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The Los Angeles Lakers looked absolutely awful against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of their second-round game in the NBA Playoffs. It's largely up in the air if that's going to change heading into Game 2 on Wednesday night, but there are some factors the Lakers should key in on according to the experts.
Putting it bluntly, Los Angeles didn't look particularly adept at doing anything in its loss in Oklahoma City. That could change with a couple of major adjustments, though -- and our friends at SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll think they know what it'll take to even the series at one game apiece before the seven-game matchup heads to Hollywood.
Ben Rosales of Silver Screen and Roll noted that there are three things that the Lakers will need to fix in order to have a chance at victory on Wednesday night: offensive execution, defensive intensity and a better effort overall. Although teams generally need to do each of those to win games, Rosales goes into solid detail to describe what exactly the Lakers need to fix with each.
The most interesting points came when Rosales discussed the defensive effort:
Foremost among the items that need to be fixed is the Lakers' pick-and-roll defense. Westbrook may not consistently hit all those midrange jumpers off the dribble for the rest of the series, but either way, the Lakers need to trap him far harder before that even becomes an option. As your's truly and others noted before the series, Perkins and Serge Ibaka are not offensive powerhouses.
Finally, the Lakers need to take far better care of the defensive boards, as while Westbrook and Kevin Durant inevitably scoring is acceptable, the putbacks and easy points gotten by everyone else is not. It will be difficult for the Lakers to pull a game out even if they limit these kinds of opportunities because the Thunder are simply that much of an offensive powerhouse, but they certainly have no chance if they do not.
As the above blockquote points out, shutting down the Thunder's high-octane offense is certainly a tall task. If the Lakers are able to slow them down, however, it's not hard to believe that Kobe Bryant can go into hero mode and will Los Angeles to a win on the other end. Rosales touched on the things the Black Mamba will need to change from Game 1 in order for his team to be more successful on the offensive end.
For a brief spell in the first quarter, the ball movement looked solid. Bigs were throwing some sweet interior passes, shooters were being found, and the ball was being hammered towards the rim. All that eventually dissipated as the game went on and it's difficult to assign that completely to the Thunder.
Aside from Thabo Sefolosha's superb individual defense on Kobe Bryant, who did his share in stifling the overall flow by trying his utmost to crank difficult shots over Sefolosha. Indeed, the seminal moment of the game for Kobe was when he had Derek Fisher (!) on him in the high post and instead of blasting right past him towards the rim, he settled for a fadeaway shot that missed. That's unacceptable.
Whether or not the Lakers are able to adjust enough is anyone's guess, but at least now we've provided them with a blueprint that might help them head back to Los Angeles without their tail between their legs.
The Los Angeles Lakers were absolutely crushed on Monday night in the opening game of their NBA Playoffs series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It wasn't a good sign for the Lakers -- especially considering the prevailing thought process is that it could get even worse -- but there's a possibility that if just a few of the Lakers' also-rans are able to step up, the series could be even by the time Game 5 rolls around.
One of the ancillary players that will need to step up is Ramon Sessions, the mid-season acquisition that looked amazing when he began his career with the Lakers before settling back down to earth. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, his shortcomings were more of the painfully-yucky sort than the kind the Lakers should have expecting in getting a point guard who has bounced around as much as Sessions has.
Sessions' missteps weren't ignored by the media, either, as both ESPN's Brian Kamenetzky and Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register pointed out the flaws the point guard presented. The worst part about it was that each columnist decided to rail on a different aspect of the struggles Sessions had on Monday night against Russell Westbrook and friends.
Kamenetzky noted that Sessions' offense was what hurt the Lakers the most, causing the rest of the players on the floor to fill in where he should be effective:
This was a killer, in part because 1-for-7 for two points isn't going to get it done, but also because Sessions' ineffectiveness required the Lakers to put Gasol into more of a facilitating role at the top of the key. Fine for making passes, but not ideal because it tends to sap his aggressiveness as a scorer and limit his flexibility in the offense. Sessions was a blend of mediocre-to-bad through most of the Denver series. He simply can't be a non-factor against the Thunder if the Lakers are going to be competitive.
The other side of the coin, as Whicker pointed out, had to do with the defense displayed by Sessions on Monday night.
There was more evidence that Ramon Sessions is exactly what he was when the Lakers got him from Cleveland - a backup point guard, at least on this level. He was supposed to keep point guards from burrowing inside the defense, and he was supposed to beat people downcourt. The Lakers scored zero fast-break points Monday.
The Lakers had no conventional point guard under Phil Jackson. Sessions is a driver and disher, and it's obvious that few of his teammates, if any, know exactly where he's going and what he'll be doing. In the playoffs he is shooting 36.8 percent with 31 assists in eight games.
Sessions probably wouldn't be getting this sort of attention if he were in nearly any other city, but when one plays for the Lakers, they have to step up ... or be prepared to hear about what they're doing wrong. If Sessions doesn't get his game right for the second game of the series, he'll surely be hearing about it once again -- and it will even be worse than what it was on Tuesday morning.
The Los Angeles Lakers were simply throttled by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night in the first game of their second round series. While it's believed Kobe Bryant won't let his team get obliterated like that going forward, it was interesting to check out the reaction from the experts following the Game 1 no-show by Los Angeles.
SB Nation's Thunder blog, Welcome To Loud City, warned the Lakers in their recap that it seemed as though the Thunder actually left quite a bit in the tank -- meaning, if it's even possible, the second game of the series could end up even worse.
What Game 1 tells us though is that if OKC is focused in their task at hand, they will always have untapped advantages at their disposal. Westbrook clearly had more in the tank if it was needed. Durant played solid but did not have to play great. Serge Ibaka could have better output. James Harden, as solid as he was, did not shoot great either.
It is not so much that there is room for improvement, because it would be a bit haughty to proclaim that a 29-point win does not feed the basketball soul completely. What it does mean though is that when LA tries to adjust, the Thunder will have options to counter the Lakers' new strategies. OKC is in the lead, and now LA must chase.
In a shocking move, our friends over at Silver Screen and Roll -- SB Nation's blog dedicated to the Lakers -- basically agreed that Los Angeles likely won't have much to offer the Thunder this series. In fact, they're not even counting on a victory the next time out, but rather hoping Game 3 is a possible turning point back in Los Angeles.
Look, I could go on. Tonight was a calamity in every respect. I happen to think this Lakers team doesn't have the talent, the legs or the hunger to hang in this series, but many of you remain hopeful. That's cool. I'm wrong about this stuff all the time and I could be here. To me, the crucial game isn't Game 2 but Game 3 back at Staples. If the Lakers spring a shocking upset on Wednesday night, awesome, but I see their best bet as making a two-game stand back on their home court, turning it into a short series and hoping the pressure gets to the young Thunder. It's nice to dream, I suppose.
It's going to be interesting to watch as this series progresses, but if SB Nation colleague Andrew Sharp is correct and the Thunder finally are the mature team we've all been waiting for them to be, Bryant and the Lakers might see their window slammed shut rather quickly.
The Thunder sent a message in Game 1 Monday night, and after a 29-point blowout, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers heard it loud and clear. So did the rest of the NBA.
On Monday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series. The Thunder jumped out in front early and the game turned into a veritable romp as Oklahoma City took the first game by a final score of 119-90.
The Lakers were trailing by 15 points at halftime, but things only got worse from there. While Los Angeles needed nothing more than to regroup and use their experience to take control, they instead fell behind by 30 points by the end of the third quarter. It was never close the rest of the way.
Andrew Bynum put up a big double-double for the Lakers, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 20 points in the game. Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 27 points and Kevin Durant was close behind with 25. James Harden came off the bench for the Thunder to put up 17 points.
Blowouts often tend to end in weird ways, and Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs second-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder was no exception. Little-used Lakers' small forward Devin Ebanks was thrown out of the game with two-and-a-half minutes left after a minor altercation with some Thunder players. Referees said the second technical had something to do with what he told them, but it's unclear what that might be.
Afterwards, Ebanks was not happy. First, he slammed over a chair on the bench:
Then, in a misplaced form of macho-ism, Ebanks decided to take his shirt off as he went into the tunnel. Athletes do this a lot after playing a long game, but Ebanks only played four minutes. It's not like his jersey had a lot of sweat on it ...
That was odd.
When asked to discuss some adjustments the Los Angeles Lakers could make to avoid getting dismantled by the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2, TNT commentator Reggie Miller suggested that we "shouldn’t be surprised" to see Kobe Bryant begin the game on Russell Westbrook.
He’s right. We shouldn’t be surprised. It happened in Game 1, after all.
Under normal circumstances, this would just be two players fighting for a rebound in the NBA Playoffs. Considering what happened a few weeks ago, though, any time James Harden and Metta World Peace get tangled up will be significant.
This is about the only thing that has gone wrong for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. What kind of gesture, exactly, is this Thunder fan trying to send Mike Brown’s way?
If you can figure it out, let us know.
The Lakers are playing like it's a closeout game.— marc wilmore (@marcwilmore) May 15, 2012
Here's the context, in case you didn't get the joke.
After getting smoked in the first half by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown told TNT’s Craig Sager that the Lakers would neither hedge nor switch ball screens. Instead, the players just needed to fight through the picks.
He might want to rethink that at this point. Oklahoma City just scored again.
The first game of the Western Conference semifinals matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder is underway on Monday night. Through the first half of play, the Lakers have looked fairly overmatched. Entering halftime, the Thunder lead by a score of 59-44.
Andrew Bynum has 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half, while Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant have each put up 10 points for the Lakers. On the Oklahoma City side, Russell Westbrook is leading all scorers with 17 points and six assists. Kevin Durant has put up 12 points and grabbed four boards.
The Lakers will need to regroup in the second half, which is not out of the question, but the long rest for the Thunder and the squad's youth seem to be making the difference so far against the weary-looking Lakers.
This is a serious problem. Russell Westbrook won’t hit every mid-range jumper going forward, and you can bet that Kevin Durant will have a bad shooting game at some point, but what do the Lakers do about James Harden? Nobody can put any pressure on him at the point of attack, and the team’s big men are too slow to cut off Harden’s penetration to the rim on pick and rolls.
It lasted one possession.
And here's to you, Mr. Lakers fan.
Metta loves you more than you will know.
Now here's to you, Mr. Lakers fan.
Lakers Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Woo woo woo.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ starting point guard is having trouble in the playoffs because of his lack of shooting range. It hurt the Lakers against the Nuggets and it’s hurting them early against the Thunder. Russell Westbrook started to drift off him to help on Andrew Bynum more aggressively, forcing Bynum into two bad shots.
1. Kobe Bryant is guarding Russell Westbrook from the very start of the game. Instead of conserving Bryant’s energy, it looks like Lakers coach Mike Brown is rolling with his best matchup for Westbrook’s speed from start to finish.
2. The Thunder’s double teams on Andrew Bynum are not nearly as aggressive as the Nuggets’ were in the last series. On one post play, Westbrook doubled Bynum, then scampered away to cover Ramon Sessions clearing out to the corner. That seems like a bit of an overreaction to me. Sure, Kendrick Perkins is a better post defender than anyone the Nuggets have, but it’s odd that the Thunder haven’t copied the Nuggets’ blueprint to stop Bynum.
The Lakers forward, who continues to hear the boos, already has a three-pointer, a one-dribble pull-up jumper and a deep post-up on Kevin Durant that led to a beautiful assist to Andrew Bynum. Durant has gotten him a couple times on the other end, but World Peace needs to keep hitting shots to keep Durant occupied defensively.
Also, look for the Lakers to run World Peace into the post a little more to take advantage of Durant’s frame.
You knew that Oklahoma City Thunder fans would not greet Metta World Peace too kindly after the Lakers forward elbowed James Harden in the head a few weeks ago, and they did not disappoint. With the Star Wars "Imperial March" blasting in the background, Thunder fans let World Peace have it during pregame introductions.
Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who injured his hip in Game 4 of Oklahoma City's first-round series, will play in Game 1 of their second-round series against the Lakers. Perkins played in just eight minutes of the close-out game against the Mavericks, but will not be limited Monday against Los Angeles.
Kendrick Perkins is playing and will not be limited minute-wise, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 15, 2012
Perkins started 65 games for the Thunder during the regular season and all four games in their first-round series against Dallas. In 26.8 minutes per game during the regular season, Perkins averaged 5.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Game 1 of Oklahoma City's game against Los Angeles will tip off at 10:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on TNT.
Metta World Peace returns to face James Harden and the Oklahoma City fans in Game 1 Monday night, but with Lakers-Thunder series, that's just the beginning of the fun. Get ready with a preview of what's to come.
The Staples Center will be busy for at least another week. Here's a preview of Lakers-Thunder, Spurs-Clippers and more in this week's Monday Morning Jones.
The two teams start what could be an extremely dramatic second-round series on Monday.
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