Around the World (Wide Web): Game 1 Thoughts/Reactions

Phillip Barnett —  April 19, 2010

LAKERS

At the end of Darius’ game wrap-up, he asked the question: In the end, was this a pretty game? Of course, his short answer was an abrupt, “no,” and I generally agree with that sentiment.  Although the Lakers played with an amazing defensive game plan on Kevin Durant that slowed down the whole Thunder offense, yesterday afternoon’s game showed that the Lakers are still playing sloppy basketball and exposed some things that the Thunder will have the opportunity to take advantage of.

1. Russell Westbrook went after the Lakers in transition, and will be able to continue to do so throughout the series simply because he’s immensely faster than anyone else on the Lakers’ roster. The Lakers just don’t have an answer for Westbrook on the open floor. They’ve struggled to create walls for opposing point guards in transition all season, and I just don’t think this is a problem that the Lakers are going to suddenly fix overnight.

2. The Thunder started fronting both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, making entry passes much tougher. This resulted in a couple of turnovers – but most importantly it forced the Lakers to go away from feeding Gasol and Bynum on a regular basis. The Lakers have shown that, if they have just a little problem making entry passes, they will move the ball around the perimeter and take jump shots (and they’re not a good shooting team) instead of trying harder to get the ball to the post. It’s clear that the Lakers’ biggest advantage lies in their two 7-footers, the Thunder understand that they can off set this advantage by making the Lakers take jump shots.

3. The Lakers bench actually wasn’t terrible yesterday. They came in and didn’t lose leads while the starters took a break, but they did turn the ball over five times as a unit. I don’t expect the Lakers’ reserves to outscore the Thunder reserves every game, and if they can’t outscore the Thunder reserves AND still account for nearly 42 percent of the Lakers’ turnovers, that could spell trouble for the Lakers as a unit.

There were some positives that we can take from this game, too. Again, like Darius said, Ron Artest did a fantastic job in defending Kevin Durant, who couldn’t have been pleased with his inaugural playoff game. I wrote this in a Game 1 recap for Talkhoops.net:

There were points in last nights game where it felt like Durant wasn’t even on the floor. Although this series is far from over, this will be a great learning opportunity for Durant as he’s on the floor with Kobe, someone who always leaves his stamp on the game. Even though Kobe only shot 31 percent from the field, there was never a point during the game where his presence wasn’t felt. He was active defensively, finishing with two blocks and two steals, and was making the extra pass. The extra pass didn’t always lead to an assist for Bryant, but it kept the defense honest. Durant is going to have to learn to do these things for the Thunder to be more successful during this post season.

Also, Andrew Bynum returned to play with a big 13 and 12 double-double while Pau Gasol finished with a solid 19 and 13 double-double of his own. As I mentioned earlier, the Lakers bench DID outscore the Thunder bench, mainly because of Lamar Odom’s presence, but a reserves-victory is hard to come by, so I’ll take it. What’s most important is the fact that the Lakers won the game. Teams who win Game 1 in a seven game series end up winning the series 79 percent of the time – and PJ is undefeated in playoff series after winning the first one. Before I get into the links, relive that monster block Kobe had on Durant in the third quarter. Classic moment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b99JmNvJZSc&feature=youtu.be&a

THE BLOGS

My post over at Talkhoops: Andrew Bynum’s health is clearly going to play a huge role in not only this series, but for the Lakers hopes at repeating as NBA Champions. After missing the Lakers’ final 13 regular season games, Bynum made his return to the court in the Lakers first playoff game of 2010 and dropped a 13 and 12 double-double with four blocks in an eight-point Lakers win. The Lakers jumped all over the Thunder early in this game, taking advantage of the tense youngsters getting their first taste of playoff experience. Oklahoma City’s first four possessions read: Kevin Durant missed three; Nenad Krstic missed 20-footer; Durant missed layup; shot clock violation. On the other end Lakers gave the Thunder a heavy dose of looks in the paint, getting Gasol and Bynum going early, and not scoring outside of 15 feet until just over three minutes left in the first quarter, ultimately leading to a 27 to 13 lead for the Lakers after one.

From Silver Screen and Roll: We suspected this wouldn’t be pretty. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder have some transcendently talented offensive stars, but the season-long identity of both teams has been grounded in their defensive play. To their own selves the Lakers and Thunder were true on Sunday afternoon, as they kicked off their first-round playoff series with a clutchy, clangy Game One. The Lakers prevailed, 87 to 79, a final score that warms the hearts of anyone nostalgic for the Knicks-Heat playoff series of the late ‘90s. Jeff Van Gundy no doubt felt right at home.

From Hardwood Paroxysm: This was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever watched and I’m not even a fan of either team. So I can only imagine what it was like for Lakers and Thunder fans. For a while, it looked like the Lakers were going to do what we all expected them to do. They were punishing the Thunder inside. They were trying to teach them a lesson. The lesson was “we’re happy for you that such a young team was able to make huge improvements, win 50 games, get Matt Moore cake and be one of the most surprising defensive teams in the league but we’d like to show you that none of that means anything unless you’ve got size and power and we’re going to show you that we have size and power.”

From The Daily Thunder: After one quarter, Oklahoma City trailed the defending champions 27-13. The Thunder were 5-19 from the floor, scored a season-low 13 points and just looked completely lost. They were rattled. They were visibly shaken and nervous. The game had a look and feel of a pending blowout. And I don’t blame them. They played like a bunch of 21-year-olds playing in their first playoff game ever. In Staples Center against the Los Angeles Lakers, no less. Heck, I was shaky and all I was doing was watching on a TV 1,300 miles away. I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt if I had to walk onto a court and try and get all that anxiety out while playing excellent basketball. So after 12 minutes, Oklahoma City looked overmatched. They looked a little scared. And I feared the worst for this Game 1.

From Welcome To Loud City: I can’t say I’m surprised. Nobody can say they were surprised. Not even the most die-hard Thunder fan really expected us to win and would be devastated by this loss. And obviously, the local media is going to do all it can to iterate that this was a good loss, a learning experience, a blah this and a blah that. In truth, though, it was just a loss. It was bad. We could have won, and we should have won. But, admittedly, the reason we did lose was because we were young.

From Land O’ Lakers: Was there a switch to flip? A magic button? An enchanted lever? No, but the Lakers turned in a quality effort to take Game 1 against the Thunder… There will be fans, I’m sure, lamenting a lack of style points. But Kobe Bryant, even while acknowledging the need to continue improving, made the bottom line pretty clear. “At this stage,” he said, “you’ve just got to win games. It doesn’t matter how you win them.” Who are we to argue with Kobe Bryant?

THE PAPERS

From the Los Angeles Times: Round 1 to the Wacko. “I couldn’t tell you what kind of job I did,” said Ron Artest, looking completely confused after complete domination. Round 1 to the Ron-O-Lantern. “I’m not going to fool myself into thinking I did anything special,” said the carrot-topped Artest after handing the Lakers their opening playoff victory on a silver platter of elbows and effort. Round 1 to the Anti-Ariza.

From the Los Angeles Times: Turns out it had nothing to do with the Lakers hitting the switch as much as getting Andrew Bynum back on the floor. We’ll get to Bynum’s talking about what he’s learned from reading the “Life of Pi,” his efforts to teach himself Spanish and Sunday’s cheap shot, but first — have you noticed how different the Lakers look with the big kid in the middle?

From the OC Register: This was the sort of controlled dominance expected but so rarely displayed by the Lakers this season. In their playoff opener as defending NBA champions, the Lakers never trailed and never had the mental letdown so frequent in their 25-loss regular season. They defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 87-79, on Sunday at Staples Center, getting a big bounce-back effort from center Andrew Bynum in his first game in a month.

From the OC Register: The most black-and-white player in the NBA suggested he’d bring more color before the Lakers are done with these playoffs. Multiple colors, in fact. That’s what Ron Artest hinted at Sunday after covering the league’s top scorer with everything but that dye he used to turn his hair a lovely shade of Corn Flake. And why, exactly, does Artest occasionally decide to go with the flowery ’fro? “I like,” he explained, “when people talk bad about me.”

From NewsOK: Kevin Durant said it felt the same. Said this playoff stage seemed like just another game. But who believes him? Who believes that a 21-year-old who over five months has gone from star to supernova didn’t feel the weight of the NBA world on his spindly shoulders as he walked into the Staples Center on Sunday? For the Thunder to scare the world’s most famous basketball team, to avoid turning into a caviar appetizer for the Lakers’ celebrity crowd, to take this series back to Oklahoma City with a sliver of hope for an historic upset, Durant has to play well.

From NewsOK: Scott Brooks couldn’t be happier with his team’s effort against the daunting defending champions on Sunday afternoon inside Staples Center. If only the Oklahoma City Thunder’s coach could have gotten his players to execute. Brooks saw Game 1 of the Thunder’s first-round series against Los Angeles go to the Lakers after the Thunder struggled mightily to muster anything of substance on the offensive end.

ESPN AND NBA

From ESPN Los Angeles: Kevin Durant was showered, dressed and ready to get out of Staples Center and put his first career playoff game behind him as quickly as possible. He didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t exactly take over the game — or the series — like he has so often and so prolifically this season. Twenty-four shots to get 24 points. Four turnovers, 1-for-8 from behind the 3-point line and the sight of Ron Artest’s bleach-blonde hair still lingering in his head.

From ESPN.com: If Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol hugged like they did Sunday at any point in the last month, Bynum would have a pile of ruined dress shirts lying on the floor at the back of his closet, as his strained left Achilles tendon kept him out of uniform and in street clothes since March 19. The two 7-footers, who play so much bigger than their combined 14 feet when they’re on the court together, held their sweaty embrace, celebrating the Lakers’ 87-79 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder that served as a welcome-back party for Bynum. It just so happens that the team’s oft-missing championship swagger decided to crash the party as well.

From NBA.com: On a play away from the ball in the first quarter, Andrew Bynum may have very well set the tone not only for himself, but for the rest of the series. After getting tripped up on a previous defensive play by Oklahoma City’s Jeff Green, Bynum bounced up and barreled into Green’s chest. No whistle. No harm. But it was a play Bynum felt he needed to make.”I wasn’t going to just let that happen without retaliating,” said Bynum following the Lakers wire-to-wire, 87-79 victory against the Thunder in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference playoffs.”That’s just part of being aggressive and letting people know and having a presence out there.”

Phillip Barnett

Posts

20 responses to Around the World (Wide Web): Game 1 Thoughts/Reactions

  1. Nice post phillip

    your second point about the thunder fronting our bigs and we went away from it is spot on.

    i think you hit the nail in the head.

    i would like to see PJ counter this move in Game 2, because i think other team will definitely adopt this approach too.

  2. I know it’s early, but any word on how Bynum is feeling after yesterday’s game?

  3. The obvious counter for fronting the post is the high-post flash which Lamar is so known for.

    Say we have Kobe on the strong-side wing, Gasol in the post, with Fisher in the corner, Artest on the weakside outlet and Bynum on the opposite block. If Gasol’s man is fronting him, the proper play is to have Artest flash from the weakside to the top of the key. If Bryant makes the pass to Artest, Artest should have a wide open passing to Gasol with an uncontested path to the basket. If Bynum’s man comes off him to counter this, Artest can go to Bynum and Bynum will have an uncontested path to the basket.

    This should not be a problem going forward. The only thing I’m worried about is long shots off PNR action leading to long rebounds and Westbrook getting out in the open floor. Like Philip said, we have no answer for that, and the only solution is to either make your shots, or get shots closer in toward the basket.

  4. I still maintain that something needs to be done about Ron’s hair. Not the color, he can make it whatever color he wants and likes. A happy player is a productive player.

    But the blotches. The unevenly trimmed edges. The beard. That beard needs to be one uniform color, I can’t stress this enough. It also needs to be trimmed, and the sides burns shaved off. Side burns are only okay if they extend down into a Baron Davis-inspired beard, or if you’re Elvis Presley!

    It’s all well and good for Ron Artest to smother Kevin Durant with the most effective defense we’ve seen him play all year, but we all know the crazy hairstyles are what really matter. Last year, he had the Rockets team logo on the sides of his head and spent considerable time and effort on maintaining that hair cut throughout the series. How can we be sure that he has fully committed to the Lakers if we get anything less? The color is a start, but we need more. We need true dedication. We need well-groomed crazy hair.

  5. Zephid,

    sadly, i dont think Ron ever runs thats set…

  6. Ron’s hair is meant to make opponents think he’s homeless. That way, when he’s guarding them they pull back because they think “hey, this guy is homeless so he must smell like pee. I must stay away.”

    Its sheer defensive ingenuity.

  7. Re-post From Previous Thread:

    DEFENSE. That’s what this series & for that matter, our entire playoff run this year, is going to come down to. Let’s be real, our offense is going to continue to be sporadic because we don’t shoot the ball well from the outside. Our best perimeter shooter, arguably, is sidelined with a bum ankle & even if he was healthy, he’s been out of rythm all season because of inconsistent minutes. The comparison that I like to use when it comes to shooting (and making) jumpshots in the NBA is getting a hit in Major League Baseball.

    In Baseball, it’s possible for a hitter to see the grooves of the ball when it’s pitched to them, have perfect timing on their swing, make solid contact on the ball once it arrives to the plate and STILL make an out. Whereas in Basketball, you can be wide open with no one within 10 feet of you, put the proper arch on the shot, have it leave your finger-tips with precise rotation and STILL miss the shot. In situations like this, when an individual feels that he’s done everything correct to achieve his goal (in this case, getting a hit or making a shot) and it’s STILL not accomplished, there’s nothing that a person can do except hope for a better result on their next opportunity. What we, in sports, call this is “A Slump.”

    I say this because basically, your shot comes & goes. If you’re a good shooter, eventually, it’ll come around. But when it comes to Defense, an individual can never go into “A Slump” because, even though good defense can be taught, the basic principles in being a good defender is EFFORT. Which CAN NOT be taught. Therefore, if we continue to play defense with the same intensity & effort as we displayed in game 1, we’ll be fine because as we all know, DEFENSE wins Championships.

    LAKER 4 LIFE ….. GO HARD OR GO HOME

  8. But Ron’s entire defensive strategy is based around out-muscling the other guy. Up close and personal with elbows, body contact, and sheer harassment… Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to lure his opponent closer, than to scare them away to where they can pull up a perimeter jumper?

    Though I’ll give you that the more distracting his hair gets, the more it will help him unhinge Durant. Then again, it’s only game 1. It’s only fair to give him a couple more games before pronouncing final judgment.

  9. Tra

    A slump is not 82 games. Lakers are 26th in 3-point shooting. Fisher has never been higher then 39% FG percent all year and as low as 36% from the field. While Ron has gotten worse our guards have been the same all year. This is not a slump this is a bad outside shooting team.

    They shoot over 50% when they post up and they shoot under 40% for the year when its outside 15 foot. That is plain and simple bad outside shooters.

    If I coached the team I would make them read a book called Math for Dummies on the difference in shooting percentage.

  10. Ken -
    I’d like it if you posted your negative comments when they actually reflect what happens in the game. That way at least I know when to expect to feel more (crappy) than I already do. When we shoot 36% from three, and Fish 3-6, maybe you should acknowledge that so at least we know you’re a Laker fan deep, deep down like you claim to be.

    My previous comment on playoff 3 pt shooting from last thread.

  11. One of the problem with us fans is that we continually refer to the result, rather than to the action. This is especially true with the 3pt shot.

    It was mentioned earlier that making a 3pt shot changes the defense because the defender is upset someone made a 3pter on him and will play differently next time. Maybe they shouldn’t, but that is human nature. That aspect of scrambling a defense later in the game is part of the strategy of basketball – something fans seem to give very little weight to. This repetition is a key part of running a system offense.

    We run a system offense. Therefore we are going to take actions to influence the game at a later point. Taking open 3s is part of our offensive philosophy. It frustrates the h*ll out of me when we miss, but I get over it.

    Incidentally, we did finish first in a terribly competitive Western Conference this year.

  12. Mimsy:

    I think that Ron Artest is trying to convey his wildness, the depth of his passion, and his fierce spirit.

    Much like the Gauls sprinting towards their enemies while wearing nothing but wild azure blue woad, or the Lakota with passionate vermilion displaying the number of warriors they had bested in combat, or the Maori with their fierce black tattoos proclaiming themselves demons.

    All of these great warriors used body markings and vivid colors to intimidate their opponents and to bolster the morale of their allies.

    In many ways, Artest is simply following a noble tradition as old as mankind itself. His hair echoes the spirit of battle, honoring those who have gone before him. He is displaying a depth of character, and giving living reference to the many traits he shares in common with glorious heroes of the past.

    Not the least of which is occasionally being full-blown, bat-poop insane.

  13. 12) “Much like the Gauls sprinting towards their enemies while wearing nothing but wild azure blue woad, or the Lakota with passionate vermilion displaying the number of warriors they had bested in combat, or the Maori with their fierce black tattoos proclaiming themselves demons.”

    Or the blog poster who uses different fonts and UPPERCASE!!

  14. In other news, I seriously thought James Harden’s beard was a small animal trying to eat Kobe’s shoulder.

  15. I agree Don. I was speaking of for the season and in fact more about Ron who was 1 for 8. The rest of the team was excellant if you remove his shooting.

    Ron 3-point shooting has really been bad the last month and I am more concerned about him then the others.

    Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. As for being a fan, its been 40 years. But just like if you are in a marriage for too long, as a long time fan I expect to much and complain to often. Just ask my wife.

  16. The crazy hair as war paint? That makes perfect sense!

    I still think it needs to be a bit more… thought through. After all, the Gauls painted the woad in decorative patterns on their bodies, they didn’t just slather it all over themselves in random wild patterns. There is an aesthetic side to war paint, that needs to be honored as much as the wild side of it. Symbols, that can be used to bolster the message… all in keeping with honored warrior traditions.

    @Ken
    I share your concern about Ron’s 3-point shooting. He didn’t take stupid shots, or contested shots. HE took wide open ones, that I’ve seen him make time and again during the regular season, and he just missed them. That worries me, because he was our reliable outside threat. Without his shots falling, we have no one out there.

    At the same time, a little voice in the back of my head is whispering, “24 points on 24 shots and 4 turn-overs”…

  17. Artest will be the key to this series. if he continues to contain Durant it will be difficult for them to score on a consistent basis.

  18. Wow Phillip, this was an intense read indeed and I enjoyed your Talkhoops article also, this all took some time but hey, I enjoyed it all very much, Thanks…
    Now on to Darius’ post next and before you know it another Laker game, huh?

    Oh and Utah is taking it to the Nuggets, and now have taken the HCA from them, cool.

  19. Seeing the Suns and Nugs lose at home makes me hope the Lakers watched it also. They have to shoot much better tomorrow. Not going to win scoring 87. Also expect OKC to come out running.

    I also expect Ron to be fighting throw 2 or 3 screens for Durant.

    Another words Lakers need to step it up on offense.

    I have a hunch when Kobe sees James, Anthony and Dirk throwing up huge numbers he is getting ticked. I would be surprised if he dosen’t go for 35 tomorrow. He is probably at the gym now shooting freethrows.

    Lakers by 2 tomorrow