Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder did what every team is supposed to do in a seven game series -- defend the home court. However, the Thunder's home-court defense over the defending champion Lakers has certainly raised eyebrows.
First, a come-from-behind, 101-96 victory in Game 3, in which they spotted the Lakers 10 points before even getting on the board. Then Game 4's absolute dismantling of the '09 Western Conference champions. From start to finish, they held the Lakers in lopsided check.
The Lakers were limited to 41.5 percent shooting from the field, including a miserable 18.2 percent from behind the arc. No Laker -- including Kobe Bryant -- reached 15 points. The Thunder scored 23 points through second-chance possessions and 24 on fast breaks. The rebound margin was theirs 50-43. The Thunder had only eight turnovers in all.
Need another sign of the tilted scales? The first quarter was taken 29-17, the Thunder's first opening-frame victory of the series.
"It was very important, especially against the Lakers," said Jeff Green about gaining an early lead. "You can't relax with that team. You have to make sure you come out the aggressor. You have to put them back on their heels and attack."
Without question, the Thunder proved they're for real and hardly intimidated at the prospect of battling 2009's best. But one task remains: a victory in Los Angeles. Given how much a supportive crowd has clearly meant to the team, the goal's degree of difficulty didn't escape Green.
"We're not gonna have our fans," Green said. "We gotta bring the energy somehow all 48 minutes. We gotta find a way to continue to attack them and to continue to bring the effort and energy without our fans behind us. As you can see the last two games, they're our extra boost. So we gotta continue to make the effort to get the loose balls, dive to the floor, try to keep them off the boards."
Center Nick Collison seemed confident the Thunder could be the first team to break ground off their turf.
"We've been pretty good on the road all year," Collison said. "All year, we've been real business-like in our approach. We come to work pretty much every day and we try to play [where] we focus on every possession. We know we're better off that way, so hopefully, we'll do the same thing in L.A."
After the game, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks didn't hold back praise for his players.
"Well, that was about as good a game of basketball we could play on both ends of the floor," Brooks said.
Still, when the props are taken at their most literal, a ceiling is inferred. When told by a reporter Brooks wasn't positive there was much higher this team could rise, Green let out a playful "ha!"
"He's our coach, so whatever he says, goes," Green said. "I guess so."
No argument from the Lakers.