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News » Making progress


Making progress


Making progressAlways good when the Lakers come through town.

The regal purple uniforms. Phil Jackson's musings. Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom. More celebrities than a Hollywood premier.

But LA's marquee sports franchise offers something even better than all that glitz and glamour and excitement in the Ford Center.

The Lakers teach you something about yourself.

And here's what the Thunder discovered at the end of an exhilarating, exhausting Tuesday night, when they lost 101-98 in overtime to the best team in Basketball.

The Thunder has come a long way. The Thunder has a long way to go.

The maturity from last season's debacle was apparent. The lack of maturity was apparent, too.

This game looked over once, twice, maybe thrice, including in the first two minutes of the game, when LA led 9-0 and seemed capable of scoring 200 points until Etan Thomas entered and started cracking Laker skulls.

"We didn't put our heads down and let the Lakers run away with the game," Jeff Green said, and there's something to be said for that.

But when the Thunder had a chance to win, had a chance to make this one of the special nights in Oklahoma City's four-year NBA history, the youngish Thunder went all squeamish on us.

The Boomers reverted back to last season, when they were either inept or scared.

The offense stagnated. No one seemed to want to shoot or move or do much of anything.

Coach Scott Brooks reminded that those guys in purple had something to do with it.

"They turned up the heat," Brooks said. "They're a physical team.

"We're still understanding we have to buckle down, cut harder, set screens harder.

"I wouldn't say we got rattled. When you play the Lakers and it's a one-shot game, I wouldn't say we were rattled."

But rattled seemed to describe it.

Up 83-81 with five minutes left, the Thunder had the following possessions: Kevin Durant turnover, no-chance Russell Westbrook shot forced by the shot clock, Westbrook turnover, wild Westbrook miss off a drive, Durant turnover.

Somehow, the Thunder still clawed its way to overtime, where more stagnation awaited.

Westbrook's lay-in, which forged a 97-97 tie, was the Thunder's final field goal with 2:49 left.

Derek Fisher blocked a Westbrook jumper. Durant missed a wild drive. Green made one of two foul shots. Durant air-balled a 17-footer.

The final 25 seconds actually were decent: Thabo Sefalosha and Westbrook both missed tying 25-footers, about as good of shots as you're likely to get against the Lakers in that situation.

Westbrook was mostly awful for the second straight game: six turnovers to go with seven assists and 12 points. Old pro point guard Derek Fisher did a number on Westbrook. Like his team, Westbrook is a work in progress with a bright future.

And Durant disappeared after scoring 24 points in the first 27-plus minutes. He finished with 28 points and didn't score in the fourth quarter or overtime.

The road to superstar status is paved with blood and sweat exacted by teams like the Lakers.

Brooks said he's not into moral victories, but "I'm proud of our guys."

He should be. They put on quite a show Tuesday night. But these baby Boomers aren't yet mature enough to win games like this against Basketball royalty.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 6, 2009

 

 
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