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 ESPN.com: 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

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

  1. Did we witness a new evolution of Kobe last night? I can live with the Kobe we saw last night…of course, only if Bynum, Gasol, and Artest can continue their solid play from Game 5.

    When Kobe plays facilitator like last night, it just makes him deadlier because his play has a multiplier effect of making others around him better because the Lakers aren’t as one-dimensional as Kobe the 30+ shots gunner.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know if Kobe’s “evolution” is simply temporary and I’m not entirely convinced we can close it out in OKC, but I loved what I saw last night.

  2. I promise this isn’t from the Onion -

    That’s because the Nuggets see themselves as a certain kind of basketball team with an anti-system. Mike D’Antoni has 7-seconds-or-less. Phil Jackson has The Triangle. Jerry Sloan has The Flex. And Dantley has inherited from George Karl what he’s referred to more than once as “random basketball.”

    What does “random basketball” mean? That’s Dantley’s description of how the Nuggets perceive themselves offensively — a team that flourishes by pounding you with dominant one-on-one play in the half court and with breakneck transition buckets. Dantley isn’t the only one to make that general characterization. When asked about the Nuggets’ woeful assist total of 13 following Game 4, Chauncey Billups conceded, “We aren’t really a high-assist team. That’s not how our offense is made.”

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/15495/the-killer-plays-the-nuggets-wont-run

  3. The mode I’ve always liked best from Kobe and one where I think his talents are fully displayed for individual and team benefit is when he’s in facilitator mode the first three quarters of the game and then goes into closer mode for the last quarter. With the caveat that closer mode is still within the triangle mostly. Just that he looks more aggressively for his shots instead of the pass first.

    As Phil Jackson said, there were some shots that he would like Kobe to have taken. Early game, he passes on those shots, late game he takes them while also trying to draw the foul.

    I think it would help Kobe husband his energy level while also keeping the offense flowing. The beauty of the triangle offense coupled with the transcendence of Kobe’s skills when he’s unstoppable and scoring at will late to put away an opponent.

  4. I think what we saw last night was a Kobe that is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win, which is pretty much the same old Kobe as we’ve always seen. It just took him a while to figure out how exactly to do it. Now that he knows, I expect he’ll do it again next game. Should be fun to watch. :)

  5. Are we for real? Am I the only guy going WTF?

    I’ve heard this song before. I heard it last year when Kobe won the MVP. I heard at the beginning of the season.

    How come every time Kobe and the Lakers have a solid game we’re fooled into thinking, oh NOW THEY GET IT. We’ve said this for years and years every time after a dominant Laker game.

    For God’s sake, the Lakers are the same exact team they were last week.

    Enough with the, Kobe has learned how to play, the Lakers have finally found their focus.

    Next week they’ll play like crap, and then when the win, we’ll be saying the exact same thing. Enough already!

    This team is like being in a relationship with a wonderful, awesome, great, manic depressant girl.

    When it’s great, it’s the best thing in the world. But when it’s bad…well it can get pretty bad.

    Let’s discuss the game. Let’s talk about Kobe’s awesome plays and let’s talk about his blown games. Let’s get on fisher for being old, and let’s praise Byunum. Let’s revel in every bit of our team in the playoffs, but for god’s sake, let’s end the endless, oh NOW they’ve learned, kobe has finally learned how to play-hoopla.

  6. swedishmeatballs April 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    at gxs

    AMEN to that! I’ve been thinking the exact same thing. You just put it in to words. I am in no way a pessimist, but to me it’s really naive to be drawing these conclusions everytime there’s a nice showing by the Lakers potential. Although it’s perfectly normal and a common trait for fans. But still, pretty naive.

    Let’s just enjoy this latest display of hard work and determintaion from the Lakesquad and keep our fingers crossed they put up an even better effort in game six. Instead of in game 7..

  7. Whoa there. I don’t think anyone of us who have followed the Lakers for a long time are naive enough to think they will consistently play like last night every game for the rest of the playoffs. Give us some credit, please. :)

    What I do think is that one of the code keys to slowing down the Thunder has been cracked — put Kobe on Westbrook. And now that Kobe has verified that’s what he needs to do to contribute this series, I’m pretty sure that’s what he’ll keep doing.

    I think it’s as naive to automatically assume that they’ll play like crap next game just because they played well this game. Yes, the Lakers are more bipolar than a prom queen with PMS, but that also means they are as unpredictable as the prom queen is. Our team had a great game, and I’m very happy about that. I’m hopeful that they’ll play better in game 6 than they did in game 4, and if they repeat their performance from game 5 I’ll be very happy. I don’t expect them to play like this two games in a row, but I’m not exactly going to write off the next game as a blow-out against us just because “that’s how they are”. Neither extreme is realistic.

  8. Kobe without a shadow of a doubt, is not the MVP of the Lakers. The Lakers true MVP(s) is the combo of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. There’s no better frontline in the game of basketball when those 3 are all at full strength. Fact of the matter is, Kobe is their closer, period. He gets the bigs the ball, and the bigs take care of the rest.

    OKC can win Game 6 though, and it had never dealt with a buzzsaw quite like they saw in Game 5. However, OKC never started as cold as they did last night. Already geeked about Friday.

    Great read Phil, nice work.

    -Ed.

  9. Ed—–slow down there horsey. If you want to say Pau is MVP I will bite.

    LO has played 3 good quarters out of 20 and Andrew has played good 1st quarters.

    Pau yes the rest no way. My anti-christ Fisher has played a better 5 games.

    Also might be a good idea to wait to the series is over.