Lakers/Thunder: Game 6 Preview & Chat

Darius Soriano —  April 30, 2010

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We’ve been talking adjustments all series, so why stop now?  In game 5, the Lakers implemented some subtle (and quite effective) changes on offense while also switching Kobe onto Russell Westbrook as a major defensive adjustment.  These refinements on both sides of the ball (plus some good ‘ol fashion hustle) erased the memory of what transpired in the game 4 debacle and revitalized the Lakers in what turned out to be a game 5 trouncing of the Thunder.  So, at this point, in a win or go fishin’ game, the Thunder must now try to crack the updated code of the Lakers to try and force that game 7.  So, what should the Lakers be prepared for?

Honestly, I don’t think the Lakers need to be concerned about any new wrinkles from the Thunder.  When this series started, we discussed how the Thunder run some of the more simple schemes in the league.  Their main goal is to get out in transition and take advantage of their athleticism and if that’s not possible to set up in the half court and feature the league’s leading scorer.  At this point, that strategy has won them 2 games and had them close to winning a third.  Scott Brooks doesn’t come off (at least to me) as the panicky type and I don’t expect a slew of crazy new innovations.  What I do expect is him refocussing his team on the task at hand and reminding them that they have a winning strategy.  All that’s needed is exectution.

This is especially true for Russel Westbrook.  Sure, in game 5, the Lakers did a tremendous job of limiting Westbrook’s success and effectively taking him out of his game.  But now that the Thunder have seen this strategy, I think they’ll just try to conteract this with more perseverance.  As Kurt metions over at PBT, Westbrook must get back to an attacking mentality in order to have an impact in this game.  He can’t settle for jumpers and he can’t let up just because the seams aren’t there for him.  He must be relentless.  And this is what I think we’ll see. 

But there has to be more, right?  I’ve read in a few different places that the Thunder may go to a lot of P&R action for Russ in order to free him from Kobe’s tractor beam defense.  And while that’s a possibility, I don’t see that being a primary strategy.  When reviewing the game tape of Russell’s offensive plays, I saw that the Thunder ran less than 5 actual P&R’s for Russ in the last game.  And while I do see that number increasing, I don’t expect a dramatic jump in that number.  The Thunder’s main goals on offense, especially in the half court, are still focussed on getting Durant the ball in position to score.  Will Brooks sacrifice possessions for KD in order to get Westbrook going?  That seems doubtful to me.  Not when Westbrook isn’t a threat to make the outside shot consistently (making the P&R easier to defend when he’s the ball handler).  Really, what I expect is for the Thunder to go back to what has worked all series – getting the ball into Westbrook’s hands early and trying to push the pace.  Sure, we may see attempts at more open court screens to free Westbrook, but in the end, I think it will be business as usual with Russ attacking and then the sets being ran for Durant if/when nothing develops in transition.

From the Lakers perspective, I think they also understand what needs to be done and don’t expect to see many changes from game 5.  They’ll continue to attack off the dribble and look for their bigs when help comes.  I think we’ll see the Lakers look for early offense and if it’s not there look for their posting bigs and then pass, cut, and screen with purpose.  Sure, I think OKC will show different forms of help on our bigs that they didn’t display in game 5, but I don’t think we’ll see anything too different than what we’ve seen earlier in the series – dig downs from guards with the defense collapsing from the perimeter rather than helping with big on big.

This may not sound sexy, but there aren’t any more secrets in this series.  I think the last major adjustments that we saw were the switch of Kobe onto Westbrook and Phil re-epmphasizing to Bynum and Gasol that getting back is imperitave (with the threat of playing time being reduced if this was not accomplished).  Sure, we may quicker hooks for ineffective players (Thabo, Green, Krstic) or longer runs for guys like Harden or Ibaka if they are making an impact on the game.  I mean, Scott Brooks knows that this is a must win and I think he’ll coach accordingly, but what else is there really? 

In the end, this game will come down to who plays harder and smarter; who can execute their plan better than the next guy.  As has been the case all series if the Lakers can slow the Thunder in transition, continue to limit Durant’s success, and establish a strong inside game it will go a long way towards a win and the ending of this series.  If OKC gets out in the open court, force LA into shooting jumpshots, crash the offensive boards, and get to the foul line, a game 7 is on the horizon.  And that’s basically it.  This is what you have after 5 hard fought games and both teams throwing the kitchen sink at eachother.   All that’s left is to sit back and see which team can do it better in a must win game for the Thunder.

Darius Soriano

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233 responses to Lakers/Thunder: Game 6 Preview & Chat

  1. It wasn’t beautiful but you did it, Congratulations! I have to say after attending games 3 and 4, that OKC is a fantastic small market basketball city with an outstanding future. Good luck next series (I’m hoping for the Jazz because I thouroughly dislike the Nuggets)!

  2. 201 – I’m hoping for the Nuggets for much the same reason you give. It’d be a nice, edgy, hate-filled series.

    Kobe likes those, too.

  3. Props to OKC fans and team alike.I thougth the most impressive thing about our win tonight was the mental strength dislayed by all of our players to fight through the calls being made against them and play hard ,smart and execute almost for the entire game.OKC despite their inexperience showed that they can handle the pressure and stay poised for 5 out of 6 games. Congats to both Lakers and Thunder for a very entertaining series.

  4. happy happy joy joy

  5. I want to dislike Oklahoma City for stealing the Sonics from Seattle, but what a fantastic fan-base.

    Kudos to them. Let’s hope we get Home Court again next season, cause they’ll be the #2 seed.

  6. I’m hoping Utah wins so that I can see one of the games when the Lakers play in SLC.

  7. Thanks to OKC players and fans for a first round nail biting series!

    Good luck, going forward! Durant, and Westbrook are fantastic youngsters! Love, the way they play and their demeanor on the floor!

    The West will continue to be strong next year with OKC and Portland!

    Way to go to the rim, Pau!

    Lakers, had a good first round defense of their championship!

  8. 202- You’re right about it being an entertaining series if you were to play the Nuggets. My Rockets have a great rivalry with the Jazz from our days in the Midwest together, but I have admired the way the organization plays and handles itself…I just dislike this current Nuggets team.

  9. I gotta bring it back to the three keys we listed at the beginning of the series:

    1.) Keep Durant at 1-1 points to shot attempts

    Ron Artest really bothered Durant into a horrendous 5-23 shooting night, with Durant only keeping himself afloat by going 14-15 from the free throw line.

    2.) Prevent Russell Westbrook from exploding

    Westbrook went 7-20 for 21 points and 9 assists. While the numbers are pretty decent, it did take him 20 shots to get those 21 points, but we kept him out of the paint and forced him to make jump shots.

    3.) Keep the games close and let the Thunder’s inexperience come into play.

    While everything seemed to be slipping away with the Thunder up 3 with 2 minutes to go, the Lakers kept their cool and came up with some huge plays down the stretch. Several that caught my eye were Odom’s huge rebounds in traffic against Ibaka, preventing any second chance opportunities. Kobe also came up with a huge rebound which led to the final play, with Gasol coming through with a huge put-back, even after he blew a hook shot to take the lead the last time down the floor.

    This is a game to be proud of our guys. They played through some fairly suspect officiating, and I can’t think of anyone who didn’t have a solid game. Fisher shot the ball well, Artest hounded Durant, Gasol went crazy on the boards, Odom pushed the ball and attacked the basket, and Luke Walton and Shannon Brown both hit some huge shots off the bench. Even Farmar had 4 assists.

    I think like we said before, the playoffs are like a second season; our guys need time to round into shape. Over the last two games our team has really hit a good rhythm, now let’s hope we can carry that over into the next series.

  10. I literally jumped out my chair when Pau made that put back. Its moments like this that make being a fan worth it through the long season and the rough patches.

  11. Immediate props to Lamar who was GIGANTIC down the stretch in this game.

    1.the runner off the catch at the free throw line

    2. the phenomenal block and rebound

    3. a huge boxout on Ibaka, whose failure to do so moments later ended OKC’s fantastic season.

    Loved the hockey-esque team handshakes and the immediate standing O for the Thunder after the game ended. Bright future for that group.

  12. Lakers8884,

    The reason I argue with you is the only reason that you say Kobe was resting was how we lost the lead after he came back in. Now, if we lost the lead when Kobe was sitting and it got worse, I’d agree with you. I like that Luke had the stones to put up those shots. I like that Fisher also put up a right handed layup. I also like that Artest took some shots that were difficult.

    I dont think it was a bad call for Phil to sit Kobe that long when we had the lead for very long. I don’t think having Kobe in any earlier would have deterred an OKC run after he came back in.

    But the best part Lakers8884, is that it is all moot since Pau was pounding the glass all game long! Loved it.

  13. nuggets totally imploding. Two technicals and turnovers in crunchtime.

  14. Durant shot more FTs than our entire team, we turned the ball over more and Kobe closed 1-4 in the fourth after a vintage Kobe 3rd and we still found a way. And props to our much maligned bench. Farmar, Brown, Odom, Walton and even Powell all chipped in with timely contributions tonight.

    The OKC crowd was great but let’s not forget that this is the only big pro ticket in town and this is year 3 there (?). Once the newness wears off and/or they struggle some it will be interesting to see if the fans are still as loud. And next year teams won’t be sleeping on OKC like they did this year. I expect them to be better next year, but not by leaps and bounds.

    Great finishing putback by Pau and just great stick-to-it-iveness tonight. What a great win and let’s get rested for round 2. Go Lakers!

  15. wow. deron williams got hurt on the last play of the game.

  16. Gr8 Scott,

    Salt Lake City still does pretty well! The Thunder will continue to be the only major franchise in OKC for years. This is not like LA with the NFL where they also had 2 NBA and 2 ML, plus hockey and soccer, or Seattle that also had an NFL and a MLB team. My parents, and much of my family live in Oklahoma and it is a statewide phenomena that they have a major sports franchise (Again, like Salt Lake City). The fan base there is less apt to go away because they don’t have continual success because there is not much else there.

  17. Wow, 51 foul shots for Utah and 40 for Denver! Talk about aggressive play.

  18. Looks like things are breaking well for us.

    Nevertheless, Sloan has his team clicking, so don’t expect the Jazz to just fall over.

  19. I had to settle for watching this game DVRed since I was forced to attend a work function for dinner and didn’t get home until a couple of hours after tip-off. On the plus side, I was able to fast forward through all the commercials. Sweet! 🙂

    Here are the things I remember:

    The first one is that Pau is indeed a 7 foot low post destroyer. I literally jumped off my couch and jumped up and down shouting “YES!!!!!” when he tipped in that shot from Kobe with half a second left in the fourth.

    The second is that while Kobe might be one of the sorest losers of any sport anywhere, ever, he is a very gracious winner. Especially against an opponent who put up a good fight and really competed every step of the way.

    Also, the Thunder earned every bit of the standing ovation their fans gave them after the game. They delivered, they played well. Gods almighty, they will be scary in a few years…

    Last of all, Jeff Van Gundy looks so much like a zombie who just wants to go home after the game, that maybe his face shouldn’t be on TV anymore…

  20. Huge props to Lamar,several great rebounds down the stretch,and one great block on Chewbaka,my fellow European Pau with play of the day,Kobe great with vintage shot from the corner when we were 3 points down,Artest was off again on offense but he scored when it counted,Fish spread the floor well,and for the bench just one word – finally boys! Go Lakers,it’s 7:30 in the morning in Croatia,and it’s a beautiful start of the day!Greetings all!

  21. First up, good job OKC.

    LOL at kneejerk comments

    166 “Gasol with 3 horrible plays down the stretch proving for the 1000th time that he is useless in crunch time. The guy is a goat when it matters.”

    …. moments later Gasol’s clutch putback is forever written into Laker playoff history.

    Gooooooooo Lakers!

  22. Wow…it just doesn’t get better…with Lakers winning…and nuggets losing.

    Next series, either Celtics or Cavs will lose while we should be able to handle Jazz…provided that DWill doesn’t (do very bad, edited things) to DFish.

    Stars are lining up just right…as long as we play hard and smart, the Lakers CAN and WILL REPEAT!

    Go Lakers!

  23. 1st and foremost, much respect to OKC. Young, gritty team who refused to back down. We definitely had to earn this one (series). The atmosphere in that building is unbelievable & I love the standing ovation that they gave their players after the final buzzer.

    DEFENSE. DEFENSE. DEFENSE. What more needs to be said. I salute you Ron-Ron. Our WILL to win was what got us over the top this game. Didn’t wilt like we did in game 3 when they made their run @ the end of the 3rd & maintained our composure in the 4th once they came back and took the lead. Signs of a True Championship Team. BENCH MOBB made a hell of a contribution. 3 pt shooting was in effect.

    As I stated on previous posts & earlier on this post: FREE THROW DISCREPANCY would not be the DETERMINING FACTOR on who wins this series. They shot more free throws than us in EVERY game this series except game 5, which was a blowout in our favor. Tonight: 31-14 in their favor. And we STILL WON. Enough with the WHINING & COMPLAINING. We’re not Mark Cuban or Tommy Heinsohn. We don’t make EXCUSES. You Execute, play Smart Basketball, Defend to the Max & give 100% Effort. That’s all that you can ask for.

    Standing Ovation 2nite: Kobe & The Bench Mobb

    Series MVP: Ron Artest (N.Y.C. Represent)

    As Jay Z said: “On To The Next 1.” (Utah)

    Laker 4 Life ….. Go Hard Or Go Home

  24. Well, I made a prediction before this series began that the Lakers would be one and done. I was wrong.

    I also predicted that whichever team won game 5 would win game 6. I was right.

    I will predict that if the Lakers win games 1 and 2 in the next series, they will win the series in 5.

    Utah is good, even without Kirilenko and Okur, because of Sloan’s coaching. He simply won’t let them quit. I remember when he played for the Bulls back in the 60’s and early 70’s. He played the game the same way he coaches, hard, tough, with no quarter given.

    Be that as it may, he will come up short against the Lakers. They don’t have the speed and quickness OKC had, and without Kirilenko and Okur, they cannot stop our two giants.

  25. I only have one worry … injuries.

    Hopefully, Darius can update us on the condition of Bynum. If this knee situation is enough to keep him out of games, or limit his effectiveness in the coming games, then the Lakers are going to have trouble.

    Artest is hurting, you can see it when he takes a shot. He still isn’t right. Neither is the Kobster, but he did look more Kobeish in certain situations.

    These nagging injuries may work themselves out, or the players can play through it. But, if they continue to get worse, and hamper their play, the Lakers will have a very tough time getting back to the Finals.

    I’m certainly not counting them out like I was before. This team really showed me something this last series. I really did not think they could come back after that game 4 debacle. But, they came back in a big way!

    The only thing that could possibly stop them now is these nagging injuries.

  26. Yes, congratulations to the Thunder for a great series and they will be a team to be delt with in the future, that is for sure, aren’t their fans just super fans.

    On to the Jazz now, we own them, don’t we? I actually hope Deron Williams is not injured, I want them as full stength as possible, AK47 will be back I believe. It just will not matter, we should take them out in 5 or so game like we usually do. I will start saving again for my back-to-back cap in June…

  27. Congrats to you, Lakers fans. Fantastic first step for a young team, and a new NBA city, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch (game 5 notwithstanding)

    Let’s do it again next year. Conference finals maybe?

  28. The Dude Abides April 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    This game was reminiscent of Game 4 of last season’s Finals, where our guys fought through some horrendous, one-sided officiating, kept their heads in the game, and pulled it out in the end.

    Also, I don’t see how we would have won this series, considering Kobe’s poor health, if we had kept Trevor instead of signing Ron-Ron. Durant just couldn’t shake him. Mentally or physically. Even when he broke free, he missed a lot of jumpers that he normally makes, probably because Ron-Ron was in his head.

    Edit-did everyone see that cheap shot by Birdman on D-Will in the final seconds of an eight-point game? I wonder if he’ll be suspended a game or two to open next season.

  29. Well it was a great series. Disappointed in the result, but at least the team didn’t quit. Kobe played spectacular after his poor first period. I think the Laker bench was the key, hitting big shots, and playing good defense. The Thunder struggled, but I guess it’s growing pains, esp. for the young core of Durant, Westbrook, and Green.

    Artest def got in Durant’s head. He missed some easy bunnies today, which led to one of his worse games I’ve ever seen. Westbrook had a nice game overall, but not the best shooting night. Hopefully we can acquire a post presence somehow to free up KD more and open up passing lanes.

    Anyways, it was fun. Good luck in the next round.


    hope drew’s hurt knee isn’t serious. sunday!

  31. What is even better is that we get to play Utah. And as good as they played against Denver, I dont think they can beat us shorthanded. Utah defenitely dont have the height to guard our bigs well and Odom normally plays really well against Utah. We should be able to win this one in 6 games. Dont be surprised if Utah steals game 1 or 2, they are a better road team this year.

  32. @229) No wonder the OKC players are so classy, it has a very classy and gracious fan base.

    Thanks for joining us on FB&G!

    Good luck to your team next year!