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Kobe Bryant couldn't come through for the Lakers in Game 2, and Kevin Durant was the star instead as the Thunder rallied late and took 2-0 series lead.
The Oklahoma City Thunder mounted a late game comeback to get past the Los Angeles Lakers 77-75 on Wednesday night, giving the Thunder a 2-0 series lead as they hit the road to Los Angeles. The late collapse by the Lakers left SB Nation's Lakers blog Silver Screen And Roll wondering where the lay the blame for the loss.
Where do you start pointing fingers for those two minutes? Is it at Kobe for an awful turnover in the middle of the rally, or for his two misses to end the game? Or is it at Steve Blake for missing his shot, wide-open in the corner for three? Is it at John Kuester and Mike Brown for drawing up a play that only served to take time off the clock when they were both down a point and with OKC having a foul to give?
The Thunder on the other hand showed some fight and were able to battle back despite their failures. J.A. Sherman of SB Nation's Thunder blog Welcome To Loud City credits the great defensive play all game by the Thunder.
The best thing we can say about this game is that OKC persevered again through their struggles to give themselves a chance to win. Their defense played well throughout the game, holding the Lakers to only 30 points in the whole second half. Even with the number of misfires, OKC never fell out of it, and even with 2:08 to play and down seven points, we knew there was enough time to recover if they made some game-saving plays.
The Lakers wanted to go to Kobe Bryant late ... as always. So when Metta World Peace made a better play that resulted in a Steve Blake miss, Kobe's reputation became more important than smart improvisation. It's not a good look.
It's probably a good thing there was pretty much no time left. This is all irrelevant, but watching Kevin Durant's second free throw, after Steve Blake missed on the other end, effectively ending the Lakers' changes, was pretty great. The free throw wasn't great. But the visuals were.
His first attempt looked normal and was nothing but net. This gave the Thunder a two-point lead. And then there's the second free throw...
Pretty obvious he's trying to miss on purpose. But ... woopsiedoodle. Gotta hit rim. I guess it was a swish, at least!
The Oklahoma City Thunder's offense was atrocious in the second half of Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers. They managed just 12 points in the third quarter and, with just two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, they had scored only eight points in that period. Offensively, they couldn't have been much worse.
Then, a combination of inspiration and a Kobe Bryant meltdown completely altered the course of the game. Oklahoma City mounted a furious comeback in the closing minutes, coming from seven points down with 2:08 remaining to win 77-75, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
Kevin Durant and James Harden were quiet, but came up huge when their team needed them most. They made two shots each during a 9-0 run, with three of their four made field goals coming after Bryant made a mistake on the offensive end. Harden scored twice on driving layups, while Durant had an easy transition dunk to go along with the basket of the game.
Throughout the fourth quarter, until the final two minutes, Oklahoma City's lack of a true point guard showed. They could only create jump shots before Harden started taking it hard to the basket, and Durant seemed to take some inspiration from his teammate in the final minute. He took the ball at the top of the arc and, in the absence of a point guard, became the point guard. Durant used a screen by Kendrick Perkins to lose Metta World Peace, went around Andrew Bynum with ease, then hit a shot in the face of Pau Gasol to give the Thunder the lead.
The performances that Harden and Durant put in for their team in the final two minutes stood in stark contrast with the performance put in by Bryant down the stretch. On four consecutive possessions, in order, Bryant did the following: Turned the ball over with a bad pass, mishandled a Steve Blake pass out of bounds, had a shot blocked and missed a panic three-pointer with five seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Despite this, the Lakers tried to inbound the ball to Bryant following Durant's eventual game-winner, on account of him being Kobe Bryant. The Thunder shut him off on the first inbound attempt, forcing a timeout. The Lakers got the ball to Bryant via Pau Gasol on their second attempt at an inbound, but Thabo Sefolosha intelligently fouled Bryant at the last possible second before he went into a shooting motion while the Thunder had a foul to give.
With 5.6 seconds on the clock, Kobe was the obvious man to run a play for, but he never got open. With World Peace inbounding, Russell Westbrook completely fell asleep defensively and left Blake wide open in the corner. Instead of looking for Bryant, World Peace made the reasonable decision to take the wide-open look the Lakers were gifted. Blake couldn't knock it down. A series of fouls and timeouts extended the game, but that miss effectively ended it.
Bryant's stats illustrate the infamous Kobe System at its best. He finished the night 9-25 shooting with 20 points. He did not score in the final six minutes of the game. Durant led all scorers with 22 points, and he shot the ball only 15 times. It was a poor all-around offensive game for both teams but, in the final two minutes, the Thunder found a way to create inside looks without a point guard or a dominant offensive big man, and that was ultimately the difference.
With the game on the line and the Los Angeles Lakers down by one point with five seconds left, they ran a play that somehow ended up with Steve Blake shooting a wide-open three-pointer in the corner. It missed, Kobe Bryant got pissed and they ended up losing.
Here's the play in real time.
But what exactly happened on that last play? Was Blake really supposed to get the ball over Bryant? Does Bryant have any right to be upset?
First of all: the play was not designed for Blake. Well, Blake may have been an option, but it was completely by happen-stance. The play was actually a very intricate one in which Bryant was to run off a backscreen by Pau Gasol and fade to the far corner. Metta World Peace was to throw a very difficult inbounds pass, and Bryant was going to shoot the ball off it. At least that's what I can glean from watching it several times.
Here's the important screenshot.
That's a very difficult pass for World Peace to make, but it's not impossible. Thabo Sefolosha is being picked off nicely by Gasol, which would have forced the Thunder to switch. There's a man in the paint, but Andrew Bynum would have prevented him from picking off the pass with a simple backscreen. Finally, World Peace had a clear passing angle
because Kevin Durant, for some reason, wasn't pressuring the ball.
UPDATE: As Sebastian Pruiti points out, Durant was out there to prevent Bryant from catching the ball on the wing outside the three-point line. That forced Bryant to try to go to the corner and run away from the ball.
However, World Peace decided to ad-lib. As you can see in this shot, Russell Westbrook is not even looking at Steve Blake. World Peace noticed this and decided to slip the ball to Blake while Westbrook wasn't watching. Here's another angle.
It's a calculated gamble by World Peace. The 30-foot crosscourt pass is a far tougher one than the simple 10-foot feed to Blake in the corner. On the other hand, he was passing to Blake, not Bryant.
Then again, it's not like Bryant tore up crunch time. The Lakers' star didn't score in the final six minutes and 30 seconds of the game and had already come up way short on two shots similar to the one he was likely to get had this play been run properly.
All things considered, World Peace can easily justify this decision. Blake had a wide-open shot, and you almost never get that in a late-game situation. Bryant won't like it, of course, but Blake hits that shot more often than Bryant would have hit the shot he was going to get as a result of this play.
Two very contested jumpers, one air ball, one bad miss, one lead blown for his team. But sure, LeBron James should be more like him.
Reminder to everyone: Kevin Durant is just 23 years old. Sometimes, 23-year-olds force bad shots instead of using their gifts to get good shots.
The jig is up, now that the Lakers have adjusted their defense. It might be time for the Thunder to start diversifying their offense instead of thinking they can win just by running 500 high pick-and-rolls.
They’ll always run those plays, of course, given their talent, but they can no longer expect to just roll the ball out, space the floor and get easy shots. Time for Scott Brooks to earn his money.
The Lakers’ defense dominated headlines after Game 1 against the Thunder, but their offense was just as bad. It’s been much better in this one, and you can thank Mike Brown for that. The Lakers’ coach -- or whoever designs the team's plays -- has done a really nice job designing some unique plays to get the ball to guys close to the basket.
In fact, teams that are having trouble getting the ball inside -- looking at you, Indiana Pacers -- should study some of the plays the Lakers have run in this one.
It would have been his third charge in the last two years. Unfortunately for him, the referee didn’t cooperate.
Get ready for everyone to make too much out of Russell Westbrook slamming a cup of water on the Thunder bench during a timeout. Whether he was mad about an official’s call (Kevin Harlan’s explanation) or upset at Serge Ibaka’s pick-and-roll defense (the preferred explanation of Twitter), it was a moment of frustration and nothing more
Remember: this is the playoffs. Every play matters. Frustration will happen given those circumstances.
How do you know the Lakers’ defense has made the necessary adjustments to guard Oklahoma City? Just look at how many shots the Thunder big men -- Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison -- are taking.
In Game 1? They took 11 shots.
In Game 2 so far? They have 16, and we’re early in the third quarter.
First, there was this.
"They got a lotta big ol' women in San Antonio." --Charles Barkley, 46th President of the United States.— edsbs (@edsbs) May 17, 2012
Then, there was this.
Then, Charles Barkley grinned, everyone else on the set was speechless and everyone watching knew exactly what Barkley was thinking.
Whenever Charles says "that's impressive" about a halftime contortionist, I picture him getting the urge to roll through another stop sign.— netw3rk (@netw3rk) May 17, 2012
Yo I know what the panel is thinking +on tnt right now" with that half time show In OKC— Tony Allen (@aa000G9) May 17, 2012
don't have a single publicly appropriate thing to say about that halftime entertainment.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) May 17, 2012
Finally, the TNT photoshop geniuses took this thing to the next level.
This is why TNT's NBA coverage wins Emmys, folks.
The Los Angeles Lakers have made progress! In Game 2, they have moved on up from "embarrassing mess" to "not quite as good as the Oklahoma City Thunder." They're playing much better defense and down by just three points at the half, but the potential for Oklahoma City to pull away is lingering over the game. At halftime, OKC leads 48-45.
Oklahoma City is shooting 50 percent from the floor, and they're incredibly doing this while Kendrick Perkins and James Harden are a combined 1-7 from the floor. Kevin Durant seems to be saving his best for the second half; he's attempted only four shots.
Kobe Bryant is 4-11 with 10 points, while Andrew Bynum has 12 points. The Lakers haven't shot the ball very well, but they've been able to score second-chance points off offensive rebounds, which is keeping them in the game. They're going to have to do a lot more of that, in addition to stepping up their defense, if they want to avoid going into a 2-0 hole. The Thunder are leading without Durant and Harden doing much offensively. They're not both going to stay quiet.
Here’s Reggie Miller trying to make a point about pace.
A bland quote, to be sure. Only problem: It was uttered while Russell Westbrook was streaking coast-to-coast.
With Jordan Hill in the game, the Thunder are helping off him to contain Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Hill’s making them pay, scoring six points on 3-3 shooting, with two offensive rebounds. That’s what he has to do as long as he’s in the game.
His stint really gave the Lakers a lift. Keep it in mind if the Lakers are close late into this game.
… and the two teams have already been called for 11 combined fouls. As the old saying goes, nobody’s here to watch the officials.
Gotta give the Lakers props: they’ve really done a great job containing James Harden in pick-and-roll situations in this second quarter. Andrew Bynum is perfectly positioned to help, and the Lakers guards are overplaying Harden to force him right into Bynum.
Bynum catches lots of flak, but it’s the guards who have to keep overplaying their man to allow Bynum to help easier.
Don’t believe everyone who says this was an unintentional elbow. James Harden has been saving this one for the past month.
(OK, no he hasn’t, but imagine if he was).
You know the old adage about post defenders needing to do their work “early” to get their man off their favorite spot? The same applies to pick-and-roll coverage. Right now, the Lakers need to do more to dictate where the Thunder must go on the pick and roll instead of expecting to be able to cover it simply by reacting.
One idea: pick a side and force all the picks that way. They can’t do it quite as easily as the Spurs did it with the Clippers, because the Clippers run more side pick and rolls than the Thunder, but they can do more than they’re doing.
Different game, same old story. The Thunder keep running ball screens that force Andrew Bynum to pick up Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant, and Bynum still can’t do it. The Lakers desperately need to change their strategy, because asking Bynum to contain the ball-handler while the primary defender tries to fight through Perkins’ screen isn’t working.
Oklahoma City Thunder fans continue to set the standard for white-outs, blue-outs and everything in between. This blue/white dual color thing is pretty nifty.
Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins will start during Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the team's Wednesday night matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"He has no limitations," Brooks told the media earlier this evening.
In the third quarter of the Thunder's blowout victory over the Lakers on Monday night, Perkins re-aggravated a right hip injury he originally suffered in his team's series-clinching win over the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Clearly Perkins will not be playing at 100 percent tonight, but we all know he's one of the toughest players in the NBA. This type of injury is something unlikely to sideline him unless it becomes more severe
Perkins is averaging 3.8 points and 5.2 rebounds this post-season.
The Los Angeles Lakers were terrible in Game 1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Surely Game 2 will be considerably more competitive?
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