Kobe Bryant: The Assassin’s Revenge

Young, inexperienced, up-and-coming: we heard all that and more about the Oklahoma City Thunder coming into this year's playoffs. Is it time for a reassessment?

After throwing away Game Three and being positively stunned in Game Four, the Lakers, yet again, find themselves faced with another dilemma.

But first let's review the last two debacles: the Lakers started game three on a great note, opening up a 10-0 lead right out of the gate. One part of Coach Phil Jackson's strategy was to take the crowd out of the game from the very get-go. Mission accomplished.

But that wasn't the end of it. The upstart Thunder clawed and scratched their way back to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, and managed to hold it while the Lakers went scoreless for a three-and-a-half minute stretch. End result: In their present reincarnation, the Thunder won their first-ever playoff game.

After being criticized heavily after the game for taking too many shots, Kobe Bryant appeared to take the media's message to heart. For game four it was going to be "Good-bye, Assassin" and "Hello, Facilitator". Note to critics: Be careful what you wish for....

At the end of the first period of game four, the box score showed a rare stat indeed: The only player on the floor not to have attempted a shot was the Lakers' No. 24.

The Thunder, determined not to repeat the start of game three, built an early 12-point lead, something that could have put them in the driver's seat for the rest of the game. 

Some of the credit for this situation certainly has to go to the Thunder, who've shown the heart to contend with the big boys, but they got some help from the opposing bench. The Lakers played like anything but the defending champions in the first half, looking lethargic on nearly every offensive possession, missing lay-ups and shooting, as the French would say, a Shaqesque 44 percent from the foul line.


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