No cable for the better part of the evening, so I’ve got nothing on the Mavs-Spurs game unfortunately. I can tell you all about the Academy of Country Music Awards though. LOL!
Los Angeles vs. Oklahoma City: Lakers 87, Thunder 79
Russell Westbrook – The second year point guard played like a veteran from the second quarter on, tallying 8 points in the last 3 minutes before halftime and single-handedly keeping the Thunder in the game. Once the light bulb flashed on that neither Derek Fisher nor Jordan Farmar could stay in front of him, he used his speed and quickness to get to the rim again and again. The point guard position is the only one where OKC has a decided advantage, so they need to exploit that as often as possible if they want to steal even one game from the Lakers.
Lakers’ frontcourt – Between Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol lording over the paint, and Ron Artest making Kevin Durant’s life miserable, the Lakers showed why their massive frontcourt is feared across the league by nearly everyone. In the first half, Gasol and Bynum combined for 18 points and 14 rebounds while Artest harassed Durant into 4 of 12 shooting. They simply dominated in this game, and probably will in the series, too.
Kevin Durant – I just said he was harassed and miserable, right? Well, that didn’t stop the youngest scoring champ in NBA history from posting 24 points and 6 rebounds, as well as getting to the free throw line for more than his average after hearing Phil Jackson’s complaints about just that preceding the game. He’s young, but my goodness is he talented! He cannot beat the Lakers by himself, but if he has a big game, expect them to be within striking distance of winning it.
Thunder’s intensity/effort (first half) – Head Coach Scott Brooks pointed it out on the sideline to his team: The Lakers were playing like they wanted it more in the first half. As the young upstarts, the Thunder should have been the one flying to the ball, outhustling everyone for every loose ball, and putting pressure on every possession. They rebounded in the second half, but by then it was too little, too late.
Thunder’s low-post scoring – I know that they’ve done without it all season, but in the playoffs, you have to have someone with the ability to play with their back to the basket in a halfcourt set. That’s Playoff Basketball 101 folks. If Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison, Jeff Green, or Serge Ibaka cannot do that, then the Thunder have no hope whatsoever in this series.
Kobe Bryant – Yeah, his numbers are similar to Durant’s, who I put in the “Good” list. But this isn’t his first ever playoff game — he’s a former MVP for crying out loud. 21 points on 6 of 19 shooting with 2 rebounds and 3 assists? That’s all he could give them, which could have very well cost them the game if it had been a little closer throughout.
Ron Artest’s hair – Seriously, what color is that? Even Dennis Rodman did a double-take when he saw it. I liked it better when he was engaging in shameless self-promotion by having things carved into his hair instead.
Orlando vs. Charlotte: Magic 98, Bobcats 89
Jameer Nelson – Who lit him on fire today? He had 24 points on 10 of 12 shooting in the first half before finishing with 32 for the game. Apparently he’s not Orlando’s forgotten man any longer. Who needs Vince Carter when you have Nelson driving to the basket at will and hitting from beyond the arc?
Dwight Howard – He might have been outscored by nearly everyone he matched up against, but his 9 blocks (8 in the first half) set the tone for the game early, and his defensive presence was worth his weight in gold bullion. The intimidation he brings to the paint cannot be overvalued.
Stephen Jackson – Captain Jack’s relentless approach to the game should have fans and the front office alike excited about what the future holds in Charlotte. No matter what else happens for the remainder of this series, seeing Jackson gut it out in the second half after suffering a knee injury at the close of the second quarter should remind fans how big of a playoff performer this guy is.
Gerald Wallace – His nickname is “Crash”, and it is well earned. He finished the game with 25 points and 17 rebounds, and I calculated about eleventy floor burns, knocks and bruises that he collected along the way, too. That’s right – eleventy. He plays all out and has a great all-around game.
Vince Carter – This is the guy that Orlando went out and got to help them take the next step? 10 points and 5 fouls doesn’t exactly inspire any confidence from where I’m sitting. He’s going to have to prove that he can get it done this postseason in my eyes.
Charlotte’s paint protection (first half) – The Bobcats simply allowed too many layups, dunks, putbacks and penetrations in the first half to a team that is known for its jumpshooting ways. Jameer Nelson treated the paint like his own personal playground for much of the first half. The Cats’ shotblockers will have to make their presence known if they want to survive beyond this series.
TNT’s camera angles – Why did they continue to give us shots from floor level or from behind the basket during live play? Using those angles is fine for replays, but during live action it is distracting, confusing, and just plain annoying. I don’t sit behind the basket when I attend a game, so I definitely don’t want to see that view on my television screen either.