Preview and Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Emile Avanessian —  February 23, 2012

Records: Lakers 20-13 (5th in West), Thunder 26-7 (1st in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 103.3 (15th in NBA), Thunder 108.9 (2nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.7 (11th in NBA), Thunder 102.4 (14th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Thunder: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Daequan Cook
Injuries: Lakers: none; Thunder: Nick Collison (questionable), Thabo Sefolosha (out), Eric Maynor (out for the season)

The Lakers Coming In: As Darius pointed out yesterday, on the floor the Lakers have fared pretty well of late, and will be looking to kick off All Star Weekend with what would be their biggest victory of the season.

Not coincidentally, the bigs are in great form, with Andrew Bynum averaging 16.1 (on 56.3%), 13.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocked shots and just two personal fouls per game in February, while Pau Gasol has averaged 17.9 and 13.1, while connecting on 47% of his field goal attempts. Kobe continues to be Kobe, delivering roughly 26- 5- 4 this month, though he’s struggled with his shot, as evidenced by field goal and free throw percentages of just 40.6% and 79% (compared with his season averages of 43.9% and 82.5%, respectively). And the bench – deservedly much-maligned all season – has been not-atrocious (small victories, people), led by Matt Barnes (8.5 points, 5.8 rebounds in his last 8 games) and Steve Blake, who’s recorded 3+ assists in 6 of his last 7, the lone exception being his 5-triple, 17-point outburst against Portland Monday night.

However, as Darius also pointed out yesterday, the Lakers’ recent run of solid form is not the main story swirling around this team. If it’s not one with this team, it’s sure to be another. Between The Veto, the charitable contribution of Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks Repeat Fund, incessant Dwight chatter, Kobe’s divorce and Metta’s media squabbling with Mike Brown, there’s arguably been more to monitor off the floor with these guys than there has on it. And now we have the latest episode of The Adventures of Team Turmoil.

An ugly, remnant of December’s near-acquisition of Chris Paul (y’know, other than the lack of a point guard worthy of NBA starter status), the Lakers’ desire (or lack thereof) to part ways with Pau Gasol – and everyone’s thoughts on the matter –are the hot topic du jour. However, as speculation about the Lakers’ need (and preparedness) to make a major move have ramped up, a more troubling issue seems to be simmering just beneath the surface – the Lakers’ front office, once the NBA’s paragon of stability and leadership, has begun to more closely resemble Gob Bluth’s gaming ship, anchored to past greatness only by an increasingly embattled Mitch Kupchak.

We know for a fact that the Lakers are willing to surrender Pau Gasol in exchange for a young franchise cornerstone. We also know that Pau, one of the league’s top 15 players and arguably its most skilled big man, always the consummate professional, is at least slightly (I’d wager more) upset by this. Finally, Pau Gasol remains a Laker, and a damn good one at that. That’s about it.

Meanwhile, however, this episode has greased the tracks for Kobe, who – in both a show of support for Pau and a desire to maximize his chances at Ring #6 – has hinted at his growing frustration with the organization’s new regime. Since, we’ve gotten a “you do your job and let me do mine” rebuttal from Kupchak and a players-only meeting (usually good for a short-term boost), but nothing to suggest that calmer waters are imminent.

With all of that said, the Lakers have now won 6 of their last 8 outings (including 4 of the last 5), including wins over the Blazers and Mavericks in their last two, and at 20-13, sit a single game behind the greatest Clipper team ever for the West’s #3 seed. It’s conceivable (if not likely) that given the torrent of frustration and distraction that continually washes over this team, moments spent on the court are among their least stressful these days. With the All-Star break (and a few days to refuel) imminent, look for the Lakers, win or lose, to put forth maximum effort against the class of Western Conference.

The Thunder Coming In: I feel like there is an inordinate amount of chatter these days centered on the Thunder’s flaws and the “wide openness” of the West come playoff time.

It’s true. This is by no means a perfect team – they are turnover-prone (a league-high 15.9% of the time), mediocre on the boards (15th in Offensive Rebound Rate and 24th in Defensive Rebound Rate), lack a traditional low post scorer and have seen their second unit hamstrung by injury, but make no mistake, these guys are good. Really, really good.

For starters, only the Miami Heat are more efficient offensively (by one point/100 possessions) and boasts a higher True Shooting Percentage (57%, v. 56.9%) than the Thunder.

Next, and I feel like we are beginning to take this a bit for granted, OKC’s 1-2 punch is nothing short of devastating. In Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (or, in the interest of staying neutral, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant), OKC features a top-two duo that is an absolute nightmare for perimeter defenders, getting to the rim at will (11.8 attempts per game), finishing once they get there (66.1%) and delivering from distance (47.4% on long 2s; Durant is 36.7% from 3).

Once you’ve got your brain wrapped around that pair of potential 40-pointers, it’s time to deal with the NBA’s best bench player, (I cannot remember where I saw this comp – apologies to whomever I am stealing this from) this era’s Manu Ginobili, James Harden. In addition an extremely impressive stat line (16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, 47/37/86 from FG/3-pt/FT and 21.1 PER), Harden is the ultimate glue guy, as Royce Young describes:

It’s really hard to explain to people how important Harden is to the team. He’s not just a great sixth man. He’s like the mediator between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What he provides is just so necessary to the flow of the team. It’s like he’s a pressure-release valve so that Durant and Westbrook don’t have to do everything. He scores, passes and operates a terrific two-man game with Nick Collison. He plays well with Durant and Westbrook and plays really well running the Thunder’s second unit by himself. It’s hard to say he’s more valuable than Durant or Westbrook, but it’s closer than you think.

And finally, while OKC does not rank among the NBA’s elite at the defensive end, the shortcomings of a susceptible perimeter defense (27.4 FGA at the rim – 2nd worst in the NBA) are masked effectively by Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and (when healthy) Nick Collison, a last line of defense that effectively defends the rim (7th lowest FG% allowed at the rim; #1 Block Rate) and does not give away points at the free throw line (a league-average .215 FT Rate allowed).

Flawed? Yes. But warts and all, this is the best team in the West.

Thunder Blogs: Daily Thunder consistently cranks out some really excellent work (check out some of Royce Young’s thoughts on tonight’s matchup here), as does Welcome To Loud City on SB Nation.

Keys to the game: It’s impossible (well, maybe not impossible, but pretty tough) to predict what the Lakers’ roster will look like following the trade deadline. What we do know, however, is that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are here now, while Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Gilbert Arenas are not. All BS aside, let’s see where this Laker team is at. For all of the gaping holes on the roster and turmoil surrounding this team, the Lakers have managed to win more than 60% of their games thus far and remain well-positioned to finish in the top half of the West playoff picture.

OKC represents a brutal matchup for, well, anyone. While it would be silly to expect Thursday night to deviate much from that script, there are a couple of factors that could play out in the Lakers favor.

First and foremost, the Lakers must rely on their interior defense and rebounding, particularly at the offensive end, to control the tempo of the game (at 93.8 possessions per game, OKC plays at the third-highest pace in the league; at 89.9, the Lakers are 21st) and keep the West’s most potent offensive attack under control. This entails keeping Gasol and Bynum, both of whom are rebounding at an elite level and are playing excellent defensive ball this season, out of harm’s way, with harm in this represented by OKC’s pair of whistle-drawing projectiles.

To this end, the perimeter D will be called upon to challenge OKC’s perimeter scorers. In addition to providing the clamored-for offensive spark that too-often has been missing, this is an area in which the Laker bench, namely Matt Barnes (and, though not a bench player, MWP), must provide value. If MWP still possesses any of the elite defensive skill he exhibited in the 2010 playoffs against Durant, this would be an opportune time to conjure it up. Another defensive matchup that could loom large is Barnes on Westbrook, as RW’s speed, power and perpetual motion are too much for Kobe to deal with while also trying to offset OKC’s firepower at the offensive end, and Derek Fisher and Steve Blake… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

Sorry. Moving on…

Provided the Lakers are able to keep Bynum and Gasol on the floor for big minutes, the massive duo in the middle will be vital to the team’s success on the offensive end as well. Bynum has a decided size advantage over any front line defense the Thunder can put forth, and the Lakers will do well to feed the beast in an attempt to control tempo, collect some easy buckets and use the aggressiveness of OKC’s bigs (particularly Ibaka) against them to lure them into foul trouble. This become double important with Nick Collison banged up – he will be limited by a biceps injury if he plays at all, as with AS break looming, and no worse than 26-8 in the bank, this may be a good opportunity to get him an extended period of rest.

In spite of all that’s gone (and continues to go) wrong, the Lakers still rank among the NBA’s better teams. These trying times, rather than tearing the team apart, appear to be having something of a galvanizing effect on this crew. Even so, it is admittedly a tall order ask any team to roll into OKC and down the Thunder. However, I would not put it past this frustrating, but talent, but oh so exasperatingly frustrating team to notch a signature road wins against a legitimately elite opponent when no one expects them to do so.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TNT and KCAL.

Emile Avanessian

Posts

141 responses to Preview and Chat: The Oklahoma City Thunder

  1. My wish list for tonight:

    1. MWP puts a playoff-level stranglehold on Durant, showing him all kinds of looks, each one of them crazier than the last.

    2. Some continuation of last night’s high level of play from Fish– not expecting a repeat, but just some sense that the Dallas game wasn’t a bolt of lightning never to be repeated. If this could be combined with Blake playing well, so much the better.

    3. Bynum making everyone forget Blake Griffin’s dunk over Perkins by manhandling that sourpussed former Celtic to even a more spectacular and soul-destroying degree.

    4. And most of all, Kobe holding onto the &*^# ball! He’s had 10 and 7 turnover games of late– think about that: there are only <90 possessions in a game and Kobe's not even on the floor for all of them!

    Although I think OKC is a better team, we match up pretty well against them and I wouldn't be stunned to see a great game tonight…

    GO LAKERS!

  2. Robert,
    Kobe has maybe one or two more years of being the best player on a championship team if we are lucky. Unless we can get Howard there is no reason to have too much of an eye on years 3-5 into the future.

  3. I am not excited over wins against old teams like Boston and Dallas. Now if we can win on the road against OKC I would be in the camp with improvements at PG and SF we can beat the Heat. I mean I’m already in that camp. But then I would be thinking with only slight improvements at the 1 and 3 we would have a punchers chance against the Heat

  4. Btw… Im watching Baron Davis right now and crying. Why did he choose the Knicks over the Lakers????? He can actually run a pick amd roll and looks in good shape. He would be our starting PG and is now a back up in NY!!! The team who was almost as bad as us at the PG spot now have two PGs better than any of ours!!!! I’m about to lose it!!!! Somebody comfort me!!!!!

  5. Aaron: I think Mitch’s thinking somewhat pivots on: A) Can we get Howard? B) If not, can we win it with KB? I think if the FO answers no to both, they might be considering a disguised re-build. Their plan would be: ride out Kobe – he gets records, but no banners. However, make moves that set us up for the aftermath. We will know this is the plan if they deal PG for non-stars. If they deal for superstars or keep the big 3, that means they are trying to win now.

  6. Man… Mario Chambers is the ideal triangle PG. A long and effective athletic defender who can spot up and slash. Isn’t a true PG but doesmt have to be. That’s why he is so good in Miami as LeBron is the PG and Wade is the back up.

  7. Sorry

    No way our slow team on a back to back can come close to fast OKC with only one loss at home.

    This is a statement game for OKC going into ASG.

    OK by 8 at least.

  8. Robert,
    If they can get a superstar in here the thinking is they are playing more for the future because most likely it will take trading Gasol and Bynum. I don’t think you can get a DWill for a 31 year old Gasol. And you don’t trade a quisi superstar Center (I am one of the few who think that’s what Bynum is) for a quisi superstar PG in DWill. And if they dont think Kobe can be the best player right now on a championship team than Buss is infact stupid.

    Can someone tell me how to spell quasi?

  9. Aaron

    Spelled Metta.

  10. Hahahahahaha

    Very funny. But still hard for me to get on a guy who is still so good on one side of the ball. Vincent Carter scored twenty points against Kobe (not a bad defender) and two against Artest when they made the switch at halftime.

  11. I think both teams are playing a back to back. OKC is younger and at home, I kind of expect a blow out.

    With good ball movement and the bigs being aggressive, Lakers have a chance, but I see this being more like the game against the Knicks.

    Hope I am wrong.

  12. 4 games in 6 days?

    I agree with @8.

  13. Btw… Absolutely LOVE all the dumb basketball people who say Carmelo and Durant are the best scores in the game while LeBron scores more points on less shots with far greater efficiency. The funny thing is no coaches feel that way as teams send constant double teams to Lebron who adds up assists while teams let Carmelo play one on one feeling they can defend him pretty well.

  14. Robert: Can we please have a 48 hour moratorium on the Dwight Howard references, discussion, etc.?

  15. Robert

    I don’t think managements plan is very complicated. If they can land a star and still compete they will. If they can land a role player or two and compete, they will do that. what they will not is a move that messes up their plans for 2014. They currently have zero payroll on the books for 2014. And there are some pretty good free agents available that year including Lebron and Blake Griffin. Now I suspect we will either have Andrew or possible D Howard on the books but we will have a huge amount of cap room to play with at that time.

  16. Kobe Watch: Last game he moved into 9th place all time in 3PFGAs, and 43rd in dimes. At tip off he moves into 41st in gms and he needs 2 FTAs to move into 9th there. I want the 6th ring, but until the FO delivers me “a boxer’s chance” of that – I will root for my guy and as many W’s as we can get !!!!

  17. Realty check tonight for Fishlin in Miami!

  18. Ken,
    Going against Chalmers is a little different than going against Fisher. But Lin is a solid NBA PG. I’m glad that Phil Jackson/Mitch is such a great judge of talent by cutting him in training camp last year. I mean they thought he was great but when you’re loaded at PG like we are it’s hard to keep a young undrafted PG.

  19. Mitch has never been able to judge PG talent? Ever! Look at our 12 years of PG history. Not good.

  20. Aaron there is no way on God’s earth Lebron is a better offensive player than Melo or Durant. Lebron relies on his girth and size to get to the paint, he is average in the post, mid range, 3 pointers. Coaches send double teams at his because of his size and quickness. Melo has a refined post game and a consistent mid range jumper (not to mention he has more clutch genes in one bone than Lebron has in his entire body). Durant has a refined outside game while still improving on his inside/post skills. 80% of Lebron’s points come at the rim or at the free throw line (biggest superstar treatment in league history), he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well on offensive except driving/dunking/and passing.

    Lin has struggled mightily tonight, D’Antoni should leave Davis in with starters if he wants to win this game.

  21. michael h: You are of course correct. What I am most afraid of is 2012-2014, we “compete”, without a “boxer’s chance” of titles, then the re-build via FA. 4 years with no title followed by a re-build is tough for this spoiled, entitled Laker fan to deal with – that was for Darius : )

  22. Aaron

    JR Smith looks even better. He would have been awesome in our line-up.

  23. Emile)
    In the effort to correct you publicly on this site… The game is not on KCAL (says my directv) only on TNT :)

  24. Ken,

    The Lakers won five titles over that 12 year span. I think Mitch and company knew what they were doing.

  25. 20)
    Yes… Unfortunately the eye ball test and all stats say you’re very wrong. Not LeBrons fault he was born a better offensive player.

    22)
    Yes… But he obviously wanted a chance to start and more money. We could have offered Baron a starting position and the same amount of money.

  26. I don’t understand many people here are fans for how many years yet the game today against OKC haven’t started yet and people here in this thread already claiming that Lakers will lose by 8 by 6 or whatever. Many people in this thread are fans for how many years and yet where is loyalty? even trust for the teams. If LAL players can read this they will be disappointed because people here are already claiming a lose to the game that haven’t even started yet.

  27. I fully expected to hear that the league had accessed a flagrant 2 on Brendon Hayward for the butcher job he did on Pau last night. This is more evidence that the “Us against the world” mentality may be accurate.

  28. Mr Rogers true but building for the future is the issue. You might be shocked to see the names of PGs Mitch passed up on in the draft in those 12 years. Name one that has stuck and helped or started during that time.

  29. Vhanz

    Ok Lakers by 20, Fisher will shut out Westbrook, Metta will make 8 three pointers, you will win the lottery today and Paul will be our next president.

    Does that feel better to you?

    From Ken in Newport and a 40 year Laker fan!

  30. Aaron, your eyeball test? The guy who called Kevin Love the most overrated player in the league? I think I’ll trust someone who knows how to evaluate talent better. And also statistics don’t mean everything, putting up great numbers doesn’t translate to being a great offensive player. There are a ton of factors when considering statistics and without context they are worthless.

    Elite offensive players don’t get rattled by zone defenses.

  31. ok vhanz: cheer with me during the game – we can win this !!!

    Ken: I said “can”, which is kinda like the term “puncher’s chance”

  32. @27 vhanz

    What I love the most about this site is that it is full of mature individuals that know the difference between being a “fan” (which is short for being a fanatic, blind faith in something even though it may not be as good as one believes) and a realist. We here are realist. We love our Lakers, but we are not too blind not to see that they require improvement. OKC has it going right now, and they are the exact type of team that the Lakers have problems with. Without an everyday starting point guard, and consistent bench scoring, the Lakers will continue to be up and down.

  33. Robert

    Yes we “can” would you bet on it? Anything is possible and as a over the top fan I would love it but all signs are against it.

    Please make me wrong.

    This is the worst team for us to matchup against. Look what they did to another slow old team Boston last night. I will watch to the end win or Lose.

  34. 30)
    Kevin Love can’t create his own shot and is basically just a spot up shooter on offense and can’t play defense. Defense is half the game. I never said he was bad. Just severely overrated for those reasons. A dominating big man doesn’t play on awful teams the way Love has his entire career up to this season.

    I know people hate LeBron James the same way people hated Jordan before he won his first title and hated Kobe before he won his first without Shaq. I get it. But to say all coaches are wrong is pretty ridiculous. There is a reason coaches throw the kitchen sink at LeBron while playing Melo pretty much straight up. It’s not because Carmelo is a better one on one offensive player and they like him dominating. And it sure isn’t because they are afraid of Melo’s passing ability while they don’t think James can beat them passing the ball. You can argue who is a better clutch offensive player…. But there is no debate who is the best overall offensive scorer and player.

  35. I think if LA loses tonight it will be because of their bench. If Durant or Westbrook has an off night they are very beatable and the Lakers big 3 should be able to surpass their offensive output, it’s just going to come down to supporting casts – theme of this season.

  36. 30)
    Also… I don’t wan to pile on… But these aren’t random statistics. LeBron is putting up the best offensive numbers PER wise in the history of the game. To compare him offensively to anyone other than Magic, Bird, Jordan, Kobe, and Oscar Robinson is such a slap in the face to James.

  37. Artest just dominates Durant. What’s the deal?

  38. I’m not going to get into a debate with you about this Aaron because you haven’t polled all NBA coaches to see who they think is a better offensive player. I have never heard anyone refer to Lebron as a better offensive player, just an all around better player. PER isn’t the end all be all statistic, once again context is required in any statistical consideration.

    Artest isn’t dominating anyone, Durant has missed two wide open 3 pointers. Artest has had 2 great strips but Durant can and will get what he wants against him.

  39. i think Kobe needs to visit Germany during the all star break

  40. 38)
    Okay. You just gave yourself away as a troll. My mistake. I only discuss basketball with people who are serious.

  41. MWP is definitely in Durant’s head.

  42. I have to agree with Aaron about LeBrawn. He is one of the better offensive players in the League. He just doesn’t go after it like Carmello and Durant. He is a Master at everything but posting up.

  43. would be nice to see some superstar calls for Kobe for a change tonight

  44. James)
    Great point. When was the last time we saw Kobe play this poorly in two consecutive games? If of course this game keeps up.

  45. LOL okay Aaron how is this for serious, NBA coaches were polled as to who they had to make more adjustments to and Durant led Lebron 22.2% to 18.5% so you are wrong. As of Jan 17th, 2002. Fact.

    Your arrogance on here is nauseating, consider each person as an equal when discussing basketball or your credibility is ruined.

  46. go under the screen, blake.

  47. *2012

    Why are people so afraid of OKC? They have 2 star players and a 3rd inconsistent really good player in Harden. Offensively they are very limited outside of those 3 guys.

  48. I understand the fact that the people here wants the team to improve. But let get it straight. we don’t want this team to be cursed in losing while the game haven’t started yet. Its not that we want to say that we will win by 20 or fish gone 30 blah blah blah..But we just need to be positive in the upcoming games not saying that we will lose to the OKC or MIA…

  49. Gasol is just a bad help defender, Durant drove and he faked help and went back towards his man (Ibaka) at the 3 point line. Just now he stop hustling and let Harden get behind him for a dunk. Get into the game!! Play both offense and defense.

  50. 8884

    That’s why. It’s called SPEED.

  51. Ken, I agree with the current roster they can’t beat them in a 7 game series but with roster tweaks at PG and SF they are just as good.

    Believe me I am an advocate and know about speed. Look at the last post after the Dallas post game toward the end of the comments, I talked about speed and athleticism and people were telling me it didn’t matter.

  52. kobe gave OKC this lead.

  53. That step back by Durant is unreal.

    Kevin, to a certain degree he’s shooting too much but Bynum hasn’t exactly taken advantage of his touches in the post and nobody else is really stepping up either (Pau is shooting well but it barely feels like he’s there on offense because he isn’t asserting himself)

  54. If Kobe is gonna shoot these long jumpers AND miss, the least he can do is get back on defense.

  55. mwp = thunderkiller

  56. you guys can’t tell me you didn’t go from overly mad when mwp was dribbling to dying laughing when he made that 3

  57. WTF!!!

  58. Metta’s best half this year by far…If he shot that in .8 secs im a monkey’s uncle

  59. no way. that was more than 0.8 seconds

  60. If Westbrook can consistently hit jumpers he is on the same level as Derrick Rose, they can’t be stopped.

    Poor way to end the half but you have to feel good about that performance in the first half. Have to try to limit Durant in the second half and this game is right for the taking.

  61. thats crap the clock started late, but that was so stupid by Bynum

  62. No way you can tip it, then catch it, then gather it, and then shoot it in .8 seconds.

  63. Just stupid d by fish and dumb pass by AB. Dumb. that’s the mark of a bad team.

  64. Wait, so they can go to replay and overrule a call on the court, without taking into account how long the official timekeeper waited to start the clock after the ball is inbounded? There is no way a player can intercept a pass, go up for a jumper, then double-clutch before the release, and do it all in 0.8 seconds or less.

  65. HORRIBLE decision by Bynum.

  66. Kevin is the best kind of Lakers fan! Whenever the Lakers are losing- it is Kobe’s fault and whenever they win it is despite Kobe.

  67. Who cares if he got the shot off in time or not? Why was Bynum such a moron to even throw that pass? Once again, stupidity bites us in the rear…

  68. Why is it that there are so many horrible calls whenever the Lakers are playing? It’s like David Stern puts the worst NBA officials on our games.

  69. this is precisely why the lakers aren’t a championship contender. Losing focus is what they do. I mean kobe see’s bynum is confused and continues to walk away and point. I’m glad that shot counted because the lakers need to wake up.

    Kobe is having another bad game. He’s quickly becoming a volume scorer and nothing more. He doesn’t play defense, his playmaking ability has dramatically diminished and he’s extremely inefficient. The lakers are going to need kobe to resemble kobe and not allan iverson or pound it into their bigs if they want to win this game.

    well at least mwp is playing more like ron-ron.

  70. Dude,
    Exactly. I was wondering that the whole time if they can set their own clock in the replay. Weird. Let’s see how bad Kobe wants to win tonight. If this is a playoffs game for him he will make sure Bynum and Gasol get lots of post touches in the second half. It will be interesting to see. Kobe usually only let’s his bigs eat first when it’s the playoffs.

  71. Kobe always struggles shooting on the road nowadays. He is not the killer he once was.

    Bynum with a huge brainfart!

  72. KenOak: I dish out critism to everyone. last 2 games kobe has let teams back in the game with horrible shot selection.

  73. Thank you, Joel. I’ve said that on more than one occasion this season. Kobe has become Iverson. I don’t give a crap if you score 35 but it takes you 35 shots. That’s garbage. And so far tonight, 4-13. What’s he shooting on the season now? Like 8%? Seriously.

    Lebron just tweeted, “what’s so hard about shooting 50%”?

  74. I agree that Kobe has been having some bad games…but not every loss is because of Kobe- just like not every win is because of Kobe. One huge issue that we have is that no one else can create on this team. (Aside from Goudelock.) Bynum hasn’t been dominating his one-on-one’s tonight. Only Gasol has been decent offensively, so far.

    As to Lebron’s tweet- Kobe tweeted back- “What’s so hard about winning championships?”

  75. Aaron for you of all people to call somebody a “troll” is pretty rich.

    Oh hey, by the way, what do you think of Fisher?

  76. I’m not in a kobe bashing mood at all. but wtf is up with him. he looks like he’s sleepwalking out there.

  77. R)
    I think trolling is someone who says think he doesn’t really think to get a rise out of someone like a Steven A Smith. I always say exactly what I’m thinking.

    Haha. Lets just say I’ve never seen a defense purposely let a player shoot open lay ups. Then escort him to the rim like secret service funneling a president to a bunker.

  78. We used to always have one guy, no matter what, that could dominate his matchup. Kobe. He’s not that guy lately. Not sure if it’s age, or injuries, or fatigue from this compacted season, but the time is here. Now which one of his teammates can step up and shoulder the load?

  79. Lobe just dosen’t get it. Throw in Fisher and they are shooting 20 percent. Lakers are not in the same league. Like I said.

  80. look we can all agree Kobe is struggling but the fact is he is carrying a ridiculous load for a 33 year old and he needs to play a lot less minutes

  81. This is why I wanted JR Smith so badly. Kobe is worn out (thanks Coach). He needs a back-up. JR was the best one out there (character issues and all). Sorry guys, we NEED reinforcements. It won’t happen with these slow, unathletic, subs of ours.

  82. It’s not all Kobe’s fault but here’s what I saw

    Lakers controlled the tempo by establishing Pau and Drew inside. ball movement lakers winning crowd silent

    2nd qtr. Kobe takes alot of bad long jumpers led to runouts. fastbreak points, defenseive breakdowns, crowd in the game now.

    Game vs Phoenix 3rd qtr. alot of Kobe turnovers led to PHX fastbreak points, 3rd qtr. Kobe turnovers vs Dallas led to fast break points, same here 2nd qtr. bad shots led to OKC fast break points. play inside out

  83. For all those in denial. Kobe and Fisher 6 for 23. Fisher 1 for 6. Worst guy in the league has had 2 good games in 34 and people give him props.

    You can not compete with him starting and Kobe chucking up junk.

    This is a 5th or 6th seed. They have no chance of getting out of the West. This is why some fans think they know the game and a few others actually do understand what it takes to win.

  84. The difference between Kevin Durant now and from 2010 is that he’s much better at creating his own shot off the dribble. Previously, Metta was able to crowd him. Not anymore … Gotta give it up to OKC, there defense is phenomonal.

  85. Ken

    TRUE

  86. OKC is good but they have no set offense that wins in the playoffs. I concur with Barkley, they have no inside presence to score easily when the game is on the line. Plus, we are supposed to be this old team, with odd fitting parts but we are in this game with Kobe and Fisher virtually contributing nothing. Chicago, Miami and San Antonio are more impressive in the games I’ve watched.

  87. Kevin-
    You’re right that Kobe missed some shots and had a turnover or two, but the Thunder also started making a lot of shots that they had been missing previously. Bynum and Gasol weren’t dominating in that first quarter. Most of Gasol’s shots were jumpers off of ball movement.

    I mean seriously- Kobe is 5-17 which is terrible, but Bynum is 2-10 and Fisher is 1-6. Only Gasol is a decent 8-13, but he hasn’t been dominant with his back to the basket. He is getting some easy looks which he has knocked down.

  88. That dunk right there! That is what we need from him. I hope that sparks him and the rest of the team.

  89. Kevin,

    Bynum is 3/12 from the floor. So, Pau and Drew between them are 11/25. Not that you don’t have a point, but what people who pound the KobeKobeKobeKobeKobe inside-out drum all the time seldom acknowledge is:

    The other team knows these things as well.
    The Lakers don’t have players who can break down the other team off the dribble.
    You can’t really just dump the ball inside 60 times a game against modern NBA defenses and expect to get good shots.

    Kobe does, in fact, need to take fewer long jumpers. That and his fingers/wrists are the biggest issues with his game right now, but at the same time, all roads simply lead back to the same place with the Lakers’ offense. Mike Brown said that the Lakers are an “execution team” because of the PGs they have, and the fact is that it is impossible to superbly execute and have great ball movement on 90% of your possessions in the NBA
    –the defenses are too good. That is why you need playmakers and shot creators.

  90. Aaron, let’s see how the Urban Dictionary defines a troll:

    “1. troll One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

    Hmmm, better take a look in the mirror, Aaron.

  91. Yea Kobe !! Like Chris W said: “wow”

    Nice post rr

  92. R)
    Sorry. I don’t do that. I give my takes on basketball.

  93. rr: the whole team isn’t playing except for Pau. but Kobe killed the rhythm of the offense in the 2nd qtr. with ill advised shots. The whole team loses focus when Kobe goes gunner mode been like that all year. He’s say lakers have to play perfect to win but he’s been the one stopping that many times.

  94. Thunder in transition is really hurting the Lakers tonight.

  95. Is Aaron really claiming that he isn’t a troll? I figured it would be a badge of honor for him.

    Silver lining alert- If Kobe, Fisher, and Bynum were shooting 45% we would only be down by point!

  96. I disagree. This is the OK team is the best in the west period. They got too many weapons, I dont care if they dont have a set offense. They can also play great defense when they want to

  97. Point guard and small forward.

  98. That was the right call on Fisher there, but why the bleep don’t they call that both ways when Gasol gets mugged.

  99. @99 – bingo.

  100. Drew, Pau, Metta, Barnes, Blake played hard tonight but their efforts were wasted by Kobe’s unwillingness to pass the ball.

    Ball movement worked well last 2 games.

  101. 30 ft. 3 from Kobe what’s new. Now Jim has a reason to trade Pau

  102. Watch the Lakers on defense. See how few guys they have in the paint? The defense is spread out to cover shooters, which exposes perimeter defenders to being beaten off the dribble and forces constant help defense from teammates and creates open looks for OKC shooters.

    Now watch OKC on defense. Almost always have 4 guys in the paint, cutting off driving opportunities, and clogging the middle to deny low post touches. Why the difference? Because the Lakers have no shooters to worry about on the perimeter. The defenses they play against routinely pack the paint, and until the Lakers acquire someone to change this, they won’t advance in the playoffs.

  103. Kevin,

    You are assuming that everything that happens on the court revolves entirely around Kobe; it doesn’t. The Lakers “rhythm” gets “killed” mostly because they lack the personnel to be consistently successful on offense. There have been many times this year, like the first half of the Orlando game, when Kobe has not shot much and the team has still struggled.

    Also, there is another team on the floor. The Lakers other than Pau are “playing” in this game. I think they are “focused.” They are losing because it is another b2b and because the other team is better than they are.

    Kobe sometimes shoot long jumpers and 3s when he shouldn’t and that does lead to runouts. Sometimes he probably does it for selfish reasons. But it happens for a lot of different reasons, and the team would look different with a PG who could play in Brown’s system–Brown, in relatively diplomatic coachspeak, said as much himself today.

  104. here it is, drew limping?

  105. Funky C. – maybe they’ll pick up a shooter in the lottery …

  106. Kobe shoots 7-24 on the night and he’s laughing? What’s so funny about that? Dude was Harden’s b*tch tonight.

    I can’t even fathom how someone can shoot 7-24. If Dwight Howard shot 24 threes in a game, he would probably make more than 7. Unbelievable.

  107. Can’t really call this a changing of the guard when we got swept in the 2nd round last year. That ship has already sailed.

  108. Funky @104
    Good post! When our shooters are hitting their shots we can compete. They were also playing our bigs straight up which doesn’t allow us to kick out to open shooters. We’re in a pickle. We need players who can penetrate and we need someone to hit shots.

  109. It is obvious that we are not at the same level as the Thunder with our current roster. The key question is whether adding whatever we can get at 1+3 without trading the Big 3, is going to get us to the Thunder’s level.

  110. Wow I was wrong. I said by 8. I guess this team is even worse then I thought.

    You have the worst PG is the NBA.

    The worst small forward in the NBA.

    The worst bench in the NBA.

    And a front office that seldom comes in.

    Reality.

    This team is a first round out.

    That is a fact.

  111. Eh, whatever. Like I said last night, we know this team is flawed. Maybe we’ll get that fixed down the road. But, of all the losses to freak out about, a loss at the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back is pretty low down on the list. I’m not happy about it, but losing at OKC is at least understandable. /shrug

  112. rr @106: Just saw your post. You are writing amazing stuff tonight. You are back in “GM Zone” – just in time for the key trading period too!!!

  113. Can we please put to rest this Metta can guard Durant and guys like him fairytale? Maybe the 2010 Artest could stifle them but guys like Durant, Carmelo Lebron etc. can get wherever they want on the floor against him.

    In order for LA to take that next step Bynum can’t go 5/15. Kobe bears the burden as well with his shooting but he just looks like this first half of the season has worn him down, the break is much needed for him (too bad it isn’t longer). Pau has been playing very well lately gotta give him credit with all these trade rumors.

    It is so unfortunate that a guy like Pau is going to get traded because the bench, PG and SF can’t carry their weight.

  114. Funky,

    Correct. The reality you describe also, of course, affects the Lakers’ ability to get the ball inside. “Easy” Lakers’ baskets often come from multiple passes, long sequences of good execution. You can’t rely on that possession after possession.

    One stat no one on here mentions much: the Lakers are dead last in the NBA, by a comfortable margin, in turnovers forced, due to having an old, slow team. So they are are not getting easy baskets that way, either.

  115. rr: Everything revolves around Kobe he’s their best player he can trump everything that happens on the floor. What I’m talking about are times when Lakers are successful when they play inside out gain the lead and momentum then Kobe goes Iso 7-8 times in a row with teammates just standing there.

    You saw tonight Melo, LeBron, Wade let the offense work for them they didn’t work for offense. That’s my problem Kobe forces the issue too much. Have to move the ball.

  116. 8884,

    Metta can still help you with guys like Carter, Pierce–older physical wings. Durant is different, however, as you point out.

  117. Kevin – agree but is Kobe going to change after doing it his way all his life?

    I mean, he drove PJ to distraction; why would he change for MB, of all people?

  118. KenOak, yep, maybe someone like CP3….

    rr, spot on. No team speed means fewer turnovers and fewer transition hoops. This deficiency is ever present, but particularly obvious against a track squad like the Thunder.

  119. At times the entire board realizes that we need change, which of course we do. Then during games we seem to forget that and we blame Kobe’s style, MB’s style, Drew’s laziness, etc. There are elements of truth there, but you know what – we still need change. 20-14 and a 5th seed is about what this roster is, so on the floor performance is not the issue.

  120. Robert,

    I think it’s not the worst thing to realize that several teams including the Thunder have surpassed the Lakers in terms of talent and depth and athleticism.

    That’s what happens when a team gets a series of lottery picks over the course of 6 or 7 seasons and they choose wisely and have a little luck and cultivate that talent wellwith good coaching and FO management.

    That is going to result in a changing of the guard in terms of the top dog and that’s what we have here.

    It’s not a matter of the Lakers doing wrong things but rather teams like Okie City and Chicago doing a lot of things right.

    What I’m driving at is that we can’t fix all of that over night anymore than those teams were capable of surpassing our championship results overnight during our run.

    Periodically you have to regroup. My hope is that we don’t hold onto to the past too long and that we don’t nuke the present prematurely.

    I think we can get an outstanding young piece (like a Kyle Lowry) during this period prior to the deadline, but that will cost us a veteran piece like Gasol and we won’t have the ability to acquire an all-star to fill in for Pau which will mean we will probably not be good enough to win a championship immediately following that move.

    it’s not the worst thing to have to take two or three years to re-balance the team nor is it unreasonable.

    The alternative is worse. If we hold onto Pau, he gets older and continues to handcuff the franchise because of what he costs and instead of re-balancing the team towards more youth we wind up with two of the three stars being in their mid thirties and slipping.

    We can’t solve every issue at once. We can’t keep everyone together and at the same time infuse the team with great additional assets that make us better than the teams that have been stockpiling youthful talent for years.

    The MBA system is designed to as much as possible prevent that from happening so that the league doesn’t have the same team winning a championship very year.

  121. 66 minutes played by the bench – 11 points scored. As Stu would say, “That won’t get it done!” We simply can’t win games with the starters shooting this bad and the bench contributing nothing. We need HELP!!!

  122. rr: Everything revolves around Kobe he’s their best player he can trump everything that happens on the floor

    ___

    You just THINK he can, because that is what you watch for. If you’re mad about the teammates “standing there”, take it up with Mike Brown. Also, read Funky’s post about the defense. There are nine other guys on the floor with Kobe at all times.

    As to Melo, Knicks fans/media were all over him three-four weeks ago for selfishness, worse than anything I have seen here with Kobe. Then, they played Jeremy Lin and acquired JR Smith–two guys who would have fit the Lakers’ needs perfectly and will take the ballhandling/creating load off Melo. We will hear much less of that.

    As to James and Wade, remember James in Brown’s system with Cleveland and no second creator? Pounding the rock over and over again in those isos by halfcourt in the playoffs? Wade? Go to Basketball Reference and check his usage rates with the Heat the last couple of years before James signed there.

    What people sometimes forget about Kobe, however they feel about him, is that at the end of the day, he’s a scorer. What he needs to do now, though, is realize that between his age and his fingers and his wrist, he needs to do more of his work close to the basket and off the ball, while still scoring a lot. But that is tough to do with no PG and two 7′ guys who can play and need to be parked down low. The Lakers have both talent shortage and talent alignment problems, which again, the Paul trade tried to address. So here we are.

  123. R: True. sad part is if Jim trades Pau he’ll see what an advantage he had after the fact.
    rr: I’m not singling Kobe out I’m stating facts on everything. Kobe breaks plays off been doing it his whole career. Pau and Bynum are effctive inside out is effective. Kobe wants to win a ring and scoring title. You can see how frustrated everyone is when Kobe jacks up shots

    Kobe 344-783 (783 shots, 300 more than his next teammate) shots 43%
    Gasol 456 shots 49%
    Bynum 354 shots 54%

    LeBron 319-580 55%
    Durant 331-646 51%

  124. That’s Kevin’s MO. 8 out of 10 of his posts are digs on Kobe. That’s what he does.

  125. 126, RR great post

  126. Dave: Good post. This is my hope too. However – I think you need to go one way or the other. We will either try to win now, or we will start making moves to re-build. It will not necessarily be “nuking it”, but rather the disguised re-build I mentioned earlier. I stick with this: If Mitch Keeps the Big 3 or pulls off a blockbuster, then we are trying to win now. If he trades Pau in a non-blockbuster it probably is a short term white flag.

  127. Kevin,

    If the Lakers had a guy as good as Russell Westbrook or Dwayne Wade also playing on the perimeter, you would have a lot better point. Guys like Gasol and Bynum can’t create their own shots in that kind of volume. Case in point: Dwight Howard took 7 shots in Orlando’s 83-78 loss tonight. Here are the FGAs for Orlando’s other guys:

    Turkoglu 16
    Anderson 13
    Richardson 10
    Duhon 9
    Redick 10
    Glen Davis 7
    Ishmael Smith 7

    So, did Hedo’s selfishness and arrogance cost Orlando tonight’s game?

    There is certainly a case to be made that Kobe’s USG should be a bit lower. But we have seen time and again this year, this team has trouble when he is not shooting and when he is off the floor–because no one else can create a shot.

  128. Lakers weaknesses were exposed in this game.

    -very competitive in the 1st half, as soon as they got tired the energy to compete is gone;

    – no reliable ball handler who would slash to the basket to free the bigs;

    – outside shooting was atrocious and anemic defensive transition;

    – our 3 bigs have been outfoxed, speed dominated a slower giant;

    – our coach MB was outcoached, no adjustment, no answer and no personnel to slow down the Thunders

    We are lucky they maintained within a dime of difference, it could have been merciless murder @ 4th Q. We’ll get them next time in LA.

  129. “It is so unfortunate that a guy like Pau is going to get traded because the bench, PG and SF can’t carry their weight.”

    That’s not the issue. Any fool could see three years ago when we were winning championships, that Okie City was going to be a formidable opponent in the near future given all their youthful talent.

    We all knew that the lines would most likely cross and our aging team would be looking up at the Thunder as the team to beat. Because that’s what happens in sports.

    We made three gallant runs to the finals and we won two of them with this generation of our team.

    It’s been great. Nothing to apologize for or feel bad about. We’ve aged and they’ve grown up and now it’s on us to chnage the satkes and raise our game.

    But we can’t do that overnight with some “dog’s breakfast” combination of pieces and spare parts we adopt from the goodwill store of NBA teams.

    And we can’t do it by just nuking everything all at once and starting over from the ground up.

    It’s going to take some planning. As fans, why can’t we have fun and appreciate our team during the process of selctively building the team back to prominence.

  130. kenoak, rr: Kobe almost has more shots than Pau and Bynum COMBINED. COMBINED. ball movement is contagious. James, Wade let the offense work for them, ball moves faster than feet. Let the offense create shots .

    Lakers had a chance to win this game until Kobe shot us out. That has been the case for a number of games. Have to be fair and critque everyone

  131. Starters, including Kobe, are getting tired. Explains the inconsistency. Can’t blame the big three. Who’s to blame? MB’s abysmal rotations that never result in enough rest for the starters and abysmal bench (the blame here lies squarely on Jim Buss). Thanks Jimmy boy. You and Commissioner Stern will make a great couple in the new NBA.

  132. Kevin,

    No point in going any further.
    _________________________________

    We should look at this game on two levels:

    1. What Robert and Dave and others say is right.
    2. OTOH, OKC is 27-7 overall and 15-1 at home. The 2009 Lakers would have had their hands full tonight. This loss doesn’t really make anything worse.

    I think this team is doing more or less as much as it can with the talent it has and playing this system. I do wish Brown would cut the minutes of Kobe/Pau/Andrew a bit, though. But I expect he is afraid of the blowback if the Lakers finish 9th–which is not impossible.

  133. Edwin,

    I completely disagree. Fatigue, coaching etc weren’t the deciding factors at all unless you just want to play the blame game.

    The problem was the team couldn’t make shots in the second half to keep up with the flow of the game. The Thunder found another gear in terms of their scoring and the Lakers couldn’t maintain it.

    The team had plenty of quality looks throughout the third quarter and couldn’t manage to put up 20 points for the whole quarter. They fell behind by double digits and as a result, never made up the ground.

    You have to make some shots once in a while. They did it successfully on Wednesday night against the Mavs and for most of the first half on Thursday but they sustain it in the second half.

    The Lakers played good defense. Rebounded the ball fairly well. Controlled the team of the game to their liking for most of the game. it wasn’t a horrible effort against the best team in conference and on the road.

    But you have to make some shots. They didn’t

    End of story.

  134. Just trade Pau now Jim get it over with

  135. Dave: Another good post. However, I for one, am not giving up yet on this generation of our team (not at least until 03/15). However, as you recall, I cited the late 80’s Celtics as a reference to you previously, so obviously I do not want us to “hang on” either : ) The other question is: Does Kobe accept this rolling re-build you are proposing, because basically the FO would be telling Kobe: Nice run KB, but no more rings for you. True?

  136. Kevin, I don’t think anyone really disagrees with the idea that Kobe shooting as much as the two bigs combined is an ideal situation. However, as rr pointed out in citing DH12’s numbers tonight (7 total shots), a defense committed to denying low post touches can effectively slow an inside game.

    The way you beat a team intent on doing that is by knocking down outside shots, and right now the Lakers can’t do that. There are definitely situations where Kobe shoots too much, but tonight was not one of them. Look at the the two seven footers’ shooting percentage. This wasn’t a case of big guys having success but not getting enough touches. The Thunder played great interior

  137. …great interior defense, that is.

  138. Robert,

    “If Mitch Keeps the Big 3 or pulls off a blockbuster, then we are trying to win now. If he trades Pau in a non-blockbuster it probably is a short term white flag.”

    Define block buster versus non blockbuster?

    I want to see Pau moved for a player like Lowry or Rondo right now if we can do it. And I define that as a blockbuster because we will get a “Star power” player in return for a star power player in Gasol.

    If we move Pau for a ‘dog’s breakfast’ of role players I define that as a non blockbuster and the worst of all things because we get no star power player in return.

    If keep the big three together and make a small tweak to the roster with a role player I consider that a non blockbuster nad the third worst thing we could do because we will most likely wake up a few months from now to the reality that Pau and Kobe are a year older and no demonstrative progress towards revitalizing the team and the tweaking didn’t win us a title anyway.

    If we dump everything into one pot so we can acquire Howard no matter at what price, i consider that to be nuking and a blockbuster and the second worst thing we could do because we’ll have Dwight and Kobe (maybe) and nothing else and than the draft and the hope of free agency, it’ll still take 3 or 4 years to build back a real contender and Kobe will gone by then.

    That’s how I define it. How do you define it?

  139. Robert, Dave:

    Good discussion. ISTM that, basically, all four plans for change…

    1. Kitchen sink for Howard
    2. Pau for 2-3 players
    3. Adding PG and/or SF through extra assets with trading Bynum or Gasol
    4. Blow it up

    ..have obvious and discernible flaws, and all four are complicated by Kobe’s age, iconic status, still-very-effective but not in-his-prime play, and ginormous contract.

    So, I am not, to be honest, sure which one is best, without getting into all the specifics and details. Trading for Howard might work…if he stayed. Trading Pau might work…for the right guys. Patching the 1 and the 3 might work…with the right guys. Blowing it up next year might even work…if the 2014 FA market plays out in a certain way.

  140. I think you guys are missing my point Kobe has the right to shoot and should shoot only when nothing else is working. Lakers were winning mid way through the 2nd quarter by playing inside out. Crowd was subdued and game was under control. Agreed?

    Then Kobe got in took many bad long contested jumpers, didn’t get back on defense Harden, Westbrook, Durant got free for fastbreak points. OKC took all momentum, crowd got going and Lakers defense suffered.

    It’s happened this way all year Lakers having control of a game and Kobe shooting us out here are examples: vs Chicago late game, at Denver, vs Clippers, at Utah, at Philly, tonight vs OKC. Many of those games Lakers have had under control until Kobe shoots 5-6 times in a row to kill Lakers momentum.