Lakers/Thunder: Game 5 Preview & Chat

Darius Soriano —  April 27, 2010

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We’re finally here.  Game 5 is tonight and the chance to take back control of this series is now upon the Lakers.  And for what it’s worth, the Lakers players and coaches seem confident about the game.  Plus, as Kobe so graciously told us, he’s not sure “what the hell is going on around here” because the Lakers’ backs are not against the wall.  And since the series is tied, that’s kind of true.  But if this were baseball and the Lakers were an outfielder their feet would definitely be on the dirt of the warning track right now.  And with one more loss by LA (especially if it’s tonight), they’d be leaping up against the fence trying to snare a sure home run from out of the hands of the crowd.  I think at this point, the Lakers and it’s fans would rather it not get to that point.  So this game may not be “win or go home”, but it’s as close to a must win as can be. 

So, how to pull it out is the question on the mind of all involved.  Phillip had an excellent break down of the Lakers’ defensive woes this morning, so starting with shoring up some of their defensive principles will go a long way towards earning a win tonight.  It’s not that the entire structure of the Lakers defense has been bad – their half court defense remains strong as evidenced by OKC’s low shooting percentage – but there are issues that need to be resolved.  Like now.  Chief among them is transition defense and ensuring that the run outs OKC is feasting on are reduced (only something we’ve been talking about all series).  Second, (and related to point #1) is what Phillip touched on directly with his post – the Lakers need to make the Thunder sink outside shots.  Over at PBT, Kurt is making a similar argument, stating that if the Lakers are to win the game it will be because they made the Thunder play agaisnt their strenths:

For the series, the Lakers are shooting an unimpressive 35 percent from beyond 10 feet from the basket.

But the Thunder are worse — 33.3 percent. They also are not a good jump shooting team, you just haven’t noticed it because in the two games in Oklahoma City they got 61 shots at the rim. They are running, they are driving, they were getting the easy buckets that fuel their offense. In their game two loss, the Thunder had 16 shots at the rim, in the game three win it was 31.

All that leads us to the pivotal game five tonight at Staples Center — the team that makes the other team a bunch of jump shooters from the outside is going to win this game.

But, there’s obviously more to a win than just stopping the Thunder run outs and turning them into a jumpshooting team.  The Lakers also need to find a way to consistently score the ball.  Whether by making some outside shots, attacking the rim more (and either converting or earning FT’s), or executing the finer points of the Triangle better (all of the above?), this team must find a way to put the ball in the basket because shooting in the low 40% range for a series won’t get it done.

But, it won’t come easy.  We’re now at the point of the series where there aren’t any secrets.  The game plans are established.  It will come down to execution and which team follows through on their plan better than the guys wearing the other jerseys.  It will also come down to who plays harder – especially when Thunder coach Scott Brooks is preaching hard work before every game and during every time out.  All those loose balls and plays that require extra effort can’t go to the other team.  Many of the Lakers players say that this is the game where the series turns in our favor.  Here’s hoping they’re right.

A few other points to this game:

*In the interviews that Phil did after Monday’s practice, he spoke about trying to exploit the Thunder’s willingness to crash both backboards as hard as they are.  Phil noted that the Thunder are gang rebounding on defense and are extra aggressive going to offensive glass, thereby compromising their floor balance when transitioning to defense.  In games 3 & 4, the Lakers were not able to take advantage of this but will try in game 5.  If this indeed is a point of emphasis for the Lakers tonight, look for them to try and push the ball even more on offense and for the guards (especially Kobe and Artest) to attack the defensive glass harder so that our bigs can get out and run the floor to establish early post position via post lane sprints.

*In those same post practice interviews, Bynum mentioned that his goal is to be better in his transition defense.  He noted that he’s been pinned underneath the OKC backboard too easily and it’s made it difficult for him to get back to help build the wall they want to show Westbrook and co. in transition.  So, look for Drew (and Pau) to be active on the O-glass, but only to a point.  If they don’t have an angle to get to the ball, I expect them to be running hard back in the other direction.  So, don’t be surprised if the Lakers offensive rebounding numbers are down this game as it could be by design.

*I mentioned this in the recap of game 4, but I’m truly interested in seeing if Odom can carry over his success from the second half of that game into tonight.  Last season, Odom was a catalyst for our championship run (just as he was for the Lakers finals berth in ’08).  I know people are down on LO lately, but he’s a guy that can make a difference and turns this team from good to great or kind of beatable to not beatable at all depending on his performance (and if the other guys play to their averages).

Darius Soriano

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217 responses to Lakers/Thunder: Game 5 Preview & Chat

  1. What a difference a court makes…. And the difference is in the details.

    #1 Kobe VS Westbrook
    As I mentioned yesterday I believe… the only OKC player that has been effective on offense was Russell Westbrook… and as I said before the series started… with no offensive weapon at SG the Lakers can and should easily move Kobe over to defend Westbrook and Fisher can guard offensive midget Thabo. With Russell taken out of the game and Durant continuing to be slapped around by Artest the Thunder just have nowhere to generate offense.

    #2 Artest VS Ariza
    The Lakers weren’t supposed to be just getting a one on one defensive upgrade and outside shooting upgrade. Artest was known for being a playmaker, shotmaker, and pass maker. Most of the season he has been relegated to being a spot up shooter (something he isn’t accustomed to). Maybe it was just one game… but maybe he is getting comfortable on this team and in the offense. And maybe he is no longer afraid to be aggressive on this star studded team and might be starting to get comfortable being aggressive, penetrating and making plays. We shall see.

    #3 The Refs
    Probably the biggest effect on this game were the refs not gifting the Thunder FT’s when attacking the basket. The Thunder attacked early and often and got stone walled at the rim thanks in large part to Gasol and Andrew Bynum. After rightfully not getting any calls OKC abandoned forcing the ball to the basket and the route continued.

    #4 Bynum has Arrived
    After missing the playoffs due to injury two seasons ago and being limited with a sever knee injury last year, “The Beast” is making his presence felt on both ends of the floor and nobody is benefiting more than “PF” Pau Gasol. For the first time in his playoff career (including in Memphis) Pau can play most of his playoff minutes at his natural position of PF… and has Gasol ever looked as dominant in the playoffs as in this series? How many NBA players playing PF can defend Gasol? I can only think of Anderson Varejoa. Welcome to the playoffs Andrew… we have been accepting you.


  2. That ruled.



  3. i must say, i’ll sit back and enjoy insightful to resentful remarks by both cavs and celtics fans for some hours. aaahhh, the beauty of a day-off.


  4. What a great way to end/ruin a long post. That was supposed to read…

    “Welcome to the playoffs Andrew… we have been expecting you.”


  5. Okay here are my great thoughts, wow the Lakers fans have so much to cheer and be happy about, they whipped a team that has been playing together what a year? WOW thats something to brag about. Isnt that kinda like taking candy from a baby? In Oklahoma time the game played until midnight which is past 90% of the teams bedtime, wow Lakers great job there. Seriously what do you guys have to be so proud of? You stomped a young team but dont forget they stomped you guys too. Even if the Thunder dont win another game it doesnt matter. No one thought they would get this far but they did and lets not forget they won two games against the champs.


  6. #150 Dick Barnett:

    If you’re going to quote Chick and put the game “in the refrigerator”, please quote him correctly…


  7. How about LBJ and his injured elbow? A mysterious injury which is being hyped up as LBJ playing through pain.


  8. Seeing Kobe with a bad knee shore up our perimeter defense really makes me wonder how good we could be if we didn’t have Derek Fisher often being a glorified traffic cone on defense and a bricklayer on offense at his age.

    Ugh, if only we could transplant Fish’s heart and brain into Farmar or Shannon and we’d be golden.


  9. This is what he meant of course, and it seemed this way most of the game:

    “The game’s in the refrigerator. The door’s closed, the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jiggling.” – Chick Hearn


  10. This is where i love the Lakers…

    No matter how much we lose… the lakers need only a win in those many games to give us the excitement and to strike fear into the enemy.


  11. That was satisfying…


  12. this blog is so much more fun to read when the lakers win by 20 points. its amazing how much difference a game makes. 2 days ago we weren’t going to win another game. today, we’re the kings of the world…. thats why perspective is so important.

    im not the biggest kobe fan because of over shooting, but when he plays like this, man, i become such a huge fan. someone said it earlier, he dominated and scored less than 20.




  13. Alisha…sorry your team lost but why come here and try to rain on the parade?

    There are no moral victories in the playoffs- you win or you go home. Kudos to Brooks, Durant and co. for a hugely successful turnaround and for the success they will undoubtedly have in the future—-but if the Lakers had taken this series as seriously as they did tonight from the get-go, it would be over by now.


  14. #208

    I know what he meant, but what I meant was that if he was going to quote Chick he should get the quote right.


  15. Joey Jo-Jo Shabadoo April 28, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I LOVED that feigned block Kobe did on Westbrook that gave Russell the spooks and turned the ball over.


  16. Seid From Ethiopia April 28, 2010 at 12:57 am

    This place is one happy place today!!! I’m happy!!!!