Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Kurt —  November 22, 2009

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Records: Lakers 9-3 Thunder 7-6
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 105.9 (16th in league), Thunder 104.5 (21st in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 101.8 (9th in league) Thunder 101.1 (6th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, Nenad Krstic

The Lakers Coming in: Andrew Bynum is officially a game time decision, but I’m guessing he goes. If not, Gasol slides over to center and Odom is back to starting for a night.

With the return of the “regular” starting lineup against Chicago, the Lakers played their best all around game of the season Thursday. One night is a start, the Lakers need to start playing like that night in and night out, build continuity through the season.

Also, as has been said before, Sasha has been the guy squeezed out of the guard rotation for now. But over the long NBA season, he is going to get chances again, injuries or back-to-backs will mean minutes. If he uses those chances well, he gets a few more minutes. It’s pretty simple — minutes in the NBA should be a meritocracy. They’re not, but the closer you can get to that the better. Sasha has earned being pushed out of the rotation, if he wants to be back in he has to play better. Sounds simple, but…

The Thunder Coming in: OKC has won four of its last six, is 7-6 on the season and if the playoffs started today they would be in. Things seem to be on, or a little ahead, of schedule for a young and building team. And defense is the key to that.

Watch the Thunder defense tonight, they have tried to play a “shell” defense as they call it and the result has been they contest three point shooters well — opposing teams are shooting 28.2% from three against them, best in the league (the Lakers were they exception, shooting 5 of 11 last meeting. The Lakers post game may throw their “protect the rim and contest threes” system off.) The goal is to protect the rim and contest from deep.

The core of the shell defense is to take away easy buckets in transition by getting back. Again a good system — every team wants those easy points — but if the goal with the Lakers is to force them into the halfcourt, the Lakers will take that. They have a very good half court offense, particularly with Gasol back.

Because they are long and athletic, the Thunder switch and help on defense better than most teams, and so far that has worked to their advantage. They create turnovers and don’t give up offensive boards. That has worked well for them on defense so far.

Blogs and Links: Check out Daily Thunder.

Also, if you haven’t seen Sonicsgate you should.

Also, great story in the NY Times about the use of the pick and roll in the NBA and how much it is growing. The Lakers generated 11% of their offense with it last year, the lowest percentage in the NBA. I agree with Brian Kamenetzky, I’m glad the Lakers don’t rely on it.

Keys to game: The Lakers starters not named Kobe shot very well last meeting with the Thunder — Artest had 20 points on 6 of 8 shooting, he led the efficiency parade. With Gasol back tonight I expect another night of the Lakers getting he shots they want, they just need to drain them with a long arm reaching out (the Thunder use their athleticism to get steals and spark that defense).

But that first game still went to overtime, largely because of Laker turnovers. LA turned the ball over on 25% of their possessions in that game (25 turnovers on the night). But Los Angeles forced 14 second half turnovers from the Thunder. If one team can take care of the ball it will have a huge advantage. The Lakers should trap Westbrook, that was effective last game.

Ron Artest did a good job on Kevin Durant late, he was 0-5 in the fourth quarter and overtime (to be fair, the Thunder did a poor job of getting him the ball at points when he was open that quarter as well). Artest got in his head late. Durant finishes at the rim well (74%) and is a good midrange guy (about 40%), but if you can make him work to get the ball and shoot from the outside he is less effective. Expect to see a lot of the Artest/Durant matchup. Otherwise on defense the Lakers need to play their roles, they got burned on some bad gambles last meeting (I’m looking at you, Kobe).

Speaking of Kobe, he seemed to take Thabo Sefolosha’s defense as one of those personal, mano-a-mano things last time and while he had 31 and key OT hoops, he tried to take over the game when other players were having efficient nights. He needs to get his in the flow of the offense, get the shots in the paint off the rub action not just isolated in the post (obviously last game was pre-Pau so hopefully we see the offense more tonight). Ball movement like the Lakers had Thursday will be key.

James Harden has been playing great of late, he needs particular defensive focus off the bench,

Where you can watch: This game tips off at 6:30 pm Pacific, on Fox Sports, and on the radio at 710 ESPN.



73 responses to Preview & Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. For Warren

  2. Two for Warren. Someone beat me to it.

    NBA audio league pass has been broken for the past month. Does anyone know where there is streaming radio broadcasts of Lakers games?

    Oh I can’t wait for December when I can watch my Lakers once more. For a region that is so in love with basketball, the Middle East does not carry any regular coverage of the NBA. Oh, woe is me.

  3. In 7 of 13 games, OKC opponents have made 51/131 (39%) of their 3s.

    In 6 of 13 games, OKC opponents made 21/99 (21%) of their 3s.

    In those 6 games, several teams were without their best 3pt shooters(kevin martin, eric gordon, rashard lewis).

    So, they’re inconsistent defending that line, and caught a break here and there. Issue is whether their perimeter D is as solid as it would seem.

  4. If Andrew Bynum plays the win should be money in the bank

  5. Re: The Pick & Roll

    This is another area where Phil Jackson is a genius. It isn’t that he thinks the Pick & Roll is an average offensive weapon… its that he wants to keep the entire team involved throughout the game and not just two players. He also doesn’t like the defense to get used to guarding it as the game goes on. In fact you will see the Lakers go to a ton of Pick & Roll in close games in the 4th quarter.

  6. Loving the image. Perfectly captures Kobe’s defensive laziness.

  7. New York is surprisingly competetive against Boston right now. They’re actually playing decent defense (with the obvious exception of Eddy Curry). I expect the Celtics to find a way to steal this (Ray Ray just hit a 3 to put them up 2), but it’s an unexpected good game.

    Rondo’s FT shooting is atrocious. As a PG I don’t kinow how you can esude such arrogance as him when you can’t capitalize on free shots.

  8. I guess the plan in NY is to cut some of David Lee’s minutes, showcase Eddie Curry, and hope someone will trade for him.

  9. JD – forget the arrogance – how can a professional shoot 25%? It is mind boggling.

  10. tiny sample size? he has shot 16 FTs total this year. kobe shot 3 pointers 20% this year.

  11. JD called it — you knew the Knicks would find a way to lose. But: does Garnett ever set legal screens? That last play he reached out and simply pushed the defender in the hips before popping open for the game winner.

  12. I noticed that Kurt has a habit of being overly harsh on Kobe. From reading Kurt’s posts, someone that has not watched any Laker games this season must think that Kobe has been a detriment to the team.

  13. 6. Zephid –


    A great shot.

  14. I’m going to this game–non nosebleed seats. Promise to give you my changed perspective after.

    I’m hoping for a smooth and convincing victory. Especially interested in how much difference Gasol will make–and Ron Ron’s adventure with Durant.

  15. Check out the dysfunction that ensues from scrapping the Blazers’ 3 guard lineup:

    What is real, however, is that McMillan has made the switch and maintains it will be for a while. What’s also apparent is the move sits well with Roy, but not necessarily with Miller.

    “I feel like we tried it, and you could say it worked at times,” Roy said. “But me sacrificing hurt the team, so it should get back to me playing full-out and getting some other guys in other areas to sacrifice a little bit.”

    Said Miller: “We went 7-2, so I don’t think that’s a problem. And over half of the games were on the road. I’m not going to look at it that way. We won games.”

  16. It’s pretty simple — minutes in the NBA should be a meritocracy. They’re not, but the closer you can get to that the better.

    Personally, I really enjoy the fact that on the Lakers, they actually seem to be. Phil gives minute to the players that work hard to improve their game, and to the players that play better than the other players.

    I know. You’re thinking of the point guard position. By all means, go ahead. But before you start ripping my comment apart by listing the mistakes Fisher has made so far this season, please consider the following:

    One of two things need to happen before Phil Jackson gives Fisher’s starting spot to anyone else.

    1. Derek Fisher asks him to do it. When Luke Walton did, Phil honored that request, primarily because Luke was right. At that time, Ariza was better than he was.

    And for the record, my respect for Luke and my appreciation of his contributions to the team skyrocketed when he did. How many other NBA starters would have done that? Major kudos to Luke for putting the team ahead of himself. That is the kind of mentality that wins championships in a team sport.

    Oh, right. We did win that. 🙂

    2. One of the back-up PGs proves that they deserve the starting spot.

    Now, here’s the thing. The bar is not set at Fisher’s current level. What Farmar or Brown needs to do is not to prove that right at this moment, this season, they are better players than Derek Fisher. That’s not the standard we measure our starters by.

    They need to prove that they are on the same level as Pau Gasol (Eurobasket gold medal, Olympic silver, NBA All-star), Ron Artest (defensive player of how many years now?), Andrew Bynum (NBA champion center and unique in the league as a center who can actually make free throws), and Kobe Bryant (four champsionship rings, one MVP trophy, an NBA Finals MVP, and an Olympic gold medal).

    Basically, until one of our back-up point guards prove that they are as good as the rest of the starting line-up, they will not have earned the privilege to start for this team. Fisher on the other hand, has a resume showing that he did earn it, once. Several times over. So until someone else does, he will start at point guard.

  17. 16 – Mimsy, I’m not sure why I agree with you, but I do!

  18. The Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers used the play the least in the N.B.A. last season. Only 11 percent of their offensive plays originated with the pick-and-roll.

    The Utah Jazz?! Wow.

    Just felt like throwing that out there since it seemed so counterintuitive, but then again I haven’t seen many Jazz games lately…

  19. Isn’t tonight the game where Chick Hearn replicas of some sort are being passed out? Hopefully Artest will shut down Durant again.

  20. I made a co-worker a $100 bet that Bynum would be an all-star this year. So far so god, but how do you guys think that bet is going to turn out now that Pau is back?

  21. P.S. Mods: It would be great if the previous email or at least my cell phone # cd be deleted at the start of the game….

  22. S Nicholsons – I think you are gonna come out on top. His numbers, our team’s record, and the lack of true centers in the West (Yao & Shaq gone) mean Andrew should be there. He just needs to stay up on the rebounding. I made a bet with my little brother that Ariza wouldn’t make the all-star game this year. Not that I wouldn’t be happy for him – but I just don’t see it happening. Probably one day, though

  23. Great game between Miami and New Orleans tonight too. When is the last time a team went from “Dissapointing Contender” to “Scrappy Overachiever” as fast as New Orleans?

  24. Mimsy, do you really see one of the backup guards being on par with Gasol, or even Ron-ron?

  25. @Atomsk121
    At this point in time, no. Which kind of was my point.

  26. The thing about Luke asking Phil to have Ariza start over him that people forget is that it was just as much about Luke’s passing sparking the bench as much as it was about Ariza’s improved game. When Luke asked Phil for the change it was during the period when the bench was stinking it up and having a difficult time moving the ball and getting the offense going. Luke asked to play with the bench so that he could help facilitate that offense. It wasn’t just about stepping down as it would be if Fish asked Phil this time around. I don’t think Fish would be contributing as much to the bench as Luke did when it happened last year.

  27. Wow, you’ve gotta love that extrapass to Ron for the three…

  28. #1 and #2 – you guys are life savers 🙂

    Our bigs gonna have a field day today… OKC just doesn’t have the size and length to matchup with us. But the same can be said for Ron, KD35 will be a handful to guard with his height, range and mobility.

    PS. watch Thabo on Kobe… that kid is beginning to build a rep for himself as a defensive stopper at the 2.

  29. Oh and Bynum is starting, so woop !!!

  30. I like the ball movement so far. Even Bynum is moving it some.

  31. Oh my God!!!! 9 assist for the 9 baskets, the offense is runnig so smoothly…

    Amazing job by Ron, he’s negating KD35.

  32. Beautiful basketball..

    Almost all of our baskets are assisted

  33. any sources for the game ?

  34. What a difference Gasol has made on both ends of the floor since coming back. Nice start for the Lakers tonight.

  35. Over the Glass!!!!!!!! Highlight for the season!!!!

  36. Stop! Kobe time!! Now that shot was ridiculous!

  37. is it the lakes defense or the thunder’s shooting.. 4 shots in a quarter..?

  38. Loving Pau’s game, but that trio of shots by Kobe was about as sick as I’ve seen in one quarter..

  39. any streaming links?

  40. OH KOBE!

  41. Kobe is in his “destroy the latest Kobe stopper” mode

  42. Lakers looking like the Globetrotters=)

  43. Serious question – is it me, or does Kobe not get the calls that Wade or LeBron seem to get?

  44. Ammo with 2 points already…. in the first half. I guess that pretty much sums already where this game is headed.

  45. @ 45 (VoR): I’ll bet it’s just a matter of perspectives. Cavs fans say the same thing about Kobe and Wade as well. And of course, I don’t think I need to mention what the Celtics fans think about this as well.

  46. JD – #24:

    2004-05 Indiana Pacers.

  47. Lakers need to get a blowout win so they can pad their team efficiency ratings.

    Otherwise, how will the advanced stats brigade know that we have a good team? 😉

  48. Regarding Kobe’s FTA, I thought I remember an analysis last year that showed that Kobe took the least amount out of the three. Also the ratio of FTA to FGA’s also showed he had the lowest.

  49. This is the team we needed OT to beat without Pau, right?

  50. FYI- I have a fantasy team in one of espn’s auction leagues with Kobe, Pau and Bynum all on my roster

  51. wow, our 3-guard lineup~!

    sorta ironic with the post about Sasha getting squeezed out. Guess “blow out” is another possibility for him to get minutes 😉

  52. there is the Shannon Brown garbage time SLAM DUNK

  53. The blowout is complete, we got our Shannon highlight dunk to make it official.

  54. Shannon Brown single handedly gives me a reason not to turn off blow outs

  55. Serge’s career night in blocks tonight? Who is he anyway?

    And… I guess Sasha is still regarded more highly than Ammo…

  56. Bynum, game’s leading rebounder in only 28 minutes. Good sign that his rebounding numbers aren’t dropping with Pau back. Pau got 7 in the same amount of minutes. Just great to see both of them combine for good boards.

    Ron also got 7 in the same amount of minutes.

  57. DJ is the only player on our roster other than Luke not to score tonight. Everyone else scored at least 2 points 🙂

  58. With Marge Hearn there watching, and the Lakers looking invincible, with special “Hearn” jerseys given out–it was a lovefest–punctuated with some incredible shots.

    Great to see it live.

  59. I find myself searching “Shannon Brown Dunk” on Youtube a lot lately. I like this. He’s really gotta find a spot in the dunk contest.

  60. If the NBA doesn’t allow a High Dunk section at the dunk contest this season I feel like mankind will have been robbed.

    With guys like LeBron, Dwight, Josh Smith and Shanwow waiting in the wings, it would serve as a showcase for the aerial evolution of the human species.

  61. Drrayeye… I envy you that I’d have to fly 14 hours just to get to LA… plus give or take another 2-3 hours from LAX to Staples… plus local airport here in the Philippines, it would take me about 1 whole day to make it.

    Kobe just made that behind the board shot coz you were there 😉

  62. I laugh whenever DJ try to do post move, it look so sluggish.

  63. I know it’s been mentioned sparsely, but I’d really like to harp (and sing praises with that harp) on Artest’s passing.

    At the beginning of the season most lakers fans were high on Artest’s passing skills despite derision from Rockets and Kings fans. I joined in on this – but I thought all this talk was based more on our hope that the offseason move would provide greater dividends than it’s loss.

    But watching the chopping stream I could cop from my ILP, I have to say I am really really impressed not only with his willingness and skill of his ball distribution. Loving the ball movement and the overall effort that last two games!

  64. Before I read any of the comments, I just want to say God, that was fun 🙂

  65. The behind the backboard shot by Kobe was one of the most ridiculous shots I have ever seen. That’s a horse shot and he made as he was bumped out of bounds. Wow.

  66. matuldi klinsmann November 23, 2009 at 7:15 am

    Kobe has consistently been robbed by referees so far this season.What a shame.As a side note some people on this board are comically critical of Kobe like it is not a Laker blog.Doesn’t matter though,it is like gasoline for the blaze.

  67. All it needed was a little Pau action for the Lakers to get back into the swing of things!

  68. New post up, the video of Kobe’s highlight of the night.

    And for the record, I love Kobe, he is one of the greatest players ever to lace up the sneakers, and we are lucky to have the chance to watch him night in and night out. But with great talent comes great responsibility, and as the team’s Alpha Dog I expect more of him (this is not the temple of Kobe, with unfettered worship of him). But don’t think I don’t feel lucky to get to see him play.

  69. Shades of grey people. It’s perfectly acceptable to look at someone you admire with a critical eye. Nothing is perfect.

    I’m a huge Kobe defender and love watching him. But I’m also one of the first people in line to complain when he starts being too ball dominant and dribbling the ball in the perimeter one on one while the shot clock is running out. I think some of his best highlights come out of the natural flow of the offense. So I want to see beautiful basketball that comes organically. You can reconcile the two things, admiring his play and being critical at the same time.

  70. matuldi klinsmann November 23, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Sorry my bad maybe.And I was not referring to Kurt.It’s just that sometimes I just sense more than shades of gray J.I do not want unfettered worship of anybody or here being temple of any sort.Just objectiveness.Just acknowledgment of a fundamentally sound player who also happen to make basketball an eye candy as well with some of his other peers.Nobody’s perfect.But there are some players close to at least visual perfection.In every sport I guess.Just try to think NBA without Kobe,Lebron or Dwayne or Vince and Tmac.It would be boring IMHO.He is not Antoine Walker for God’s sake:)Anyways too long piece,that’s it.Thanks for listening.

  71. Looking at the replays again, I’d say its close, but I think you guys may be on to it that because of the arc of the shot it never went through the tunnel.