Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oklahoma City Thunder 87 at Los Angeles Lakers 111 - Western Conference QF Game 5 - April 27, 2010


Sports media are notorious for a "one-day story" mentality. Take the Los Angeles Lakers for example. They only won the NBA championship last season and finished first in the West this season. But they dropped a couple of playoff games to 8th seed Oklahoma City, including a blowout in game 4, and suddenly they are "finished". All around LA I heard talk of how the Thunder were younger and faster and the Lakers were old and tired. An ESPN poll (always reliable) even showed that many fans were predicting a Thunder win. Bah. Never bet against a defending champion.

The bright side to this sudden change in attitude: tickets for game 5 at the Staples Center were easy to get. There were box office singles in the lower bowl for $350 (ha!), but I stood outside and found a guy whose cousin couldn't make it. He had an upper bowl ticket with a face value of $65. He wanted $80, I offered him $60 and he took it. I probably could have waited longer to save a few more bucks, but it was close to game time and I wanted to see the pre-game.

The seat was in the corner, just one row from the top, so I didn't spend much time taking pictures. The picture below is from the first row of my section.


Hockey vs Basketball Atmosphere

I mentioned that the feeling outside of Staples before the Kings' game was fairly quiet. It was similar today, but in a different way. The Kings' fans knew that they were going to lose, and they were OK with it, as the team seems to be on the rise. But the Lakers' fans seemed worried - could it be possible that they would lose a first-round series? There were far more Lakers' fans too, and almost no Thunder jerseys visible. The only two I saw belonged to the parents of Russell Westbrook.

Inside the stadium though, the tension was less noticeable. Fans were loud as the introductions were made, booing vociferously the Thunder players and cheering their hometown heroes. I was impressed with this display as I'd heard bad things about the fans here. In particular, the upper bowl fans seem to consider the lower bowl spectators to be poor imitations - they arrive late, leave early, spend half the game on their phone, etc. But the fans were rowdy from tip-off - I read later that the Oklahoma City fans were so loud that the Lakers asked their own fans to be more vocal. Seems like it worked.

The pre-game was kind of neat. When the players ran out they lowered a large curtain and played images across it for a couple of minutes (below). The anthem was also loudly cheered and then it was time for some NBA playoff basketball!


The Game

Opening Tip

Not much to tell here. This one was over after about 3 minutes. The Lakers came out on fire and when Andrew Bynum completed an alley-oop from Kobe Bryant to make it 6-0, the game was done. I know it sounds strange to say that a basketball game was over just 2:38 into it, but the Thunder were 0-6 from the field and the Lakers were clearly in a groove at both ends of the floor. Bynum added two more dunks and the Lakers had a 14-1 lead at the midway point of the quarter as Oklahoma City missed their first 13 shots.

Pau Gasol missed here early in the first

The rest of the half was slightly closer as the Thunder managed a few shots but it ended 55-34 for LA. The Lakers shot 65% compared to 26% for Oklahoma City and won the assist battle 15-5.

The third quarter was more Lakers who entered the fourth up 88-60. It was garbage time when Adam Morrison checked in for LA and the bench players for both squads finished up with the final score 111-87. It was a complete rout and I'd say the Thunder will have a hard time rebounding from this one in game 6.

Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 25 points and 11 boards, while Kevin Durant potted 17 to top the Thunder.

Notes

By winning the game and holding the opposition to under 100 points, the Lakers enabled all fans to receive two free tacos from Jack in the Box. Not sure I'll have time to try them though.

Lots of stars in attendance - Hugh Hefner was shown in a luxury box on the Kiss Cam and kissed both his dates much to the delight of the crowd. Other celebs included Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Murphy, Seal, and Will Ferrell. Naturally, Jack was in his usual seat.

The City View Diner on the upper concourse offers an outdoor bar where you can look across at the Nokia Plaza and further to downtown. It would be nice on a warm day but today was chilly by LA standards. The picture below is from there.


Next Up

Two ballgames tomorrow - a 10:30 start in Rancho Cucamonga and then a 7:00 game in nearby San Bernadino. In between, I'm hoping to find a sports bar and watch a couple of periods of the Capitals-Canadiens game 7. Check back tomorrow for updates.

Best,

Sean

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