As the season is coming closer and closer, we’re going going to bring you our thoughts of the top 20 games since the Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City. We broke it down to about to about 50 games, and then narrowed it down to 20. We decided most were going to be wins, we had one game that was a loss in the top 20, and it’s easily the most memorable lost. Well, for me at least. Let’s Recap 11-20: #20, #19, #18, #17, #16, #15, #14, #13, #12, #11, #10 and now to #9:
When: April 22, 2010
Location: Oklahoma City, OK – Ford Center
Final Score: Oklahoma City Thunder 101, Los Angeles Lakers 96
Big Players: Kevin Durant 29 points, 19 rebounds
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The Thunder were coming off two losses in Los Angeles as the number eight seed in the Western Conference. Tonight was the night that Kevin Durant got out of his shooting slump. He struggled in the first two games against Los Angeles. Mainly due to the defense of Metta World Peace.
“Scoring’s a big part of my game. It kind of overshadows the other parts of my game,” said Durant, who at 21 became the youngest player to lead the NBA in scoring. “But if I continue to play hard on both ends, it’s going to come around for me. I was able to get free and make a couple shots, and that’s what got us going.”
Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 22 of the final 23 for the Thunder, including every point during a 10-2 surge that put Oklahoma City ahead to stay.
The top-seeded Lakers got back within 98-96 on Bryant’s driving layup with 13.5 seconds left, but the Thunder closed it out from the foul line to pull within 2-1 in the seven-game series.
Durant celebrated by thumping his chest and popping his jersey to show off the “Thunder” printed on the front while Westbrook, who scored 27 points, flapped his arms to egg on the screaming crowd.
“It feels good. Playing against the reigning champs makes it even better. But we have a long ways to go,” said Durant, who missed his first seven shots and 15 of his first 19. “It does feel good to get our first win. It feels even better to bring the first win in the playoffs here to Oklahoma City. That’s what I’m most excited about.”
When it came down to crunch time, Kobe Bryant couldn’t deliver as he did in scoring 15 fourth-quarter points to seal the Lakers’ 95-92 victory in Game 2. He went 2 for 10 in the final 12 minutes, with Durant stopping between free throws at one point to motion to the bench that he wanted to guard the former MVP.
“It was a matchup that caught me by surprise,” said Bryant, who’s nearly half a foot shorter than Durant. “I think he did a great job.”
Undaunted by a raucous sellout crowd, the Lakers scored the first 10 points of the game and were in control until the Thunder roared back with an electrifying run of eight straight points late in the third quarter.
The fans reached a deafening pitch as the Thunder completed their charge back from an 11-point deficit set off by Westbrook’s right-handed tomahawk dunk. James Harden and Durant followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it at 74, and Oklahoma City finally took its first lead of the game on its opening possession of the fourth quarter.
“That was the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd get,” said Harden, a rookie reserve who scored 18 points after going scoreless in Games 1 and 2. “That Russell dunk was just amazing and the back-to-back 3s, it just rattled the place.”
Nick Collison, the only player left from the franchise’s last playoff appearance five years ago in Seattle, said, “It was so loud, it was almost quiet. It’s a weird feeling.”
Fans wearing free blue “Rise Together” T-shirts were standing even 15 minutes before the game to chant “Beat L.A.!” and rose to their feet again when the Thunder brought out a new pregame video that showed key moments from Oklahoma City’s time in the NBA.
It was billed as the biggest sports day in the city’s history, with three Oklahoma players taken among the top four picks in the NFL draft on the same night as the first home playoff game for the Thunder or the New Orleans Hornets. It also came on the 121st anniversary of the date the state, which was formerly American Indian territory, was first settled in a land run.
They kept the fans standing — and waiting for the Thunder’s first basket — until coach Scott Brooks burned a timeout 2:34 into the game with his team already down 10-0. Los Angeles made its first seven shots, taking advantage of three early Thunder turnovers and the 7-foot Bynum’s size advantage inside with a series of lobs.
“I was actually disappointed in the crowd because all year long I thought they were the best crowd. They just gave us so much energy and were so loud throughout the year,” Brooks said. “But now, I realize they were sandbagging.”