Lakers/Thunder: A Class Below

Darius Soriano —  March 29, 2012

Boxscore: Lakers 93, Thunder 102
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 108.1, Thunder 118.6
True Shooting %: Lakers 52.2%, Thunder 53.8%

The Good:
After wondering how Bynum would play after having a string of performances that were newsworthy for the wrong reasons, he came out ready to play against the Thunder. He had 25 points (on only 15 shots), grabbed 13 rebounds (7 offensive), and blocked 4 shots in 41 minutes of action (more on the minutes later). He was a presence on both ends of the floor in the paint, establishing the post on one end and protecting the rim against penetration on the other. Per the Thunder only shot 48.8% in the restricted area on the night and a lot of that had to do with Bynum’s long arms and intent to defend the paint with authority.

On offense he flashed the moves that made him an all-star this season. He powered into hooks to the middle of the floor and displayed solid footwork when working the baseline. He made himself available for post catches by doing his work early and kept his hands ready when working off the ball, finishing multiple plays by keeping the ball high in traffic when he made difficult catches. All in all, Bynum was excellent on offense and disruptive on defense. It would have been nice if he could have grabbed more than 6 defensive rebounds (more on this later as well) but considering how often he was forced to help on dribble penetration and in showing help on the cuts and curls that help fuel OKC’s halfcourt sets, he deserves some reprieve in this area.

Also very good was the Lakers performance in the 1st period. The ball moved on offense, players were quick to make smart decisions, and it all led to good shots that were converted at a high rate. The defense was also very good as the Lakers kept the Thunder mostly on the perimeter and contested nearly every shot that went up. The Lakers played a controlled, disciplined style that proved they’re capable of hanging (and beating, if only for 12 minutes) one of the best teams in the league. If they could have bottled that effort for the rest of the game, things may have been different. However….

The Bad:
Let’s make a list, shall we?

  • The Thunder grabbed 19 offensive rebounds on the night and scored 23 second chance points.
  • The Lakers showed a complete inability to slow Russell Westbrook in the open court as he pushed the ball down their throats on multiple occasions. Westbrook ended up with 36 points on the night, including 27 in the 2nd half.
  • Kobe shot 7-25 on the night, missing some makable shots in the process but also relying on too many jumpers against tight defense in trying to get his baskets.
  • Kobe and Bynum played 41 minutes a piece in a game that was a late game (and mostly meaningless) run from being a double digit loss.
  • The Lakers gave up an offensive efficiency of 118 on the night, a mark that is 8 points (per 100 possessions) higher than the Thunder’s league leading mark on the season.
  • Gasol played 32 minutes. If you wonder why that’s bad, it’s because he was needed for more minutes but couldn’t play them because he picked up 3 fouls in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd quarter and had to go to the bench with 4. He sat the rest of that frame and by the time he got back into the game the game was already heavily tilted in the Thunder’s favor with momentum fully swung in their direction.
  • To rub salt in the wounds of this night, Fisher played well for his new team in hitting 3 of his 5 shots and ended up stopping the bleeding for the Thunder with 3 straight makes when their offense was flailing. The rest of his game was mostly forgettable but those shots, in the moment, were huge for the Thunder.

Ultimately, it was the Lakers’ defense that did them in tonight, though. As mentioned OKC’s offensive efficiency was off the charts good. The Lakers lack of floor balance made OKC’s transition offense even better than normal and the inability to close possessions with defensive rebounds was nightmarish most of the night.

The Ugly:
On a more general note, this game proved that the Lakers are a class below the Thunder right now. OKC couldn’t have played much worse in the first half (Durant was 5-16 for only 10 points, they were sloppy on O and D, etc, etc) but only trailed by 5 after 24 minutes. When Westbrook went nova in the 2nd half, the Lakers had little ability to keep pace and the game got out of hand to the point that the home crowd booed the team. Worse yet, the Lakers looked like a defeated team with no answers on how to solve the Thunder once the game started to turn. OKC’s D tightened and the Lakers couldn’t find a way to attack them with any success, ultimately relying on fading and leaning jumpers.

Said another way, OKC showed that they’re much better than the Lakers and considering it was a home game for the Lakers and that the season only has 15 games left that’s a bad sign. I mentioned before the game that this was a measuring stick game and the Lakers showed that they don’t measure up in falling way short of competing over the final two and a half quarters. Time is running short for this team to get it together and while Mike Brown searches for rotations that work, his big three are playing heavy minutes and wearing down. The formula is a bad one right now and the Lakers must find a way to get it together. And soon.

Darius Soriano

Posts Twitter Facebook