Around the World (Wide Web): Lakers Return The Favor

Phillip Barnett —  April 28, 2010

Los Angeles Lakers vs Oklahoma Thunder Game 1 NBA Western Conference playoffs in Los Angeles

From Hardwood Paroxysm: We knew they had it in them. It’s been pretty obvious the last couple of months that if the Lakers wanted to play basketball the intelligent way then they would have a lot more games like this. Instead, the Lakers have been all over the place. They’ve been blaming their struggles on injuries and a lack of rhythm instead of showing some heart and fortitude on defense to go along with smarter shot selection on offense. We’ve been waiting to see them take advantage of the length that nobody else can match, rather than chucking up 20-footers because it’s the easy way out.

From Silver Screen and Roll: Watching the Los Angeles Lakers for the past two months has been an unpleasant experience.  Their performance has left much to be desired, but the symptoms have been even more troubling than the results.  For a champion to fall to pieces down the stretch, through injuries, a lack of energy, and due to finally being punished for not correcting flaws and mistakes that have been around all season, the whole situation has smacked of the slow decline of an empire, like the fall of Rome.

From Yahoo! Sports: No matter what Kobe Bryant does, he can’t seem to win even when he does win. If he produces a high-scoring game, then he’s shooting too much. If he scores modestly, then it’s evidence his body is failing him and he’s past his prime. Bryant fell into the latter category on Tuesday, which has been a constant theme of late. He scored just 13 points and had four turnovers. More evidence he’s too old?

From NBA Fanhouse: This wasn’t supposed to be a mental challenge, a Naismith version of Rubik’s cube that could be solved with the proper amount of intellect and focus. These Oklahoma City Thunder were all about the physical gifts — the deer-like speed, the leaps and the airborne bounds. The only Lakers solution, it had seemed at this 2-2 juncture, was exploiting the deer in the headlights look that such a young team would surely succumb to.

From Talkhoops: 58 points in the paint. You can talk about all of the other little things that the Lakers did on Tuesday night (i.e. Kobe Bryant guarding Russell Westbrook, Ron Artest hitting shots etc.) but nothing means more to this series than those five words: 58 points in the paint. In the previous four meetings, the Lakers averaged only 37 points in the paint per game, and they went 2-2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. On the night that they scored 58 in the painted area, they won handedly by 24 points – a game that was never in question from the opening tip to the final seconds.

From BasketBlog: Heading into Tuesday evening’s pivotal Game 5 between the L.A. and Oklahoma City, the Lakers boasted an all-time record of 17-0 in Game 5’s at home. Make that 18-0. The Lakers looked every part the defending champions in a dominating performance that started with a 10-0 Purple and Gold burst out of the gates and finished with a 111-87 victory, the lead reaching as many as 32 late in the third quarter. “We just got beat up,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Every phase of the game.”

From Land O’ Lakers: It was a game the Lakers had to have after the Thunder buried the purple and gold Saturday night… and man alive, did they ever have it.  111-87 was the final in Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 at Staples, and as we noted in last night’s postgame wrap, it was a positive experience on nearly every level. Start with Kobe Bryant’s management of the offense to his work on Russell Westbrook. Then there was the hyperactivity of L.A.’s big men, a rebirth of Ron Artest’s offensive production, great ball and player movement, and more.

From the Los Angeles Times: Take a big sigh of relief Los Angeles, it looks like the Lakers are back. At least for one game. In game that was never in doubt the Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 111-87, in Game 5 of a first-round Western Conference series. Game 6 is Friday night in Oklahoma City. The Lakers got a lot of help from areas that have been lacking. Pau Gasol had 25 points in about 30 minutes, including five for five from the free-throw line. And Andrew Bynum came out strong in the first quarter and turned in a 21-point game. Kobe Bryant, who also played only 30 minutes, finished with 13 points but no one seemed to mind. The Lakers had good spacing on offense and aggressive defense.

From the Los Angeles Times: A season full of alibis and a week full of accusations were forcefully squeezed into one night of two words. No way. No way were the Lakers going to give up their championship like this. “Good energy, good effort,” Pau Gasol said through beads of sweat. No way were they going to lose Game 5 of a tied first-round playoff series at Staples Center to a team of toddlers. “We played extra hard,” Gasol said through 25 points and 11 rebounds.

From the Los Angeles Times: So, it wasn’t the end of Lakerdom as we know it, after all? In the good news for the Lakers, there will be a tomorrow, or at least a Sunday, that won’t be in Oklahoma City. Loath to even think about going back there for Friday’s Game 6 trailing 3-2, without their old assurance that Kobe Bryant could save the day, the Lakers made a ferocious defensive stand, turning the poised young Thunder players into toddlers up past their bedtime in a 111-87 rout.

From the OC Register: Kobe Bryant had scoffed at the idea the Lakers’ backs were to the wall. Click here to view video of post-game comments. If he’s right, then the idea that the Lakers summoned the will to put forth such a ferocious effort Tuesday night all on their own — with no help pushing off that wall — gives rise to hope that they might be championship material again this season. The Lakers steamrolled the Oklahoma City Thunder, 111-87, to take a 3-2 lead in this first-round series.

From ESPN Los Angeles: A leopard can never change its spots and the Lakers can’t reinvent themselves either, it seems. It turns out, that’s OK. A year after the Lakers ebbed and flowed through the playoffs, being dubbed a “Jekyll and Hyde” team by coach Phil Jackson and “bipolar” by their star, Kobe Bryant, the purple and gold are back on the seesaw. As the Lakers chase their repeat championship, the only way to enjoy the sequel is to embrace the highs when they come — and they will come — and stomach the lows that are sure to be interspersed along the way.

From Kevin Durant couldn’t believe what he was hearing every time he turned on the TV or radio or what he was reading every time he picked up the paper or went on the Internet. Kobe Bryant was getting old, he was past his prime; he was finally breaking down. “I don’t understand why people say he’s lost a step,” Durant said outside the Thunder locker room before Game 5 on Tuesday night. “He’s the greatest player in the game. There are only a couple guys who can turn it on and off like him and get 15 in a row and also get 10 assists and get their guys involved. He’s probably the best ever. You can’t say that he’s lost a step. He’s the same Kobe from a while back, maybe he’s not dunking on a lot of guys like he was back in ’01, ’02 but he’s still the same Kobe.”

From the Daily Dime: At the moment, after a thorough domination of the Oklahoma City Thunder that followed two days of Senate hearing-level grilling for the Lakers, the main question to ask them is … what took so long?  Why did coach Phil Jackson wait until Game 5 to defend Russell Westbrook with Kobe Bryant and slow down the point guard who was torching the Lakers? Why did Ron Artest choose now to show he still can make shots and even dunk on people? (More importantly, why did it take him a week to shave off that Easter egg hairdo?) Why did the Lakers stick with the go-inside game plan for more than just a quarter, and finally adopt the defensive principles their coaches have been preaching all series?

Phillip Barnett