Game 1 went pretty much perfectly. But that’s over with and done. On to the next one, which unfortunately doesn’t start with the Thunder ahead 29-0. Still, did Game 1 show something? Did it reveal there’s a substantial gap between the Thunder and Lakers? Things can change, teams can adjust, but it’s still going to be the same two teams on the floor that met in Game 1. Should Thunder fans allow themselves to start thinking ahead already?
1. True or False: The Thunder are double-digits better than the Lakers.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: True. That obviously doesn’t mean the Thunder are going to win every game by double-digits, but in terms of the separation between the two teams, Oklahoma City has a pretty clear advantage. The two regular season wins were fairly convincing, and the loss came without James Harden. Clearly, the Thunder aren’t 29 points better, but they are 8-10 points better.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: True. Just look at every game the Thunder and Lakers have played since OKC got Kendrick Perkins in the lineup: Thunder wins by 29, nine, 15 and 14, and then an eight-point Lakers win in overtime during a game that featured a massive L.A. comeback with James Harden out with a concussion you may have heard about. Three of those five wins were in Los Angeles. The average result OKC those five games is a 12-point Thunder win. This is something that both stat heads and gut feelers can agree on.
Kyle Porter, Pistols Firing: They’ve won four of the last five against L.A. dating back to last year by nine or more points. The only one they didn’t was the 2OT beard-gate loss in LA a month ago. They aren’t 30 points better, or 20 for that matter, but they are double-digits better.
2. True or False: The Thunder can handle the Lakers without a healthy Perk.
Royce Young: True. Only because Andrew Bynum is prone to fading away from games. If Bynum is engaged, the Thunder need Perk because so much of their defensive approach is single coverage on the Laker big man. But Nazr Mohammed is a big body with six fouls, as is Cole Aldrich. Bynum could be more of an asset to the Laker halfcourt offense sans Perk, but the Lakers have also never shown to be that dedicated to going inside to their big man. After Perk’s injury, Bynum only got one post touch in the first five minutes, and he kicked out.
Patrick James: True. Handle? Yes. Dominate? No. That said, OKC already dominated the Lakers on Monday with Perk basically playing only half a game, and the half he played was well below his standards defensively with Andrew Bynum absolutely shedding th Thunder early. So play a little more small ball, which is a dependable move for the Thunder anyway, and spread Perk’s minutes among Nazr Mohammed, Nico Collison and Cole Aldrich, and OKC should be fine. Maybe not fine as in another sweep, but does anyone really think the Lakers can push this beyond six games?
Kyle Porter: True. But it’ll be a much longer series without him. On the BS Report the other day Steve Kerr said Perk might be the best low-post defender in the NBA, to lose him when you’re facing the best (albeit flightiest) low post combo in the league wouldn’t be crippling but it would definitely stretch the series out to six or seven.
3. True or False: Overconfidence is a the biggest issue for the Thunder right now.
Royce Young: False. I added this question because it’s worrying me. You smash a team, swagger around and feel like you’re 8-10 points better, and it makes you anxious if you’re getting ahead of yourself. But the team knows the task at hand, and certainly respects the Lakers and their ability. I think Game 1 was absolutely satisfying, but that one is over and it doesn’t matter if you drop Game 2.
Patrick James: False. The biggest issues for the Thunder from here on out are all external: Every team left in the playoffs is good. We’ve already covered how I think the Lakers can realistically go in this series, but they can still win games. And the Spurs are a bunch of terminators. The Thunder is confident, not cocky and not overconfident. They know they’re good, but they stil work hard.
Kyle Porter: False. Figuring out a way to win games when your starters don’t shoot 63% (!) from the field like they did in Game 1 is. They were able to do it in Game 3 against Dallas when they only shot 42% as a team but forced 16 turnovers and harassed Dirk/Kidd/Marion/Jet into a 14-45 shooting night. Can they do the same against L.A.? We’ll see.