Even though Kevin Durant was the Thunder player who finished second in the NBA MVP voting, it was Russell Westbrook who really crushed the Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
So the Lakers came back in Game 2 Wednesday night with a new plan against Westbrook: No more Kobe Bryant trying to stay in front of Westbrook and fight solo through the picks set by the Thunder for Westbrook to come free.
The more aggressive plan headed by Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake worked beautifully, as Westbrook was held to 5-of-17 shooting from the field and just four assists, but the Lakers still lost 77-75 with a late-game meltdown and Durant and James Harden stepping up for the Thunder.
The Lakers trail the series 2-0 with back-to-back games lined up at Staples Center on Friday and Saturday nights.
Bryant didn’t deliver a monster offensive game despite not having to chase Westbrook. He made some mistakes down the stretch and finished with 20 points on 9-of-25 shooting. Sessions and Blake were also shaky on offense.
“It’s a tough loss, but the biggest thing for us was that we found some things out defensively that we feel we can do that are effective,” Bryant said.
NOTES, QUOTES Kobe doesn’t take final shot –For a rare occasion, Kobe Bryant didn’t take the Lakers’ last shot. Down by a point with 3.9 seconds left, Steve Blake shot a 3-pointer from the corner that missed Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. Bryant tried to cut to be open on the back side — and he was, according to Lakers coach Mike Brown — but inbounder Metta World Peace passed to Blake, who was closer to him. –The Lakers led by seven points before James Harden’s layup with 1:59 left in Game 2. That started a 9-0 run to finish the game for the Thunder, who took a 2-0 series lead Wednesday night. Kevin Durant said of Oklahoma City: “Always fighting until the end.” QUOTE TO NOTE: “I didn’t realize Oklahoma had so many fine women.” — Lakers forward Metta World Peace.
ROSTER REPORT PLAYER NOTES: –F Metta World Peace said that, while in Sacramento in 2007, he asked Kings management to promote Scott Brooks to head coach. Brooks, now Oklahoma City head coach, joked that if he had gotten the Kings’ job, he would’ve traded the then-Ron Artest. Brooks said he appreciated the support, though, in seriousness. –C Andrew Bynum was fined $15,000 by the NBA for not making himself available to the media Tuesday in between Games 1 and 2 of the Lakers’ series with the Thunder. Bynum spoke to reporters after Games 1 and 2 but did not after practice Tuesday. –F Devin Ebanks was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his actions before and after being ejected from Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in Oklahoma City. Ebanks took off his jersey as he was leaving the court. He was ejected after an incident with Oklahoma City’s Royal Ivey.