Smack / May 20, 2012 / 7:17 am

Westbrook sets the Lakers up for a fall; Spurs run circles around the Clippers

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook (photo. Jeff Forney)

Whoever said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” would hate watching the NBA playoffs. Oklahoma City’s 103-100 win over the Lakers last night — which gave the Thunder a 3-1 lead in the series — was a classic example of how these days, whether you win or lose completely alters the perception of how you played the game … Russell Westbrook scored 37 points (15-26 FG), and although Kevin Durant hit the shot that would prove to be the game-winner, Westbrook deserved the game ball because he kept OKC in the mix every time the Lakers threatened to run away in the second half by relentlessly attacking the basket and generally playing like a young Allen Iverson on the Roger Clemens diet plan. Now because the Thunder won, Westbrook was universally praised: Charles Barkley couldn’t stop calling him “fantastic,” nobody bothered to bring up the potentially disastrous turnover Westbrook committed late in the fourth quarter, and nobody was complaining about how many times he shot the ball. If the Thunder had lost? You know it would’ve been one of those “Westbrook shoots too much — they HAVE to trade him” reactions … On the other side, Kobe Bryant scored 38 points (12-28 FG, 14-17 FT) and was hitting his usual array of amazing shots, playing just as aggressively as you’d want your superstar to play in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. (You hear that, LeBron?) But because L.A. lost the game — blowing a double-digit fourth-quarter lead in the process — Kobe came under fire for taking too many tough shots. If the Lakers had won, Kobe would be the hero. And you wonder why most pro athletes learn to stop paying attention to the media … Durant had a quiet 20 points through the first three quarters, but he made some loud-ass buckets in the fourth. Durant (31 pts, 13 rebs) tied the game with a turnaround jumper on the left baseline with under two minutes to go, giving L.A. fans that same migraine feeling they felt in Game 2, and then hit the go-ahead shot when he squared up Metta World Peace and stuck a three in his eye with 13 seconds left. Kobe (8 rebs, 5 asts) bricked a fadeaway three on the other end, James Harden added two free throws, and Kobe made a frivolous J at the buzzer that might’ve impacted some Vegas bets or something … How long had Reggie Miller been waiting to use that “Peace out!” line as his going-to-commercial zinger following a Metta World Peace highlight? … Kevin Harlan said the Thunder had lost 14 straight playoff games in L.A. to the Lakers — dating back to their days as the Sonics. C’mon son. Thankfully the other announcers put Harlan in his place and properly disassociated the Thunder from anything the Sonics ever did … One announcer referred to Kendrick Perkins‘ technical foul as a “frustration technical.” Isn’t every one of Perk’s techs out of frustration? Isn’t everything Perk does out of frustration? That dude looks like he eats frustration sandwiches and washes them down with fed-up juice … The Clippers hosted the first game of Saturday’s playoff doubleheader at Staples Center, trying to avoid an 0-3 series deficit to the Spurs. The first quarter was lovely for L.A. — Blake Griffin was catching lobs from Chris Paul and raining down dunks on every man in black that crossed his path — as they led 33-11 at the end of the frame. But you know that nothing really fazes the Spurs. They withstood the early onslaught and answered with a 24-0 run in the third quarter to take control of the game and get the 96-86 victory … This was like a basketball version of Ali‘s rope-a-dope, with Tony Parker (23 pts, 10 asts) playing the role of the quick left jab and Tim Duncan (19 pts, 13 rebs) as the sledgehammer right cross. For all we know, Popovich planned all along to allow L.A. to tire themselves and their crowd before the second-half takeover. At this point, we can’t write off any possibilities when it comes to that man’s coaching ability … Griffin dropped 14 points in the first quarter, and it should’ve been 20 considering the Spurs were single-covering him with the likes of Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner. Even when it seemed Blake was headed for a 50-point night (he finished with 28 points and 16 boards) Pop never had the Spurs commit to double-teaming him, and after a while those turnaround bankers and fadeaway jumpers stopped falling. If Griffin does get to a point where he’s consistently hitting those shots, he’s going to be unstoppable. And since it’s fashionable now to enlist retired Hall of Famers as offseason workout mentors, Blake should try to get in a few weeks at Karl Malone‘s boot camp … We’re out like “Peace Out” …

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