Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to steal the ball from Thunder point guard… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
OKLAHOMA CITY— Is it over?
It's just the first game in two weeks' worth of them, the earliest hours in a brawl that could last all day, but I know what everyone is thinking, so we might as well ask it.
Is this first punch a knockout punch? How on earth can the Lakers peel themselves off the floor to win four of the next six games against an Oklahoma City team that just beat them by 29 points, two dozen sprints, a dozen floor burns, six dunks, five tongue-wagging celebrations, and one glaring Derek Fisher?
PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Thunder, Game 1
Is it over?
The screaming, rout-thirsty crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena here Monday wore blue T-shirts adorned with the phrase, "One Team," but their speeding, swirling locals felt like five teams in the Thunder's 119-90 victory in the opener of their best-of-seven, second-round series.
Unofficially, the Lakers were finished early in the second half. But officially, like all Lakers playoff embarrassments, it wasn't over until the knucklehead kid sang. This time the role was filled by Devin Ebanks, who was ejected after shoving Royal Ivey with 2:15 left; Ebanks promptly tore off his shirt as thousands of boos rained down upon his bare chest.
Of course he did.
The last time that happened, the partially nude scoundrel was Andrew Bynum and the Lakers were in the final stages of being swept out of last season by the Dallas Mavericks. This feels like that, only three games earlier.
This was Kobe Bryant rolling his eyes at Coach Mike Brown. It was Bynum glaring at the entire Lakers bench. It was Bryant scolding Ramon Sessions, who was then sent to that bench.
The Thunder were lightning. The Lakers were dry. The Thunder pounded. The Lakers gently washed ashore.
Sorry, this was a beating beyond all reasonable metaphors and, seriously, you have to ask: Is the rest of this series really necessary?
Is there anyone on the Lakers who can slow Russell Westbrook, who continually sank open mid-range jumpers while outscoring Sessions, 27-2? It's too late to guard him with a faster point guard or a younger Bryant.
"They came out and hit shot after shot … sometimes, even when we would contest, they would still hit a bunch of shots," said an amazed Bynum.
Is there anyone who can slow Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points in 28 minutes while outrebounding every Laker but Bynum? Metta World Peace isn't getting any younger, and Matt Barnes isn't getting more visible.
"We have a lot of tape to watch and we have to see exactly how they killed us," said Bynum.
Yeah, lots and lots of tape, enough to fill the legs on the pants of that dumb buffalo who runs around the Thunder arena on stilts.
And, also, how in the world can a weary Lakers team that just survived a seven-game series handle the energy of a Thunder team who won the battle of the benches, 50-26?
It's going to take more than an elbow to stop James Harden, who scored 17. It's going to take more than a couple of good games to resurrect Steve Blake, who went scoreless.
This is a bad matchup, man. This is a bad, bad matchup, and even Brown couldn't deny it when he was asked.
"They're a good team," said the Lakers coach, shaking his head and sighing in response to the matchup question. "They're a good team."
The Thunder played so well Monday, their biggest numbers were their smallest numbers.
The Thunder committed just four turnovers. The Lakers had zero fast-break points. That's varsity-vs.-junior varsity kind of stuff, so lopsided that even the Thunder's biggest fan was surprised.
"I wasn't anticipating this type of game," admitted Coach Scott Brooks.
Lakers fans could take comfort in the fact that their team was playing on one day's rest after a finishing a brutal opening series, while the Thunder was playing on eight days rest after a first-round sweep. But don't. Remember, this is the same Thunder team that dominated the Lakers twice in three games this season, with the lone Lakers victory only occurring in overtime when Harden was knocked out by Peace before halftime.
"Obviously, they're more well rested than we are, but I don't think that would have made much of a difference," said Bryant, whose 20 points were irrelevant against the Thunder onslaught. "They're younger."
How is that going to change in the next week? And, face it, I've written some version of this column three times in their last four playoff games, as they have played maybe one good quarter during that time.
This was so ugly, Fisher hit a three pointer then turned his head to glare at his former teammates. Yeah, Derek Fisher.
This was so awful, even after being booed for an entire game, in the fourth quarter local villain Peace still pulled down the absolute last person he would want to pull down – yeah, he hit the floor with Harden.
"I thought we did OK," said Peace afterward.
If it's not over, goodness, maybe it should be.