Lakers/Thunder Game 2: Lakers Show Will, Earn Victory

Darius Soriano —  April 21, 2010

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Holding on by a thread is still holding on.  And after being able to hold on just long enough, the Lakers now find themselves up 2-0 after beating the Thunder 95-92 on Tuesday night.  Just like game 1, this second contest of the series wasn’t always pretty (in fact, the majority of this one was quite the opposite), but the job got done.  But even in the ugliest of games, there is still beauty.

And now because I can’t coherently wrap my mind around all the facets of this game, here’s a break down bullet style:

*Early the game, I thought Kobe was truly seeking out and looking to have one of those games.  He was very aggressive with his shot and it seemed like he was really trying to find the rhythm that has eluded him for some time.  And while he started out well – making 4 of his first 8 shots – that success would not last.  However, as Kobe is known to do, he found ways to score the ball.  He went to the line 15 times and made 13.  He shot the three ball fairly well making 2 of his 5 attempts.  In the end, his 28 shots were likely too many but he scored 39 points on the night and the Lakers needed every single one of them to win.  The argument could be made that if Kobe spreads the ball around more and other players (namely Gasol) gets more looks that the Lakers like have more of a cushion throughout the game – and I really don’t disagree with that.  But, this is the player that Kobe is.  He’s willful in his approach and there will be games where his mindset is to put his stamp on the game.  And in those contests you need him to be at least as effective as he was tonight if the Lakers are going to win.  Personally, I’m glad he had a game like this in him.

*Pau Gasol continues to amaze me.  8-14 from the filed 9-13 from the FT line for 25 points.  12 rebounds (5 offensive) and two assists.  And while he missed a crunch time FT and wasn’t as active on defense as he’s been in past games, he really played a great game.  It’s not that he did anything spectacularly, but just that he did so many things right.  The way he moves around the paint on the offensive glass to get a tip in; how he positions himself after making the catch on the right block so he’s a threat to drive both baseline or middle and leaves himself options; the way he dives at the right time or finds open space to make a catch on the interior.  He’s not the most physical presence, but the man is a basketball player and he’s consistently doing more things correctly than not.  I appreciate that.

*The Thunder are an athletic and scrappy team.  They just fight for every inch and play hard for every second.  You see it in how they front the post, how the rotate on defense, and how they protect their basket.  They had 17 blocks in this game.  17!  Through sheer will and determination, they hustled back on defense, clogged the paint, and contested every shot taken.  After the game when Scott Brooks spoke of being proud of his guys and praised them even in defeat, I understood exactly what he was saying – his guys battled, but they came up short.  After games like this you don’t hold your head or get down on yourself.  You use it as inspiration for the next game.  The Lakers better be prepared for that when game 3 rolls around.  Because the Thunder will play this same style, but they’ll have an amazing crowd pushing them to play even harder.

*The Lakers bench players (well, most of them) were solid for the second game in a row.  Shannon and Farmar shot the ball well and played under control, they just didn’t see too many minutes (only 25 combined).  I was especially impressed with Shannon as he showed a patience and maturity in his game that was lacking for long stretches during the regular season.  He didn’t force shots, was decisive with the ball, and usually made the smart and fundamental play.  For the second straight season he’s really raised his level of play when the post season arrived and that is the type of player you want on your side.  The flip side of that coin is what the Lakers have been getting from Odom in the last couple of contests.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a bigger supporter of LO than me.  But my main lefty was 2-9 tonight and didn’t seem into the game but for only a few stretches.  His other stats were serviceable (8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) but overall he can play better.  On the road, I have a feeling that he’ll need to.

*Speaking of not playing as well, Bynum couldn’t replicate his strong play from game one – at least not on offense.  Maybe Kobe’s shot seeking took ‘Drew out of his rhythm, but he only made 3 of his 9 FGA’s and had some turnovers when trying to operate in traffic.  I was impressed by his defense and rebounding, though.  I also liked a couple of the hard fouls that he gave.  I’ve always said that if Bynum could rebound well and defend the paint consistently his offense would be a plus and we saw some of that tonight.  But I do think we’ll need more than 6 points from ‘Drew if we’re going to have long term success.

*Kevin Durant deserves a lot of credit.  Ron Artest’s defensive game plan didn’t change at all and by what I saw he was just as committed and focussed on D tonight as he was on Sunday.  But Durant was worlds better.  KD still may not have shot in a way that he’s capable of, but he looked much more relaxed and it showed in his success rate.  32 points on 26 shots for Durant and several smooth jumpers that were made to look way easier than they actually were.  On one possession he posted up Ron on the right block from about 17 feet and then just turned and shot a fade away that was nothing but nylon as Ron was as close to him as humanly possible without fouling.  I never got to see the Iceman do his thing live (only on old tapes and replays), but KD looked just like George Gervin in how effortless he makes it look at times.

The Lakers will need to play better than they did tonight if they expect to make a deep playoff run.  That said, these are the playoffs and the Thunder are a very good team that is well put together and a worth opponent.  And in understanding that these are the playoffs, the Lakers are not fighting towards a goal of the best record in the league or to win a #1 seed.  They’re not battling 29 other teams across the association or 14 others in their conference.  The only opponent is the one in front of them and the only goal is to win four games against this one team before they lose four.  And since that is the case, I’ll take this win just like I’d take a 40 point blowout.  The Lakers are now up 2-0 and the Thunder have to win 4 of the next 5 to dethrone the champs.  Those are odds that, as a Lakers fan, I’ll happily accept.

Darius Soriano

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32 responses to Lakers/Thunder Game 2: Lakers Show Will, Earn Victory

  1. Kudos to the Thunder. My goodness that team absolutely refused to concede anything inside.

    Lakers need to start hitting some shots to loosen up the paint for the bigs. I’m happy that the Lakers finally corralled the victory but I was sweating bullets at the end.

    I agree with Darius, Ron Artest is still giving a great effort on defense and I like it.

  2. Im glad Kobe put on the tunnel-vicious glasses tonight. We cannot solely build on our two bigs. We need that double threat, and Kobe needs some time to heat back up.

    And since we are not aiming to just win this one series, this is a good time for Kobe to get his reps.

    On Bynum: What a relief it is to see him playing at such a high level, being so nimble on his feet and giving such effort on defence and on the glass. I had not dared to hope for that to come around this fast after injury.

    Post-touches – Im still missing some more high-low action, with Pau up high, and either Bynum or Kobe down low, with Odom diving the gaps.

    Kobe was succesfull getting post-touches against Westbrook a few times, when Fish brought up the ball to the corner, running his man off Kobe. This made Sefolosha and Westbrook switch, and Kobe immediately created separation between him and Fish (now in the corner with the ball) by posting up Westbrook. This is a great mismatch for him, and this setup should work a couple of times a game throughout.

  3. In spite of the fact Kobe only shot 12/28, I think it’s more of a result of the Thunder’s improved defense than it is a result of Kobe still having shooting problems and trying to shoot his way out of it. He had 5 shots blocked and as far as I can remember, these were all shots taken close to the rim. The fact that he made 13/15 free throws showed that his stroke wasn’t off tonight and if we disregard the blocked shots, Kobe made a decent percentage of his field goals.

    I was more disturbed by Fish’s shot total, especially since he bricked several at the start of the 4th quarter. I guess our wing players could shoot less and let the bigs get more quality shots but they are who they are.

  4. # 2, which makes this game all the more a coming out or coming back game of sorts. now i know a lot will disagree with me and say he wasn’t gone and he was very much himself. well, in some ways he still is including some questionable shooting, passing and defense. but i say coming out because for one, we felt his presence making an impact particularly late in the game. second his will produced results IN a playoff game (only 2 played).

    i agree with darius here (eerily similar in tone with kurt a year ago) when he said we shouldn’t be THAT worried about LA’s chances. game 3 is a whole new game. i also agree, okc if any, should not draw so many conclusions here. they ain’t feeling good they know the lakers played subpar again and still won. they could feel good that at least they tried.

    this is a 50-win team here we’re dealing with.

    now if our team could come up with 47% or better shooting, we’d be fine. our defense esp 1-1 is solid. all that athleticism wouldn’t be so impacting on a nightly basis. it’s still about execution.

    GO LAKERS!

  5. Agreed about our outside shooting tonight. We really need to pick it up or that will prove to be our major Achilles’ heel this season. (The playoffs are all about those timely 3’s that teams hit at opportune moments- we need to start hitting them and making opponents pay)

    Kobe also looked extremely tired. I could see us going out bloodthirsty for a big Game 3 win Thursday, understanding the need to close this series out quickly so we get time to rest for a deep playoff run. I still see flashes of this being an elite Lakers team if Kobe gets back to his rested self and is able to better adjust for his myriad injuries.

    Also, love the defense by Artest. KD got his 30+ but Ron Ron sure didn’t give him anything easy. If only he could hit an open jump shot…

  6. i am impressed with how thunder plays.
    especially serge ibaka, he reminds me of young mutombo.

    i think thunder will be great next year.

    this year, i think we still have the upside of experience.

  7. Ragged, extremely physical and entertaining game. I was terribly impressed by the effort and intensity from the Thunder. I fear ‘em in game 3. I suspect they’ll cruise but game 4 will be close.

  8. This is a bit out of this thread, but I just read about unveiling the statue of Chick Hearn outside of Staples Center. That is very nice.

    After I moved back to my home country in Taiwan since 1998, I never had that fortune again to hear Chick Hearn’s broadcast. The NBA games here, English commentators are those of the ESPN.

    I would not have become a Lakers fan, if it weren’t Chick’s exceptional knack of telling stories as they’re unfolding simultaneously in live action on that 94 by 50 hunk of wood.

    I did not become a real fan until Lakers were having their lean years soon after Magic’s first retirement. Even in those games when Lakers got blown out, and the hope for future were in the likes of Divac and Peeler, Chicky still made those games interesting.

    I have learned so much about the American culture, about basketball, and even in some way, how to enjoy the process of learning to speak English.

    When I was watching the game against the Thunder today, at the 7.7 second left on the clock, I was thinking about that refrigerator…… Chicky is forever the voice of Lakers.

  9. I was impressed with Andrew these two games. Yes, he didn’t score as well in this game, but I felt it was because the Lakers literally deserted their inside game at the start and never really focused on it throughout. Do that in OKC and we will be talking about a loss – regardless what Kobe shoots.

    Sure the Thunder defended our bigs well, but we on this blog discussed this in an earlier thread and I was looking for how the ball was swung around to make an easier pass into Pau or Andrew and I didn’t see anything good.

    Last year we were noted as being an excellent passing team. In this series we seem to be the newbies and not the world champs.

    Also, the way Lamar was playing, I really didn’t see why Phil subbed him for Andrew at the end of the game – unless Andrew’s minutes were just getting too much for him.

  10. One of the keys to the series was keeping games close and the Thunder will not be able to close like the Lakers.

    With the Thunder leading 88-86 with 2:32 left, we saw Durant push off on Gasol for an offensive foul, then Artest poking the ball away from behind for another turnover. This led to 4 Kobe FT’s and a goaltending by Ibaka, making the score 88-92 with 1:17 left. Just like that, in 2 possessions, the game changed from a Thunder upset to a Lakers hold out.

  11. You know I think you are great at what you do Darius. I love this site for its knowledge of the game. But———–
    how can you not bring up Fisher was 2 for 10, blew two fastbreaks and committed 2 fouls in the last 5 minutes with OKC in the penality which led to 4 points. His fouling out may have won us the game!

    He was a minus 12 and no one on either team was close to that and his shot selection included back to back bricked 3-pointers with one coming with no one from his team on the offensive side of the court..

    Sometimes sports remind me of our politicians. When up for re-election they only talk about the few good things they did in 4 years but leave out the wars, the recession, the taxes etc.

    On Laker talk last night when I brought up Fisher the response was well he drew that one offensive foul!

    Sorry but if Stevie Wonder played 32 minutes he might do a few good things.

    Again I have great respect for you Darius and find this site the best out there but sometimes its important to tell the good and the bad if we are to get to a winning and positive place.

    Thanks for the forum to speak my mind.

  12. Zephid and Darius I think you should post your comments on negative posting from last thread as an official post. You don’t have to delete negative comments but at least it will be something on ppls minds.

    Really happy to see Kobe turn it on last night. When you have a measure of confidence that you will beat a team in a 7 game series then its not a bad time to get your groove back, even if it costs a game.

  13. great breakdown on one 4th quarter play.
    http://nbaplaybook.com/2010/04/21/the-lakers-defend-a-thunder-go-to-play-perfectly/
    how would you hate phil..

  14. 10. Ken, what will bringing that up do for you or the lakers? Life is about choices, Darius chose not to say what has already been said a million times.

    The Thunder were packing the lane daring us to make shots, fisher is a wing player he had to take some of those shots to keep the defense honest.

  15. we really cant complain about this team right now. we are stuck with an old fish that tends to chuck up bad shots. we can only wish they go in.

  16. “His father, Joe Bryant, watched his son play in person for the first time in five years because he’s been coaching in Japan, and saw the same old Kobe.”

    Didn’t know this was the first time in so long that Kobe’s dad attended a game. No wonder he was looking to take over. This should quell some notions of bad shot selections in forthcoming rounds (myself included, sorry I doubted you slightly Kobe)

  17. I’m happy with how this series is going.

    We are not hitting any of our outside shots at all. Kevin Durant seems to have figured out how to produce with Artest literally hanging off his shoulders, though he certainly has to work hard, hard, hard to do so. I like that because that means Durant will get tired eventually… so will Ron, but he will keep fighting anyway. Everyone keeps comparing Ron Artest to a pit bull on defense, and one of the things with pit bulls is, they will work themselves to death before they consider slowing down. So I really like having him on our team, as a defensive force and I think he will have a huge impact on this first round, and any other we play in the future. I’d love to see him make his open shots, but if I had to choose, I’d take his defense and let the other four worry about scoring.

    I also like that the Lakers finally are playing with a drive and fire that was badly missing for the last month of the season. I think they had “senioritis”, and just like a lot of fans just wanted the playoffs to start.

    I like that despite the lackluster outside shooting the perimeter players kept shooting when they were open and it was the right thing to do. That’s what they should be doing, and we need them to keep doing that and not lose confidence in their shot. When the law of averages catches up with all this shooting, we need the players to still have confidence and be willing to take the shot.

    We are right now 2-0 in our first playoff round, against a team that is younger and more athletic than we are, and that absolutely refuses to give up. The Thunder, like any good competitor, just don’t know when they’ve lost and the stubbornly continue to try and claw their way back into the game. Despite not playing their best, our players have shown determination and passion, and last night they hung on to get a win that I for a moment didn’t expect them to get.

    We’re looking good. :)

  18. As mentioned, we have to take some of the open perimeter shots – even if they don´t leave Kobes (more or less) broken hand.

    After just watching Phoenix´s mad world, I realise how slow, and slow and… just plain slow we play… and how little we utilise our outside “threats”.

    The threes Fish shot is a stable in their offense (and they shoot a freakin´ high percentage from down town). Its this simple: Free? Shoot!

    Problem is we don´t have great shooters, old news. But the shots taken in the playoffs weren´t bad I´d say.

  19. I’m watching a replay of the end of the 3rd, and my goodness what I’m seeing is one of the worst stretches of officiating… it’s actually pretty mind-boggling.

    I want to commend the Thunder for their toughness. But we all know that the Lakers are still playing poorly by the standard they have set these last 3 years. If this were last year’s Lakers, these past 2 games would have been complete blowouts

  20. Lakergirl you are right it won’t help the Lakers but it helps me and other fans who are yelling at the TV when Fisher throws up a brick, which in turn helps my wife and 5 year old son who have to listen to me and the people next door etc etc etc.

    That’s like saying why go to a phy to discuss your problems and Fisher is my problem.

    Ok I have bigger problems then this. I am going to see a Doctor today. You made your point.

  21. 17 DTC,
    I don’t know why I’m baited into countering your unfounded and speculative comment, but here goes.

    Ariza on Durant – KD would shoot a much higher efficiency because he could get closer to the basket, our defense would collapse more, he wouldn’t turn the ball over as much. Ariza might hit a few more shots but I’d call this in Artest’s favor.

    No Bynum – Odom moves to the starting unit, we may pick up some offensive flow. But we lose Bynum’s defense altering shots esp Westbrook in the lane. We lose rebounding in the second unit.

    Kobe shooting better. Ok maybe helps a little? in game one?

    Pau – can you really say anyone is playing better than he is now?

    exchanging this year’s team for last year’s doesn’t do much. yes we won the championship but we had problems too last year.

  22. It’s at times frustrating to watch the Lakers play, especially the way they have played for over a month now. That is long enough to turn poor play into a habit and habits always take a while to break. We’ll get there. For now, despite playing slowly and poorly, we’re still undefeated in this year’s playoffs. I’m okay with that. :)

  23. A little goodies from NBAplaybook.com: http://nbaplaybook.com/2010/04/21/the-lakers-defend-a-thunder-go-to-play-perfectly/#more-1937

    Lakers might not have a switch to flip, and they might have one/two obvious flaws… but we are starting to see the weight of the coaching staff making its mark (that is part of playoff basketball, and we got the best in the business), and the coherence of a battletested team of vets, that are able to execute the gameplan on both ends of the court.

  24. Phillip has some thoughts and the morning links up. Also, he linked to the play that’s referenced in comments #23 and #13.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/04/21/around-the-world-wide-web-thunder-growing-pains/

  25. In addition to all the other things I’m happy with, I almost forgot one of the most important differences between Game 1 and Game 2: Ron’s hair was much better! He has crazy colors and swirly symbols painted in the hair now, doing his part to help in every way. :)

  26. Darius,

    You do a very good job of reflecting and summarizing on the fly, giving us a good taste of what went on almost immediately after each game. This contrasts rather dramatically with the scatterbrained comments which seem to make their way to this forum, immediately before, during, and after each game.

    What I like most about the playoff Lakers so far is that they have mostly played team basketball and compensated for each other’s weaknesses. In game two, Kobe played a much stronger role, but it was still not beyond the team concept–and it was needed, especially in the fourth quarter of game two.

    The Thunder have made this an exciting series so far. I especially admired their near perfection at the free throw stripe in the fourth quarter of game two–while Bynum, Gasol, and even Kobe missed key free throws under the same pressure.

    The Lakers have won despite imperfection against a worthy opponent. I can’t wait to see what happens in Oklahoma City.

  27. There’s no doubt we have to get better to win a championship, but I’m at a loss to see why people are worrying about the Finals in the first damn round. The Cavs dominating the first 2 rounds last year sure did them a lot of good in the end. The Celtics struggling with the Hawks two years ago (and then a one-man show in the Cavs) didn’t matter in the end; they got better as the postseason went on. So let’s just hope for the same here, and take our run one game at a time.

    I get what people are saying about Fisher. I’ve been happy with him of late, and I was fine (pleased, even) with his defense last night. It was the shot selection that confused me. One more shot than Drew, and most of those shots were not wide-open. I’m not trying to jump on the bashing bandwagon, I’m honestly a little confused. Does Phil try to reign him in? Fish seems too intelligent to resist coach’s orders. So for me, I just wonder why Phil condones the excessive shooting. I think it may be something similar to what he did with Ariza. Phil believes Fish will make the shots when he needs to, and so he’s willing to let Fish take shots away from our bigs now if it helps him stay involved. That’s my best guess, anyway.

    Remember, Phil is the guy who doesn’t want any stathead in the front office. Sometimes sports comes down to things like faith and trust, and this is one of those cases.

  28. ken,

    darius doesn’t need to say that because you and others will say it. The funny thing is, last game, when Fisher had a team high +10, did u bring it up in any of your posts? You seem to only put up Fish’s stats when it follows your views against him. Why do you not bring up Kobe’s terrible shooting percentage? Or how he was also -2 during the game.

    the funny thing is, people get upset with Fisher with this argument: he is terrible this year, and gets a long leash for what he’s done in the past Isn’t that what Kobe is getting also from all of us? We take his shooting even though he has a broken finger, a sore shoulder, and a bum leg because of what he’s done before?

    Your commentary on how Fish should stop shooting doesn’t seem to show your basketball knowledge. If Fish and Ron stop shooting, that leaves it 3 on 5. What will happen to the offense then?

  29. 11, Did you not see Fish draw 2 fouls on Westbrook in the 1st half, which put him on the bench for two long stretches in which we went something like +10? If not for those two fouls, we probably would have lost.

  30. I’m just amazed that Kobe is able to score 39 and shoot pretty well (he shot 11-20 on jumpers) with a broken index finger on his shooting hand that hurts so bad he almost refuses to dribble with it. Have you guys noticed this? Count how often he dribbles left-handed versus right-handed. Unbelievable.

  31. dave in hillsboro April 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I just watched the first half again, and I scrutinized the Fisher/Kobe two man break with just over eight minutes left in the second (the score was 35-24 Lakers at that point), one of the many times the Lakers were not able to convert in transition.

    First of all, the Lakers entire front line never crossed mid-court. Ron had the good excuse of falling out of bounds after the great steal and save, which ignited the break in the first place, but LO inexplicably stopped running well before crossing the half court line–even though it was clear the Thunder had the man advantage on the break–and Drew never even started running (though to be fair he was all the way under the Thunder basket).

    The Thunder initially sent three guys back, with Westbrook ahead of Fish and Collison and (I think) Ibaka running alongside Kobe, making it a two on three break. Fish threw the lob for Kobe too softly, though that was the right pass to make, and Kobe had to catch it on the way down, which gave the Thunder time to get the rest of their guys back. At that point, Kobe should have made the better choice of pulling the ball out and setting up the offense, instead of going two on five under the rim. How much better would that have gone if LO had run hard? He might’ve gotten a pass from Kobe for a dunk or jumper or at least to get it out of the paint and set up the offense, or he might’ve been able to secure an offensive rebound, allowing us to set up a half court set. But he took himself completely out of the play by stopping before midcourt.

    The point here is that this is a team game and when a transition play goes this badly, it’s not just one guy’s fault. It’s not solely on Fish that this transition opportunity was wasted–it’s on every guy on the court except for Ron, who got us the steal in the first place. The bigs need to run hard, and the guards need to make better decisions in transition, if the Lakers hope to capitalize on the Thunder’s mistakes. Also, give credit to the Thunder for some great transition defense. They didn’t hesitate one second and had every guy back before Kobe could even attempt his shot.

    Lastly, if our bigs can’t be bothered to run the floor on the break, the very least they could do is defend back at the other end, which they failed to do as Westbrook pulled up for a jumper right in front of three Lakers.

  32. I agree with Ken. Darius knows his basketball and does such a great job here but he will continue to get an incomplete on game recaps if he ignores the Lakers biggest weakness after every game. Especially with Brown and Farmar outplaying Fisher in yet another playoff series. It is not an excuse that “Fisher is bad almost every game so why bring it up?” That is like saying not to bring up another Kobe great game because he is Kobe and he is always great.