A playoff series is never over until the home team lost, experts would tell you. The Lakers maybe down 0-2 against Kevin Durant’s Thunder but those losses were in Oklahoma. It could have been 1-1 even, if not for the Lakers, and Bryants, collapse in the last two minutes of game 2 that saw them blow a comfortable lead away.
The Lakers will have a chance to make the series interesting with game 3 at the Staples Center on Friday, May 18, 10:30PM ET. Game 2 should provide clues on how they should do it: be aggressive in defending Westbrook, double-team Durant as soon as possible, force OKC into turnovers while limiting their own.
Even as Bryant concedes that the Thunder is the more athletic team, he is not ready to be the old man who will pass on the torch to Kevin Durant. Not in front of the home crowd, not this year. Yes, he did show signs of losing a step and looked like his ability to dominate games is diminished. But the competitive spirit in him still lingers on. He is still the team’s emotional leader, he is still the same Kobe that demands the ball in crucial points of the game, he still wants to defend the opponent’s best offensive player. But for how long? The answer is, for as long as his teammates would carry him.
Kobe Bryant’s uncharacteristic errors of game 2 will not happen again. But even if he plays spectacular, he would need the help of the big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Yes, the Gasol and Bynum played well in their last game, but Oklahoma showed that world that even that would not be enough. They have to make the likes of James Harden and guard Russel Westbrook respect their defense. Sessions would have to score more than two points and, being the point guard, make an assist. The list of things to do for the Lakers goes on and on.
Nothing is easy against this year’s young, athletic and mentally mature Thunder. But then again, this is what the Lakers live for.