Anyone watching Friday’s Lakers-Thunder game probably noticed that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played a little harder than usual. Oklahoma City won the game 114-108. Westbrook tied a season high with 33 points, and he made a career-high five three pointers (all in the first half) during what was an explosive game. Durant went for 36 points, which is one shy of tying his season high.
If you believe a report from CSN Bay Area’s Ric Bucher, there’s a reason why the Thunder All-Stars appeared to go all out that game.
Here’s what Bucher reported:
Source says the Black Mamba talked relentless smack during the Olympics that the Thunder stars weren’t going back to the Finals after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and then added Dwight Howard right before the U.S. played Spain for the gold medal. Kobe also made a point of guarding Westbrook during practices and pumping him up, the theory being that he wanted to incite Russ to bump heads with KD over who the team’s best player is. (If you think that’s too conspiratorial to be real, you don’t know Kobe.) KD, in particular, got tired of hearing him. For what it’s worth: KD and Westbrook’s combined 69 points is the highest single-game total they’ve posted this season.
I don’t know about the theory regarding Kobe’s master plan to get Russ and KD to bump heads, but I wouldn’t put it past him. He is a pretty slick, conniving fellow, though I do think he takes to Westbrook’s personality.
I definitely believe the Thunder were fired up for the game for several reasons.
The Lakers were supposed to be the top team in the NBA after adding Howard and Nash. There was all this talk about them supplanting Oklahoma City as the top team in the Western Conference, and apparently the Thunder were out to prove otherwise. Combine those two things with trash talk from Kobe, and you get the explosive game from the OKC stars.
I think it’s really interesting to keep this story in mind as the season goes on. Not only are the Lakers in trouble because of their struggles, but also because they motivated OKC.
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