The stars are going to be stars in the Thunder-Lakers series. Oklahoma City fields All-Stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, while Los Angeles suits up Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
The difference in the Western Conference semifinals could end up being the ancillary pieces. The rotation for Thunder coach Scott Brooks is legitimately 10 deep and he doesn’t mind extending that out if needed.
Lakers skipper Mike Brown is stretching it to get to eight. So besides the Thunder’s youth and athleticism, OKC can come at the Lakers with sheer bodies.
“We’re confident with the guys we have on our team,” reserve big man Nick Collison said. “We have a lot of guys that can play. We have guys that haven’t gotten the opportunity that are capable of playing well for us.
“We have faith in all of our guys, that’s what we practice and everybody practices the same amount of reps. It’s important. Playoffs are a long haul. It’s a marathon with so many games, and things come up where different guys have to step up and play.”
It was a total team effort Tuesday in Game 2, as the Thunder rallied from seven down in the fourth quarter to beat the Lakers 77-75 and take a 2-0 lead. The best-of-7 series shifts to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for two games Friday and Saturday.
Brooks can put a complete second unit on the floor, led by James Harden, which allows for all of the Thunder’s starters to maximize their effort for whatever minutes they’re out there.
“I have a lot of confidence in our guys, even the guys that don’t play,” Brooks said. “They work every day and they put themselves in a position, if they ever get called, that they’re going to have success. We like playing nine or 10 guys. The Lakers are a big team, so you have to throw a lot of guys out there.”
NOTES, QUOTES Big rally needed to win Game 2 –After scoring a 29-point blowout in Game 1, Thunder players knew not to take the Lakers for granted Wednesday night. What they found was a fight in Game 2. Oklahoma City needed to rally from seven points down with two minutes left to win 77-75. Despite trailing, the Thunder didn’t panic down the stretch. “That’s the good thing about having a little bit of experience because we realize that,” Nick Collison said. “We realize each game is a different thing. Each one only counts for one point and you have to get four to move on. I think we’ve done a good job. We will do a good job of not getting too high or too low. We know how good the Lakers are.” –Taking care of the basketball was a huge issue for the Thunder during the regular season. Oklahoma City averaged 16.3 turnovers per game, which was the worst in the NBA. That’s not been the case in the Thunder’s 6-0 playoff run so far. Oklahoma City has only 17 turnovers in two games against the Lakers, including a franchise playoff low four in Game 1. OKC is losing the ball just 11.3 times per game in this postseason. QUOTE TO NOTE: “They won’t quit. That’s not in their DNA. They’re not wired that way and if they were, they wouldn’t be here. We’re not going to win every game but we’re going to fight to the last second of the game and we did that tonight.” — Coach Scott Brooks, on the Thunder rallying to win Game 2.
ROSTER REPORT PLAYER NOTES: –F Kevin Durant took only 15 shots and scored a modest 22 points, at least by his standards, but his final attempt proved the difference in Oklahoma City taking a 2-0 series lead. Durant’s one-handed, driving floater with 18 seconds left capped a game-ending rally against the Lakers. Durant made 11 shots, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out a team-high five assists. –G Thabo Sefolosha didn’t guard Kobe Bryant for all of Game 2, considering Bryant played 43 minutes to Sefolosha’s 20. But while Sefolosha was on the floor, he hounded Bryant, who finished the game shooting just 9-of-25 from the floor. –C Kendrick Perkins was back in the starting lineup Wednesday despite being hobbled in Game 1. The veteran aggravated a hip injury he suffered in the first round against Dallas. Perkins played 32 minutes and grabbed five rebounds in game 2.