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News » Thunder refuses to fold early

Thunder refuses to fold early

Thunder refuses to fold early On a night when the Thunder couldn't get started, it also couldn't finish.

Through all the struggles, the Thunder nearly rolled over the reigning world champions Tuesday night.

The Los Angeles Lakers jumped out early and hung on late, posting a 101-98 victory in overtime before a sellout crowd of 18,203 inside the Ford Center.

Afterward, as you might expect, the Thunder locker room was a morgue. Players who spoke gave short answers.

The Thunder's frustrated young guns no doubt were struggling to accept what had just transpired.

Meanwhile, backup point guard Kevin Ollie spoke calmly. He even managed to smile.

It was as though the 13-year veteran saw something in his team perhaps no one else in the room saw.

Part of it was the Thunder's refusal to fold early.

The Lakers led 9-0 before the home crowd could finally sit down after the Thunder scored its first points of the game. The champs led by 13 on three occasions. They made eight of their first nine shots while the Thunder missed seven of their nine.

"They had me worried there for a second," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who paused and added, "actually throughout the game."

Exactly what do you do at that point?

"You just keep playing," Ollie explained. "There's a lot of game left. They came out and hit us aggressively and they thought we were going to back down and go away. We stuck with our game plan and shots started falling and we stuck with the nuances of the game. That's a good sign."

Drooping heads surrounded Ollie, yet he found a good sign.

Brooks chose his words carefully in his postgame interviews session, so as not to inflict further pain on what could be described as a joyfully painful experience.

Brooks likes his team, believes in his team. Through four games, he said his Thunder has given four solid efforts.

The difference in the end on Tuesday, Brooks said the Lakers "turned up the heat" defensively. They showed what made them the champs.

Brooks pointed out how people don't appreciate the overwhelming physicality of the Lakers, and he's right. Heck, just look at them.

As impressive as the Lakers look on TV, they're far more imposing in person.

"They're a long team," Ollie said, shaking his head. "It's tough scoring against them. Once you get past (Derek) Fisher and Kobe (Bryant), you've got (Ron) Artest, (Andrew) Bynum and (Lamar) Odom down there. They're a tough defensive team.

"You don't win a world championship without performing on the defensive end."

Beating the Lakers would have qualified as the biggest victory in the Thunder's 86-game history. Instead, the loss leaves the franchise 25-61 overall.

"You can't hang you hat on this, but we keep giving ourselves chances to win in the fourth quarter," Ollie said.

"We'll win our share if we just keep outing ourselves in that position. We've just got to finish games. Hopefully, we can start doing it."

Giving yourself a chance is whole lot better than having no chance at all.

John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

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Added: November 6, 2009


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