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.