Remember those old “ALCOA Presents: Fantastic Finishes?”
Sure, they were used for NFL games back in the day, but you couldn’t think of a better branding piece than that right now after watching The Big Spaniard, Pau Gasol, put back the game-winning shot with one-half second left. Seriously, the final minutes were a bit chaotic and sloppy. The Lakers did everything they could to lose the game after building a seven-point lead in the final minutes.
Defensive stopped Ron Artest went on the offensive and made two huge shots (one a three-pointer), but also chucked up another ill-advised three-point try that put the onus on the defense … and Lamar Odom delivered. Odom was an absolute beast in the low post down the stretch and helped set things up for that final clear-out possession.
Kobe Bryant received the ball in isolation w/ Westbrook and dribbled in before launching a jumpshot. Gasol worked his way into position for a put-back despite getting raked across the head and gave the Lakers the one-point lead.
As for Gasol, he didn’t have a huge game offensively (4-of-11 for nine points), but he absolutely owned the boards with 18 rebounds. Eighteen!
If you look further inside the box score, it isn’t pretty. Durant was harassed all day and converted just 5-of-23 shots. He made his impact with 14 free throws. Westbrook was only 7-for-20, but yet there the pesky, youthful, relentless Thunder were at the end.
Kobe led the Lakers on with 32 points on 12-of-25 shooting. Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown (off the bench) both added 11 points.
I know it wasn’t a classic dominant performance, but this is a type of win that defines a championship ballclub. It was not a pretty game whatsover. The teams combined to shoot 41.5%. You got the Thunder’s best shot for six games. They gave not an inch and came out slugging against the defending champs.
If there was any taste of complacency on the Lakers’ roster, the Thunder smacked it out of their mouths in this series.
That hunger will serve them well in Round 2.