Archives For April 2010

Los Angeles Lakers Gasol, Bynum and Odom sit on the bench in Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City

Just links this morning. I’ll have some analysis on how the Thunder are defending the Lakers for tomorrow morning. However, for now, enjoy these links.

From Silver Screen and Roll: Damn, that was an ugly loss. Now, let’s examine the reasons: Our bigs are freakin babies who let people 4 inches shorter outrebound them by double figures; our outside shooters have long since gouged out their eyes at the sight of Ammo; the refs are taking money from Clay Bennet; Kobe’s getting old and useless and should be traded for Darren Collison while we still have the chance; we shoulda shipped Drew’s injury-prone ass out for Kidd when we had the chance; Pau is a pussy, and we should have kept Marc and Kwame instead; Mitch Kupchak is an idiot; Phil is senile and should be replaced with Byron Scott ASAP; Lamar needs to go into candy rehab; our bench is the worst in NBA history; Voodoo Gods have cursed us with injuries; our team is older than the Celtics; we have lazy players; Kobe accidentally stepped on Brian Shaw’d two-thousand-dollar Armani loafers; etc, etc… Did I get everything (seriously, tell me if I missed something. I wouldn’t want to feel I wasn’t doing my job)?

From Land O’ Lakers: While there was certainly a sense the Lakers would be better off with the Thunder than, say, San Antonio, generally speaking, nobody thought L.A.’s first round matchup with the Oklahoma City would be easy. I, like a lot of media types, picked the Lakers in six. A healthy portion picked L.A. in seven. But nobody without an overdeveloped need for contrarian thinking or an Oklahoma City ZIP code actually picked the Thunder to win. Maybe those predictions are out there, but I couldn’t find them.

From Momma There Goes That Man: I can’t say enough about what Kevin Durant and Thunder are doing out there to Kobe and the Lakers. We knew this would be an exciting match up and we knew this young squad would tire out the Lakers a lil bit. But not many predicted that they could even win 1 against the defending champs much less tie up the series at 2 a piece. The Lakers are playing downright terrible basketball and Oklahoma is definitely capitalizing without a moment’s hesitation. Such is the benefit of having “nothing to lose.” Oh how exciting Game 5 will be!

From Laker Noise: If you’re expecting a fan — blind in love or blind in hate — to be anything other than a fanatic, you’re wasting your time. By definition, true fans surrender all perspective. They turn the streets of their community, like the streets of Green Bay, into Night Of The Living Cheeseheads. Zombies on the loose, they join the cult, surrendering time, money, heart, soul, their last shred of human decency, to the team. They are a marketing director’s wet dream, even if they can’t afford tickets to the actual game itself. They’ll buy the T-shirts, posters, videos, all the bullshit that comes with idol worship. Take 10,000 true fans and put them in an arena, and they can shout open the gates of hell.

From If I had to guess, I would think that it is nights like Game 5 of the Lakers-Thunder series is the reason Zach Harper spends the regular season blogging about the Sacramento Kings and the Toronto Raptors. As a writer, it’s hard to be taken seriously if you can’t display some sort of objectivity, and when you’ve been emotionally invested in one team for so long, it becomes hard to write about that team without biases flowing from your finger tips, and it becomes harder when that team you love so much is playing terribly. But the terrible play probably isn’t what gets to Zach, it’s the Timberwolves, he’s used to that – but perhaps it becomes a lack of effort. A lack of effort from the front office. A lack of effort from the coaching staff. A lack of effort from the collective fan base. Or in the Lakers’ case in Game 5, a lack of effort from the players.

From the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant strolled into the interview room, pulled his sunglasses off and adjusted his eyes to the bright lights. He spoke in even tones, neither mad nor happy, about the Lakers having been defeated by 21 points, 110-89, by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at the Ford Center. The Lakers lost both games here, trailing by 29 at one point in Game 4. The best-of-seven series is now tied, 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center. That was the only good news for the Lakers.

From the Los Angeles Times: The Lakers’ performances against the Oklahoma City Thunder creates a level of thinking in two camps, one that believes the Lakers’ armor continues to crack and it’s only a matter of time before things go really sour and the other believes this is all just a overreaction and everything will work out just fine. Nonetheless, the Lakers have been down this path before, as recently as last season when Houston challenged them to a seven-game Western Conference series before the Lakers advanced. I cringe when people bring up this series as evidence that current concerns about the Lakers are overblown, because I think it only raises an even more indicting question. Does the fact that the Lakers played with fire yet didn’t get burned really deserve such praise? I don’t think it does, but for better or worse, the Lakers have been down this path before, and have managed to get out of it.

From the OC Register: The way it’s going right now, Oklahoma City’s young, exciting, fearless flyers could easily grab some skateboards and add a few half-pipes while soaring past ground-bound Lakers veterans for rebounds and baskets. The Lakers thought this was the first round of the NBA playoffs, but the X Games have broken out. And for all Derek Fisher knows, Russell Westbrook is in fact riding a motocross bike as he roars by him.

From the OC Register: Ten shots in the fourth quarter of Game 3. No shots in the first quarter of Game 4. Was Kobe Bryant facilitating again? Pouting again? Saving his energy for the playoffs again? Wait a second. These are the playoffs, even if the Lakers’ last five quarters have looked more like the preseason. Whatever it was Saturday it certainly was another loss for the defending champions, who are discovering quickly in this postseason that no one — least of all this oddly dangerous No. 8 seed — fears them. This final was 110-89 … and it wasn’t even that close.

From Something stunk even worse than the Lakers’ play Saturday. Kobe Bryant lit up a cigar that was far from the victory variety as he made his way from his postgame news conference to the team bus down an empty hallway at the Ford Center, walking with a slight limp as he chatted with Nike executive Lynn Merritt in between puffs. It’s a habit Bryant revealed in the first round of last postseason, smoking a stogie after a clunker in Utah before bouncing back with dominant games to close out the series, but as the thick smoke hung in the air it seemed to personify the cloud of doubt that suddenly hangs over the Los Angeles Lakers rather than a cleansing ritual.

From Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder did what every team is supposed to do in a seven game series — defend the home court. However, the Thunder’s home-court defense over the defending champion Lakers has certainly raised eyebrows. First, a come-from-behind, 101-96 victory in Game 3, in which they spotted the Lakers 10 points before even getting on the board. Then Game 4’s absolute dismantling of the ’09 Western Conference champions. From start to finish, they held the Lakers in lopsided check.


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In what can only be described as a first class butt kicking, the Lakers fell to the Thunder 110-89 in game 4.  OKC out-hustled, out-muscled…really out-everything’d the Lakers in this game.  So instead of attempting to pen some exquisite recap of the carnage, I think I’ll just relay some simple numbers from this game that (hopefully) tell most of the story.

24-2. This was the Thunder’s advantage in fast break points over the Lakers.  The Thunder successfully pushed the ball at every opportunity and got easy buckets on the break.  One one play in particular (and this basket may not even count in this stat), Kobe hit one of his pretty patented fade away jumpers from the right baseline over Thabo Sefolosha and then fell to the ground afterwards.  When the ball was inbounded, Russell Westbrook raced the ball up court and proceeded to get a lay up at the other end.  But it wasn’t just the Thunder’s athleticism that fueled their fast break chances, it was also the Lakers’ general lack of awareness and fundamentals in transitioning from offense to defense that aided OKC’s attack in the open court.  On two possessions early in the game, Pau got caught with his back turned to a quickly advancing ball handler.  On one possession, Durant got a dunk.  On the other, Westbrook missed a lay up, but the Thunder got the offensive rebound (though they missed the putback).  Since both of these plays happened in the first quarter, I was hoping that this would not be a trend throughout the game.  It was.

42-48, 87.5%; 17-28, 60.7%. These were the free throw numbers for the Thunder and Lakers respectively.  That’s right, the Thunder shot nearly fifty free throws and connected on an absurd percentage of them.  Meanwhile, the Lakers shot their share of freebies, but were quite bad at converting.  If you’re looking for a difference in this game, look here first.  After the game, Phil Jackson said quite simply that before this game got away if the Lakers would “have made (our) free throws, like professionals are supposed to, (we) would have trailed by 5-7 points and been in this game”.  Instead, the Lakers bricked away while the Thunder got to the line and made all of theirs.  If there was one sequence that summed up the free throw shooting story it was on some of the opening possessions for each team to start the second half.  On the Thunder’s first play, Sefolosha received a kick out pass and shot a three pointer in which Kobe fouled him on a late close out.  Thabo proceeded to make all three from the line.  A few possessions later, Derek Fisher went to the foul line after drawing a foul and missed both his attempts.  After another couple of misses from the field by both sides, Kevin Durant got fouled and made one of his two FT attempts (he missed!) to push the Thunder lead to 14.  At that point, the game was essentially over (though we wouldn’t quite know that yet).  Many will make a lot out of the number of FT attempts that the Thunder got, and I share the frustration in watching a team have a parade to the foul line.  That said, I do think that the Thunder’s ability to get out in transition and break down the Lakers off the dribble in the half court is playing a part in the number of FT’s that they’re taking.  I also think that the Lakers aren’t doing as good a job of earning trips to the foul line.  Are there missed calls that go against the Lakers?  Are there plays where the whistle seems a little quick when LA is on defense?  Sure.  But those happen every game for and against the Lakers.  I don’t think that had too much to do with what we saw tonight.

5-10. These were Kobe Bryant’s shooting statistics in this game.  There will be plenty of fans and other folks in the media that look at Kobe’s number of field goal attempts and talk about/write the easy “payback” story.  You know, where people attempt to read Kobe’s mind and then say that he purposely did not shoot the ball as some sort of backlash against the criticism that he’s been shooting too much.  The ultimate proof will be that he didn’t take a single shot in the opening period.  I can understand that, it’s the easy angle.  However, what I saw was Kobe playing a controlled game where he was looking to get his teammates involved.  When Kobe did look to be aggressive, he was doing so with the dribble by getting into the paint.  However, when he got there he found himself surrounded by  defenders with open passing lanes to his teammates.  And rather than forcing jumpers (something that we all would like to see Kobe avoid), he made the right reads and passed the ball.  This may not be what people want to talk about (it’s not nearly as sexy as the alternative), but it’s what I saw.  If anything, Kobe’s FGA’s say more about his comfort level with his shooting at this point in the season than with any preconceived plan or hidden agenda.  Kobe’s no dummy.  He knows that even in his game 2 explosion that he didn’t shoot that well from the field and got one third of his points from the FT line.  He also knows that the game plan is to exploit the team’s advantages inside and that establishing the post is this team’s number one priority.  After the game, Kobe said that he was “controlling the game the way that he wanted to in the beginning”, but that the game “got away from them, with the run outs and transition baskets for them”.  Again, this may not be the sexy story, but that makes much more sense to me than Kobe tanking a game by not shooting just to prove a point.  We’re in the playoffs, you know.

18.2%. This is the Lakers field goal percentage on three point shots as they went 4-22 on the evening.  Pure ugliness from behind the arc.  Earlier I mentioned that Kobe was distributing the ball well in this game and really setting up his mates with good shots.  Well, when he passed to open teammates behind the arc, those teammates didn’t make the Thunder pay with made baskets.  Missing these shots is doubly painful because often times the long rebounds triggered the Thunder fast break chances (as we’ve seen all series).  On one possession in particular, the Lakers had a fast (if you want to call it that) break of their own when Ron got a run out and the Lakers were on a three on two.  Ron was dribbling up the sideline but didn’t have an angle to attack so he settled for a three point shot.  Normally, this is an okay shot that I can live with because he was literally wide open and there was no advantage anywhere else on the court.  He missed.  It was just one of those nights for our “shooters” and especially for Ron (who was pretty bad again from the field going 2-9 including 0-4 from three).

50-43. This was the Thunder’s rebounding edge over the Lakers.  Personally, I can live with getting out rebounded by a few boards in any given game.  But, it was how the Lakers were out rebounded that was concerning.  The Lakers gave up another 13 offensive rebounds while only grabbing 10 of their own.  Commenter Snoopy2006 really said it best in the comments, so I’ll let him take it from here:

“How many times did Russell Westbrook beat our players to long offensive boards? Sometimes, the ball actually hit the floor before it was rebounded. I realize Westbrook is explosive, but he just had a hunger and nose for the ball that our players did not show. Westbrook was chasing down loose balls and long rebounds like his life depended on it.”

28.2 vs. 23. These are the average ages for the 9 rotation players for the Lakers and Thunder, respectively.  If you take away Collision (29) and Krstic (26) the Thunder players’ average age drops even further.  Tonight, those younger legs were the difference.  You’ve seen the numbers for fast break points.  You’re still shaking your head at the FT disparity.  You just read what Snoopy said about Westbrook.  Nearly every 50/50 ball went to OKC and it wasn’t just the bounce of the ball or luck.  The Thunder got to those balls quicker and they forced the issue off the dribble with their younger and fresher legs.  They beat the Lakers in transition and beat their rotations.  They raced by them every chance they could and earned the advantages that come with those quickness and speed advantages.

I really don’t need to say it again, but the Lakers got their butts kicked and their hats handed to them in this game.  And now, the series is tied 2-2 going back to LA with the series now sitting as a best of three between two evenly matched teams.  We’ll have more on the series in the upcoming days but in the same way that the Lakers are on a long flight home, us fans have a long wait until Tuesday.

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It’s funny how a loss can plant seeds of doubt into the minds of fans and media.  In game three, the Lakers pretty much controlled the game until the closing minutes of the third quarter when they allowed a run that made the game a dog fight for final 12 minutes.  In that closing period, the Lakers still fought hard, but a very good OKC team made the key plays and were carried to the finish line by the momentum that comes from a fantastic home crowd.  By no means am I trying to discount the Thunder as a team or knock their credibility as a worthy foe.  But, if the first three games have shown me anything it’s that the Lakers are the superior team that just needs to play with discipline and smarts for longer stretches of the game.  The Thunder players have that youthful exuberance and the athleticism that comes with it, but the Lakers themselves are no slouches physically and if they’re able to establish a consistent focus they can find themselves one step closer to clinching this series after tonight.  The question as always is will they do what they know is necessary to take home a win or will they only do what’s needed for stretches?

And the Lakers know what they need to do.  From the beginning of this series we’ve talked about adjustments and after game 3 we revisited the topic.  The X’s and O’s of this series couldn’t be more clear, it’s the dedication to and execution of them that needs to be better woven into the minds of the Lakers.  And really, that’s what this series has turned into.  The Thunder are a team that will not quit.  They won’t get down on themselves because the score board doesn’t show them in the lead and they won’t roll over because the outcome of the game is in doubt.  If anything, these circumstances only make them fight harder and push further to try and turn the game in their favor.  As I mentioned above, the Lakers have all the physical talent that they’ll need, it’s the mental aspects of the game that will need to be called upon if they are to prevail.  In a sense, they need to be as strong mentally in sticking to their plan as the Thunder have been when trying to dig themselves out of holes.  If the Lakers can sustain focus and not go away from what works, Thunder runs will be squelched and control of the game will remain in LA’s favor.  But, if the Lakers don’t do this, they’ll again find themselves in a close games at the end that can swing in the other team’s direction.

Even though I’ve been focussing mostly on the mental side of the game and have said that the X’s and O’s of this series are already clearly defined, there are still specific things that I’m looking for from the Lakers to trigger their success.  The first is controlling the paint on defense.  In game 3 the Lakers gave up 14 offensive rebounds.  And even though those second chances didn’t produce a lot of points, not finishing off possessions meant that the Lakers could not go the other way and work to wear down OKC (or, based off the trends of the game, shoot another three pointer).  So, I’m really looking for the Lakers to take better control of their defensive backboards.  The other key to controlling the paint is to block and alter shots.  In game 1, the Lakers had 9 blocks.  In game’s 2 and 3 they had 7 combined.  I’d also like to see a couple of hard fouls if the Thunder continue their assault on the paint.  I’m not looking for dirty play, but I’d like to see Westbrook and Durant have teammates running over to help them up off the ground after some of their forays to the rim.  The second thing I’m looking for are better/harder screens set off the ball on offense.  If the Lakers want to get players open coming from the weak to the strong side, they need to start laying some bodies on people and freeing each other up.  Gasol, Kobe, Artest, and Odom could all use some help getting open and the best way to do it is by using the screen actions built into this offense.  I want to see more curls on the weak side and our wings coming the top of the key with more space because of the pin down actions were properly executed.  Again, better execution derived from a more consistent focus.

A Lakers’ win tonight is the difference between having 3 games to win 1 or playing a best of three series against a game opponent that will have all the confidence in the world.  Which side sounds more appealing to you?  I can guarantee that your answer mirrors those of the Lakers’ players and coaches.  It’s an obvious point, but the deeper a series goes the more important each game becomes (though each game does have importance in its own way).  So, game 4 is now the key to this series potentially going 7 or having a good chance of ending in 5.  Let’s see if the Lakers take note and execute in the manner they need to and ensure that the latter is accomplished.

Where you can watch:  This is an ESPN game tonight with a 6:30pm start in the west.  For those folks that only have an internet connection, you can check out the game on ESPN3 here.  Also on ESPN Radio 710am.  Enjoy.

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Following game 1, we talked a lot about adjustments.  How would Kevin Durant and the Thunder solve the riddle of Ron Artest’s defense?  How could the Lakers beat a fronting OKC defense?  What could the Lakers do to slow down Russell Westbrook’s onslaught of the paint?  Etc, etc, etc.  Well, I’m still waiting for answers to these questions.  On one sideline we have a 10 time NBA champion and on the other we have the freshly minted Coach of the Year (needless to say, two pretty smart guys) and I’m still seeing each team struggle with cracking the other team’s codes.  Durant, while getting his numbers is still shooting an awful percentage from the field (27-74 FGA’s, 5-20 from three), the Lakers still can’t consistently get the ball inside (31 threes attempted in game 2), and Westbrook is still getting to the rim quite frequently (sorry LO).  My point in all this?  It still comes down to executing the game plan on the court.  It’s naive to think that the coaches aren’t installing schemes to counteract what the other team is doing against them, but it’s still on the players to go out and do it.  In game 2 how many times did the Lakers look to the post, get discouraged from not seeing an opening, and then proceed to just pass the ball around – burning precious seconds off the shot clock – and then fire up a long jumper?  I’m pretty sure that’s not how it was drawn up in practice.  Again, it’s on the players to make the right reads and decisions that lead to success.  The coaches can only repeat what they want; they can’t suit up and play the game too.  But, that doesn’t mean that they coaches don’t keep tinkering.  So with that in mind, we look at more adjustments…

Last night, we saw the Thunder make a line up adjustment down the stretch.  In the first two games, Scott Brooks was searching for that one player that he could play next to Durant, Westbrook, Collison, and Ibaka that could score the ball.  He tried Thabo.  He tried Harden.  He tried Green.  None of them worked.  However, last night he went back to Harden (not a difficult choice considering the game he was having) and found that other offensive weapon that could be relied upon.  However, the consequence of playing Harden was that the Thunder really didn’t have a great option to guard Kobe.  Both Harden and Green have had limited success on Mr. Bean in this series so going back to them would have only been asking for trouble.  So, Brooks went with Durant.  At this point, I must give commenter Aaron some credit because he was touting Durant’s defensive ability before this series started (essentially saying the better player is typically better at everything) and I essentially said that Thabo was still the better defender.  And while last night didn’t necessarily change my mind, Durant did flash some very good defensive ability against Kobe.  But, I think where the Lakers got in trouble was in how they decided to attack the freakishly long Durantula.  Essentially, the Lakers went into an isolation heavy attack and asked Kobe to create against a long and quick defender.  Umm, that hasn’t worked for the majority of this season (think Batum, Thabo, Matt Barnes, etc).  Even when Kobe was able to get a half step on Durant, the Thunder’s bigs were in full help mode and quickly showed Kobe the second defender (this is one of the reasons that Kobe was settling for pull up jumpers against KD).  What I would have preferred the Lakers do was go into an attack where Kobe played off the ball and could make his catches coming off screens and flashes rather than in isolation on the wing against a locked in defense.  If we see this match up in the next game, I have a feeling this is exactly what we’ll see.

But freeing up Kobe is only one aspect of more successful offense.  At this point, I think it’s obvious that the Thunder have a knack for denying the Lakers direct post entries.  You can blame the bigs’ lack of fighting for position or the guards’ general lack of patience, but the Thunder’s defense deserves the bulk of the blame (from LA’s perspective).  The Thunder are either effectively fronting or just plain moving our bigs off the block to disrupt the spacing that makes feeding the post easier.  So, rather than calling for a high-low game that has been absent for most of the season or for the Lakers to use a pass to the corner that they don’t seem comfortable making (lest it initiate our scissor cut/sideline P&R action) like I did after game 1, what I’m now looking for is better timing on the flashes from our weakside big/wing.  On several occasions last night, the Lakers were in their Triangle set on the strong side and when the post entry wasn’t there, the ball handler then looked for the weakside big or guard to flash and that player was no where to be found.  There was even a sequence where Kobe (as the top side guard on the strong side) had picked up his dribble, was pressured into turning his back, and then in desperation just through the ball away as neither the weakside guard nor big flashed to make themselves available to receive the pass.  On the following possession, Kobe hit one of his three consecutive three pointers (with a sly grin for Harden after), but that is beside the point.  If the Lakers are to actually open up passing angles to the post, they have to reverse the ball (a point Doug Collins made repeatedly during the telecast).  But, if the Lakers are to swing the ball, they need for their weakside players to flash in rhythm and with timing to create the passing opportunity.  Without that action, the Lakers are not going to be any more effective than they currently are.

And this leads me to Lamar Odom.  Odom is our best flashing big man and our second best passing big.  He’s a player that has a good feel for angles, spacing, and timing.  However, few of those traits have been on display in the first three games.  If stating that Lamar needs to play better was a reasonable adjustment, I’d leave it at that.  However, things aren’t that simple (that’s like saying Fisher, Ron make shots).  In order to get Odom going, I’m hoping to see a couple of different options.  One is a greater emphasis on the two man game between Odom and Pau.  Whatever issues that Odom has had in the past, he’s often been excellent when paired with Gasol on the weakside.  And one play in particular is the weakside screen and roll action that is used primarily to get Pau a post up look.  As you can see in this breakdown from NBA Playbook, LO and Pau run this set to get Pau an easy catch on the mid block.  After the catch, Pau goes to work against his defender and gets an easy lay up.  However, this is a set in which Odom can also thrive as a cutter due to Pau’s ability to score on the block.  As Pau holds the ball, the instinct of the player that is guarding Odom is to help down on Gasol, and it’s when that defender helps that Odom can take advantage by cutting/slashing to the basket or into open space.  Second is to get Odom on the move more and coming to the ball on offense.  Similar to what I’ve described for Kobe above, those same sets can work for LO.  Have him curl into the paint for easy jump hooks.  Have him screen on the weakside and then open up to the ball handler to receive passes.  These are all tiny adjustments that can be used to get LO more active and more into the flow of the game.

We’re now at the point where adjustments and counters are going to be even more important.  Brooks’ adjustment to ride Harden’s hot hand and then switch Durant on to Kobe probably won the Thunder the game.  If Phil or the Lakers can make similar adjustments (in the form of the few I mentioned or others) the Lakers can take game 4 and be in command of the series.  However, if the Thunder are the ones that can make the changes that lead to more sustained success, they’ll have a great chance of returning to Staples with the series tied.  Which coach can do the better job and which players can follow through on the court is something that will determine the winner of game 4.  I’m hoping that Phil is the one that has the Thunder second guessing after the next game.

Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder

This Lakers team can be so frustrating to watch. I honestly couldn’t believe how well they came out of the gate, starting with that 10-0 run which was extended to a 15-3 run. They had the opportunity to really run this team out of their own building by stepping on their collective throats – instead, they went away from what got them the lead to begin with. Out of their first six shots, only two of them were taken outside of 15 feet. Simple math tells us that the Lakers were shooting only 33 percent of their shots outside of 15 feet. For the course of the rest of the first half, the Lakers would take 24 of their next 38 from 15 feet and beyond, including 19 three pointers. 19. That’s 63.2 percent of their shots from 15 feet and beyond plus they were on pace to shoot 38 three pointers on the game. Just to put that in perspective, Orlando shot the most three-pointers by far this season, and they averaged just over 27 attempts per game. It goes without saying that the Lakers took 19 in a half is WAY. TOO. MANY. And this led to one of the main reasons the Lakers lost the game. As Darius told it in his recap:

The Lakers shot 31 three pointers in this game, making only 10.  One or two more makes means that the Lakers come much closer to winning this game, but I don’t think that matters one bit.  That is way too many threes to shoot against the Thunder.  Every Laker understands that long rebounds fuel OKC’s run outs, yet they proceeded to try and shoot the long ball to sustain their offense.  The Lakers should be shooting 18-20 threes a game tops and those should be off of post ups and kick outs where shooters are wide open.  The don’t need to shoot threes just because the initial post entry isn’t there or because they see a sliver of day light before a defender closes out on them.  Discipline needs to be practiced and tonight the Lakers didn’t have it.

The Thunder had guys like James Harden and Jeff Green who were able to get going early because of all of those long rebounds. One of the easiest ways for guys to come out of slumps is for them to get easy buckets, and the Lakers shooting from the outside allows that to happen. Plus, it gave Russell Westbrook the opportunity to put down a couple of game changing dunks. While the Thunder were slumping in the first quarter, the play that really got them and their crowd into the game was that fast break dunk that he had coming from the left wing (a fast break that was beautifully executed, by the way). And there was also that VICIOUS dunk Westbrook that he dropped on Lamar Odom’s head with about 5:30 left in the second quarter.

Another huge reason the Thunder were able to pull out the win was because of Kevin Durant. You have to respect what he was able to do last night. Ron Artest did a great job of making all of his shots tough (he shot eight for 24), but even in shooting 33 percent, Durant had 29 points because he was much more aggressive than he was in both of the previous games getting to the line 13 times. He also made an impact of the game without scoring. From my game recap on, I said that he had “an extremely quiet 29 points.” When he was shooting free throws for his 26th and 27th points, I was legitimately shocked that he had that many. He was active on the boards, he was active on the defensive end, especially in the fourth, playing very good defense on Kobe.

Looking ahead, we know that the Lakers, if they play the right way, can run this team off the floor, but it’s about discipline at this point. Can the Lakers dedicate themselves to getting more touches inside? Can the Lakers rededicate themselves to rebounding the ball? Can the Lakers dedicate themselves to playing 48 minutes of defense? The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. It’s just a matter of doing, which, as we all know, is much easier said than done.

From Silver Screen and Roll: The Oklahoma City Thunder can score on the Los Angeles Lakers. That wasn’t at all certain before tonight’s contest, a 101 to 96 Thunder victory in Game Three of the first-round series, but OKC now has a strong offensive effort it can point to as evidence that it can indeed lay a glove on the Laker D. It helps to have 34 free-throw attempts, apparently, but it can be done. About those free-throw attempts, and in particular the ginormous gulf separating the Thunder’s FTA total and that of the Lakers, who shot only 12. It’s hard to win when your opponent is shooting from the line so much more often than you are.

From Before the game started, TNT gave us a glimpse of the Thunder locker room where the 2010 coach of the year told his team that Serge Ibaka sent him a text that said that he didn’t need a motivational speech for the night’s game. Hearing something like that as a teammate of a guy who had to find his way to the NBA via The Republic of Congo and has had to learn English as a second language – that’s all the motivation that I need, and it was all the Thunder needed.

From the Daily Thunder: I really don’t know where to start. I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen trying to will some letters to come out of my fingers. But I don’t feel like I can accurately sum up what tonight’s game was like. I guess loud would at least be a start.With thunderstorms rolling into Oklahoma City right around tip-off, I thought this might be the sign. It kind of felt like destiny. I think people in Dallas could feel the energy pulsating from the Ford Center, even 30 minutes before the game started. Fifteen minutes before tip, everyone in the place was on their feet. And they stayed there until the first bucket dropped.

From Land O’ Lakers: For most of the first three quarters of Game 3 at Ford Center, the Lakers were able to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder at arms length. L.A. started strong, scoring the game’s first 10 points, and were up 15-3 three-and-a-half minutes in. The Thunder scratched and clawed their way back- Would you expect anything else? but whenever it seemed OKC would bust through, the Lakers pushed back. In the second quarter, it was Kobe Bryant hitting a series of three-pointers. In the third, he knocked down a couple more jumpers while Pau Gasol exerted influence.

From the Daily Dime: These are the moments we wait for in sports, why we wade through protracted contract negotiations and lockout talk and super-long television timeouts. All of a sudden none of that matters and the only thing filling your field of vision is Russell Westbrook soaring for a dunk over Lamar Odom, followed by an otherworldly noise filling your ears. “That was the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd,” the Thunder’s James Harden said. The decibel levels got jacked up even higher when Harden hit a 3-pointer, then Kevin Durant followed that with another 3 and the Oklahoma City Thunder, after playing from behind all night, had finally tied the score against the Lakers.

From The Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: The roaring crowd stood on their feet Thursday at Ford Center, and all eyes locked in on Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant squaring off at the top of the key. The Thunder had just been nearly six minutes removed from taking the lead for the first time all night, but the following sequence in the fourth quarter provided even more of a trickling affect. Bryant drove left, dribbled behind his back and slashed right toward the free-throw line. Durant slid back, Bryant dribbled the ball between his legs and drove left since Durant gave him space. After cutting past the left elbow, Bryant pulled up for a jumper outside of the paint, but Durant swatted the ball away, raising the crowd’s decibel level to deafening proportions.

From the Los Angeles Times: Amid a prairie-rumbling roar, the eternal Lakers debate raged. Good Kobe or bad Kobe? With his team surrounded by the young energy of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the screeching hopes of their newbie fans, would Kobe Bryant’s addiction to the ball and the dramatic lift the Lakers or doom them? Good Kobe or bad Kobe? With the Lakers needing a lift to close out Game 3 and essentially clinch this first-round series Thursday, would his renowned postseason pops save the day, or ruin it?

From the OC Register: Jerry Buss didn’t make the trip to Orlando for the Lakers to win the NBA championship in their final 2009 road playoff game. He did make the trip to Oklahoma City to see them lose their first 2010 road playoff game. If Buss was second-guessing that decision Thursday night from his seat upstairs at the Ford Center, he might’ve also been wondering about that new contract he generously gave Lamar Odom. Odom has been unable to adjust his mentality to being back as a bench player so far in the postseason, but Buss’ investment in Odom was already validated in the regular season by more injuries to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.