After an Andrew Bynum bucket with 2:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to be sitting pretty. They held a seven-point lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to nearly 46 minutes of gritty ground-and-pound that made the postseason's best offense — yes, the Thunder entered Wednesday night averaging more points per 100 playoff possessions than even the San Antonio Spurs — look disjointed and stale.
OKC had hit just 39.7 percent of its shots en route to 68 measly points two nights after scoring 119 in Game 1, and didn't appear to be anywhere near getting well against a Laker team that had held it to just 20 second-half points. Unfortunately for the Lakers, appearances can be deceiving.
Whether you'd like to laud Kevin Durant for the win, damn Kobe Bryant for the loss, do neither or choose both, the fact remains that Oklahoma City went on a 9-0 run in the final 128 seconds to score a 77-75 Game 2 win, take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series and deliver a serious haymaker to L.A.'s spirits as it heads home for Friday night's Game 3. The Lakers blew this one, and their center knows it.
Bynum (20 points on 8-of-19 shooting and nine rebounds in the loss) said as much with a sharp, somewhat curious postgame turn of phrase that was shared by the Lakers' Twitter account and later expounded upon by Sekou Smith at NBA.com's Hang Time blog:
The Lakers led 75-68 with two minutes to play with the game seemingly in hand. But instead of the veteran Lakers salting this one away with Kobe Bryant finishing the deal, the Lakers lost control of the game and basically gave it away.
"We're better than Santa Claus giving out gifts," said Lakers center Andrew Bynum. "We like giving out gifts. We give out games, contracts and rings."
"We give out games, contracts and rings." What's that about?
Well, on the "games" score, it's about right. The Lakers won 41 games, earned a fifth straight Pacific Division title and posted the West's third-best record this season, but they also made a habit of making an adventure of things.
L.A. kicked off the 2011-12 campaign with a Christmas Day cough-up to the Chicago Bulls, an 11-point gift that would have made St. Nick proud, and has continued the trend throughout the season — 12 of the Lakers' 30 regular-season and playoff losses this year have come in games in which Mike Brown's team held a second-half lead. And big margins haven't been safe even in winning efforts, as the Lakers showed during an April winning streak that saw them let multiple opponents work their way back from double-digit deficits. Giving away a game, or trying to, has been something of a Laker standby during this lockout-shortened season.
On "rings," the big man and I will have to part company, because I tend to think that the last two teams to beat the Lakers en route to a title — the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks and the 2007-08 Boston Celtics — took their 'chips far more than L.A. gave 'em up. (Last year's Mavs, especially.)
That leaves "contracts," which, of course, is pretty weird. The only active Laker to whom they gave a new contract recently was Josh McRoberts, inked during the offseason, and I doubt Bynum's licking a shot at a non-rotation guy who got a whopping 20 seconds of burn in Game 2. And if Bynum's point is that the Lakers blew it in such a way that the Thunder players who took advantage will get re-upped ... well, I'm pretty sure Kevin Durant (already on a max extension) and James Harden (all but certainly about to get one) were all set before Wednesday night.
Was it a sarcastic dig at a front office that's set to pay Kobe $58.3 million over the next two years to turn 34 and 35, while Bynum gets ready to enter the final year of the four-year extension he signed in 2008? Or was it nothing at all, just a guy looking to make a list of two things into a list of three things while cameras and microphones were around him? Like I said: a curious turn of phrase.
Whatever the famously enigmatic Bynum meant, his comparison of a defeated Lakers side to the Spirit of Christmas is just absurd enough to fit an absurd ending that, as Kelly Dwyer noted Wednesday night, likely left a lot of viewers (especially those partial to forum blue and gold) feeling pretty shocked. When confronted with such a sudden and stunning shift in fortunes, sometimes all you can do is laugh:
Clearly, Andrew Bynum was pretty shocked.
Video via nbainfos.