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Op-Ed: NBA: Lakers play near-perfect game, still fall to Thunder

By Layne Weiss     May 17, 2012 in Sports
Oklahoma City - What's worse, losing by 29 or losing by 2 after leading by 7 with only 2 minutes left? It's a tough call, but the Lakers have been in both predicaments against the Thunder. All I keep thinking is "I wonder how wrong Magic really was in his prediction."
If you recall, Magic Johnson predicted Saturday that if the Lakers couldn't get past the Denver Nuggets in round 1, Lakers coach Mike Brown would be fired.
The Lakers promised that Magic was wrong, and maybe they meant it. But when your team plays near perfect basketball as they did Wednesday night, and still lose, it's a problem. Is it Mike Brown's fault? Maybe not. It might not be entirely fair to fire him, but I wouldn't be surprised.
According to USA Today, after suffering a 29 point loss against the Thunder, Lakers All-Star Kobe Bryant said they weren't really concerned for Game 2, and honestly, for most of the game, they played amazing basketball. Perhaps they were fired up and motivated by the loss or maybe they put it all behind them. Either way, it looked as if the series was going to be tied 1-1.
With 2:09 left to play, Andrew Bynum made a hook shot giving the Lakers a 75-68 lead. Kobe then gathered Bynum, Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Steve Blake, and told them "Finish strong," The LA Times reports.
Understandably, Kobe and his teammates were confident. They had played a great game, and had kept a comfortable lead over the Thunder, but they got too confident and too comfortable. The Thunder proved Wednesday they are not the type of team to get discouraged. They will fight till the death. Or the end of regulation.
After Bryant's little motivational speech, the Lakers didn't score again. The Thunder finished with a 9-0 run, beginning with a layup by James Harden, The LA Times reports.
"I wish it was my magical words. All I told the guys was 'We're down 7. You don't have to play perfect basketball, but we better come pretty close,'" Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
Brooks words were indeed motivating, but they didn't single-handedly win the Thunder Game 2. The sad thing is Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and Derek Fisher didn't even win the Thunder Game 2. Nope. They had some help....from the Lakers.
With about 5 seconds, left the Thunder were leading by 1. ESPN reports that Steve Black missed a WIDE OPEN 3-pointer, which would've given the Lakers the game.
There was apparently some confusion as Kobe was supposed to be the go to guy for that play, but Metta World Peace didn't see him, so he went with Blake who was wide open.
"Blake was wide open. He didn't have any timeouts left and he got a clean look, a really good look," World Peace said. "He can knock that down."
But he didn't. Lakers coach Mike Brown later confirmed that Kobe Bryant was indeed the first option for that shot.
The Thunder are undefeated in the 2012 playoffs so far, Yahoo reports, but they are still more humble than one might think.
"We kept our composure," Kevin Durant said. Their defense was unbelievable tonight. We stuck with it and I was able to make some big shots. A win is a win in the playoffs. We've got to be prepared for Game 3."
After the devastating loss, Lakers guard Steve Blake said that the Thunder "took the lead" from them, but that they "gave it away at the same time." Those words epitomize exactly what happened Wednesday night. That game was the Lakers for the taking. They let it slip through their fingers.
"They got themselves a gritty win," Kobe Bryant said according to The LA Times. "Now it's on us to go home and defend our home court."
It's hard to say what the Lakers can do to keep from going down 0-3 in this series. They played sluggish basketball and fell by 29. They played perfect basketball and fell by 2. And no, losing by less doesn't hurt less. Wednesday's loss probably hurts a lot worse than Monday's. They get to regroup Thursday, but games 3 and 4 are back to back, Friday and Saturday. I do believe they can win one of those games.
Ultimately, the Thunder will win this series, and the Lakers will be faced with a lot of tough decisions, but we'll get to all that later.
Final score for Wednesday, Thunder 77, Lakers 75
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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