by the Thunder in every phase of the game. Jackson, whose team shot 17-of-28 from the foul line after a 3-of-12 start, often leans left and gave the left-handed compliment, "Even their free-throw defense was great. One of the best free-throw defenses I've seen in a long time.''

But look on the bright side. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who had a meager 12 points and didn't take his first shot of the game until 9:06 was left in the second quarter due to wanting to get others involved, had two free-throw attempts (making one). He was 0-of-0 from the line in Game 3's 101-96 loss.

"We have to move on to the next game," said Bryant, who, despite his meager output, was just one point behind team scoring leaders Gasol and center Andrew Bynum. "It's not rocket science. We have a tough battle, and we have adjustments to make.''

One assumes Bryant was making no reference to Rocket science used to overcome lopsided losses last season against Houston. But it's clear the Lakers know they have a battle on their hands. They would actually much rather be facing a team like the Rockets, who had lost injured Yao Ming last spring, than this Thunder outfit.

Not only are Oklahoma City's players talented, athletic and seemingly have everything going for them but experience, they have motivation.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to be here,'' Durant said. "Once we got here, I know people were saying we were going to be swept. We know what we were capable of.''

But perhaps even those with the Thunder didn't know they were capable of walloping the Lakers by such a lopsided margin. But was it too much? Find out Tuesday to see if the Lakers are able to beat Oklahoma City "convincingly.''

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter @christomasson.
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