January 18, 2011
OKC lost this game because it was playing the defending champs in their building. Let's not forget that.
But it also likely gave up the edge in this game because of a poor allocation of resources. Little things throughout a 48-minute run that turn winners into winners and losers into losers.
Green is easy to pick on, here, but even without looking at his box score stats, you could tell he put his team behind the eight ball with poor rebounding, and an insistence on running to the three-point line on every fast break. This helped kill Oklahoma City's one fearful advantage, that transition game, and that 3-11 shooting mark (0-5 from long range) sealed the deal. Two rebounds in 31 minutes just made it all the more frustrating.
But there Green was, playing in a small lineup late as Nick Collison(notes) (eight points, five boards, three assists, expert defense in just 22 minutes) watched from the bench. Kevin Durant(notes) missed seven of eight threes, needed 24 shots to score 24 points, and the Thunder were no match for Los Angeles when it moved the ball and worked through that offense the right way.
This is what a lot of us forget, when it comes to the Lakers and Thunder, and how close things were between the two teams in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
We forget that the Lakers didn't really have it going, back then. That they were still working a Kobe-centric offense that went from the outside in, and that they weren't playing their best basketball. As a result, the Thunder took advantage, and nearly took Los Angeles to seven games. But had the champs actually played as they should have, the series may have ended much sooner.
And on Monday, this game may have been more one-sided, had the Lakers stuck to pounding it inside, working through that offense, and keeping the Thunder on their toes. Too often the Lakers allowed the Thunder to focus on one player at a time defensively, which resulted in stops and running and easy baskets for OKC. Whenever the Lakers played the right way offensively, Los Angeles looked like a team that should have won by 20.
What is it about Boston and close, semi-classic, games?
The opener against Miami, the follower against Cleveland, the win over the Knicks a few days later. The loss in Toronto, the TNT-addled close one in Philly, and the barnburner against New York. The Christmas Day slogfest against the Magic, the classic win over San Antonio, and now this struggle at home against Orlando. It's not that Boston plays down to its opponents or needlessly keeps it close. It's just that they compete, no matter the task, and have had a tough-ish sked so far.
And while this win over Orlando wasn't telling, it was needed. Because the Magic kept the C's at arm's length on the holiday three weeks back. And Kevin Garnett(notes) returned, reminded everyone why he might be a more worthy All-Star starter than Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) (his D is as good as Stoudemire's O, but KG's O is way better than Stoudemire's D), and that's how the C's stood apart.
Because Garnett's steal and free throws in one late-game possession won the game for Boston. He was playing well throughout the game (19 points and eight rebounds, two steals), but that play was the killer for Orlando. Otherwise, things were pretty even.
Ray Allen(notes) kept squirting free, and finished with 26 points and a 3-4 mark from long range. Paul Pierce(notes) only took seven shots, but he scored 14 points, and his three-point play late in the fourth helped keep the Magic at bay. Rajon Rondo(notes) (13 assists) was picking C's off his face, funky little boat race, and Glen Davis(notes) came through with a needed 15 bench points.
Orlando was game, though. The defense was lacking in the first half, but the Magic offense kept the team in the game. Offensive rebounds, trips to the line, and three-pointers. This was a blowout, otherwise.
Ryan Anderson(notes) was quicker off his feet than KG, pulling in five offensive rebounds in 29 minutes to go along with his four made threes and 16 points. Dwight Howard(notes) was Dwight Howard-y, 33 and 13, and Brandon Bass(notes) quelled a few runs with 13 points. Orlando took care of Boston at home last month, and nearly pulled this out in Massachusetts on Monday. Come May, this could go either way.