Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 5/15/12
OKLAHOMA CITY Russell Westbrook went to the bench right before the end of the third quarter. Kevin Durant was right behind him. They didn't return. Didn't need to. This one was over well before Durant and Westbrook spent the fourth quarter laughing and cutting up from the front row. The Thunder dominated the Los Angeles Lakers 119-90 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Monday night inside a rowdy Chesapeake Energy Arena. Anyone think the rest of the series isn't going to go the same way? Sure, there's plenty of subplots, twists and drama to keep your attention, and sure, it's just one game, relatively early in the playoffs, but the Thunder embarrassed the Lakers on Monday night. They exposed them as a much-weaker team and put themselves back in the title-talk conversation. A crowd of 18,203 saw it in person."We played good basketball," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "It's one game. It's the first team to four, and come Wednesday night, it doesn't have any impact. We have to come back with the same energy." The Thunder have regained the energy they had most of the season before a sluggish last month when they went just 8-7. Fresh off sweeping Dallas, the Thunder began their much-anticipated series vs. the Lakers with a resounding blowout, which could signal another sweeping success.Here's why: Despite having a nine-day layoff since disposing of Dallas in the first round, the Thunder were anything but rusty or tight. Oklahoma City shot 53 percent and held the Lakers to 43 percent, made Pau Gasol a non-factor and limited Kobe Bryant to just 20 points on 18 shots. Durant and Westbrook got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, combining for 52 points on just 31 shots. More? The Thunder turned it over only two times in the first 30 minutes and just four times in all, an exceptional number, but even more shocking considering the Thunder led the league in turnovers this year. "We're doing a pretty good job," said Westbrook, who came to the postgame interview room wearing red glasses with no lenses. "Taking care of business and home court." He saw what the rest of us saw, too. The Lakers were tired and broken, just 48 hours after getting past Denver in Game 7 of the first round. They couldn't keep up with the Thunder early Bryant barely got back on defense on the first play of the game after a turnover or later as the Thunder scored the first nine points of the third quarter and built their lead to as many as 35. "I haven't been walking around saying we're tired and feel sorry for us," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "Yes, it was a seven-game series, tough, physical and long. But it's the playoffs. We have to come ready to play." Now, this team is 48 hours from playing another game, so how exactly are they going to be less tired and more fresh to be able to manage a pace that could get them a Game 2 win? "We need to make adjustments," said Laker center Andrew Bynum, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds. "We have a lot of tape to watch. We have to see exactly how they killed us and then try and correct it." Plenty to see, for sure, and it might take a stronger prescription than what Westbrook was sporting. A closer look shows that Los Angeles had no fast-break points and 15 turnovers, yet Metta World Peace looked like he was seeing things through a differentlens. "I mean, I thought we did OK," he said. "I think it's obvious you have got to do better than OK. We'll be OK." And while the talk heading into the series was about World Peace's elbow, it shifted quickly to the he backside the Thunder kicked, distancing themselves from an abundance of pre-series drama, talking and twists. "We just got beat tonight," Brown said. "We have to come to play and we didn't. It's one game. We have to bounce back for the next one." Oklahoma City could have been distracted by a number of different off-the-court issues. More than just the elbow that knocked Harden out for a pair of games and sent World Peace to a seven-game suspension, storylines were plenty from Derek Fisher switching sides, to the 2010 playoffs when the upstart Thunder took the top-seeded Lakers to six games before falling. Now, none of that talk seems likely to be anything more than just a minor annoyance. Oklahoma City was better than Los Angeles on Monday night and the 29-point margin doesn't really look like an aberration. "I think we could be better," said Durant, who had 25 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a block and no turnovers. "Executing on the offensive end. We have to keep pressing. We can always get better. It's all about growing." The Thunder have grown. They have evolved from the 2010 team into one where, if Durant shines, they are hard to beat. If Westbrook chips in, they're nearly unstoppable, and if they can get production on the same night from Harden, they'll be planning the parade route. Monday, Westbrook had 27 points, Harden had 17 and everyone else chipped in, too, getting 50 points from the bench. So, why does anyone think this series is going to extend into the "if-necessary" category? "I've been through it before," Bryant said. "I've been on both sides of it. My experience tells me to be patient." Bryant is right. It's just one game. But the Thunder give no indication that past performance won't be indicative of future results. "We've been playing good basketball," Brooks said of his team being 5-0 this postseason. "It's one game, we're excited we got the win. It's time to put it behind us and move on to the next one."
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