Initial Thoughts On The Thunder

Darius Soriano —  May 13, 2012

The Nuggets hangover can last for a few hours longer, but not much more than that. Round two awaits and with that our focus shifts. We’ll have an extended series preview coming a bit later but for now, a few thoughts, questions, and observations heading into the second round versus the Oklahoma City Thunder…

  • The Thunder are sort of a hulked-up version of the Nuggets. They have the same speed and athleticism, but also offer the star power that the Nuggets lacked. At pretty much every position (at least in the starting lineup and in their 6th man), the Thunder offer a more quality alternative to the Nugget team the Lakers just needed 7 games to defeat. Be it Westbrook/Lawson, Gallo/Durant, Faried/Ibaka, or even Mozgov/Perkins the Thunder bring an upgrade.
  • Will the Thunder employ the same double-teaming strategy the Nuggets did on the Lakers’ big men? They have the horses in Perkins and Ibaka to single cover Bynum and Pau and during the regular season they rarely doubled L.A.’s bigs. Will that trend hold?
  • James Harden is going to be a problem for a variety of reasons. Who guards him when he shares the court with both Westbrook and Durant is one of the major concerns going into this series. I mean, if Kobe is going to guard Westbrook (which seems like the best strategy to slow him) and Ron guards KD (ditto), does that mean Sessions guards Harden? Blake? Do the Lakers go to an unconventional lineup just for defensive purposes?
  • Last night, on twitter, Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) said “This Thunder series will be where the Lakers really regret dumping Lamar.” After that Andrew Ungvari (@drewunga) replied to him “Just as long as it’s not one where they really regret dumping Fisher.” I agree on both counts, though I’m not going to stress over things that can’t be undone. Both players are gone – though we’ll get to see plenty of Fisher starting on Monday.
  • Has Devin Ebanks played himself out of the rotation? With his last couple of performances, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.
  • Will Matt Barnes find more creases in the defense to slash to the rim? He’ll need them because being relegated to a spot up shooter diminishes a fair amount of his utility on offense.
  • Earlier I spoke of the Thunder’s starting bigs but they also have two very good reserve big men in Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed. Jordan Hill will need to continue his solid play to ensure that Gasol and Bynum don’t get worn out dealing with a foursome of bigs that will come in waves while always being fresh.
  • That said, just because they have the bigs doesn’t mean that OKC won’t go small. KD at the 4 will offer an interesting dilemma for the Lakers in terms of matching up. Asking Pau or Hill to cover Durant is asking for trouble. However, the hope would also be to make KD work on defense, trying to punish him in the post and make him work on the glass so he can’t run out as easily. So, going small to match up might not be the best solution. This will be one of the many games within the game that will occur in this series.

These are just some of the things that are on my mind this morning. There are countless other variables, though. What’s on your mind; what are the things you’re looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.

Darius Soriano

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79 responses to Initial Thoughts On The Thunder

  1. I’ve thought about who is gonna guard Harden a lot already. I think Ebanks did a solid enough job on Durant the afternoon Ron got ejected that if Brooks puts out Westbrook, Durant, and Harden, he can guard Durant while Ron takes on Harden. That’s really the best thing I can think of. Sessions on Harden is actually a scary thought… Harden would run wild.

  2. Lakers have to turn Durant into a volume shooter. 24 shots for 29 points. Ron can do it he’s well rested and will give all he has.

    Block the lane off from Westbrook. I’d bet my house he doesn’t hit the mid range like he did vs Dallas. Make him shoot jumpers.

    Lakers have to get Ibaka on the move or in space. If Pau is standing on the perimeter he is free to roam. Involve him in PnR’s, back picks. Make him play man to man defense.

    Sessions has to do his best Harden impersonation. Starting him the 2nd quarter with PnR’s w/ Pau would be great.

    Like Dave Miller says “we need shot makers not shot takers” this series. Blake and Ron are key to space the floor. When they knock down shots it gives Pau and Drew room to work.

    For some reason I’m not concerned about Drew this series. He always shows up to play Perkins. Always.

    Lakers will need more of the distributor Kobe. Teams aren’t fazed by his shot making anymore unless it’s late game. Him finding open teammates and evening out the FGA’s will be crucial.

    OKC’s bench won’t drop 50 a night. They don’t have a stretch 4 either. So Hill can be BIG matching Collison’s energy.

    This match up is more even for Lakers.

  3. Ebanks got lucky against Durant the last game. KD missed a ton of wide open jumpers from mid-range he normally knocks down. Look at how much trouble Ebanks had with Gallinari, who is a much crappier version of Durant and with a shaky 3pt shot; Durant would torch Ebanks if we had to depend on him defensively.

  4. @ Kevin: “Block the lane off from Westbrook. I’d bet my house he doesn’t hit the mid range like he did vs Dallas. Make him shoot jumpers.”

    …I’d take that bet.

  5. The NBA is making it so obvious they want Blake and Chris it’s sick. I have seen 5 stupid calls in favor of Clips in first quarter.

    NBA has become the World Wrestling Federation under David Burn.

  6. One can hope that Westbrook doesn’t hit his mid-range and Kobe guards him on key stretches in the game such as towards the end.

    Very tough series.

    OKC has essentially 3 all-stars to worry about versus a team that had a lot of players playing above their average in Denver.

    I just hope this turns out the way I want it too. :) Lakers in 6.

    We’ll find out Monday.

    Bye.

  7. MB has an 8 player rotation in the playoffs. Ebanks is ninth. Absent extenuating circumstances McHops, Troy, and Glock are out too.

    Agree pretty much with Darius’ assessment except don’t consider Perkins an upgrade over Javale McGee.

    Fatigue and Sessions/Blake line up are my biggest concerns. Playing Sessions/Blake when Fisher is on the court benefits OKC.

  8. Jay why can’t Hill guard KD and Ron on Harding? He has the length and the quickness.

    Thoughts?

  9. Joe: Westbrook 9-26 from 16-23 ft vs Lakers. 34%. Shot 61% at the rim this season. One hot series doesn’t change that.

    Never shot over 50% vs Lakers and he won’t if he keeps taking those mid range shots.

  10. Re regretting dumping Lamar

    Full disclosure–Lamar is one of my favorite Lakers ever–but do we really think LA regrets not having out of shape, hurt over being almost traded and now out of the NBA Lamar? I don’t get it. I would bet that DAL would hit “reset” and keep their first round pick if they could have a do over. In hindsight, LA “won” that trade (although it makes the “veto” that much harder to get over…)

  11. “Will the Thunder employ the same double-teaming strategy the Nuggets did on the Lakers’ big men?”

    Excellent question Darius and due to the fact that they (the team) handled us relatively easy in the 2nd half of those 3 games (they were smashing us in the 2nd half of The Elbow Game also, then took their feet off the gas, which gave us the opportunity to come back and steal that one n overtime), I doubt that they’ll change strategies now.

    If that’s the case, then the question becomes how effective can our BIGS be against Perk and I’Block’a. Being that they’re both 6’10, they’ll be giving away substantial size in height. However, they’re both strong as bulls and play as such. In order for us to have any shot @ advancing to the WCF, Drew & Pau will have to play EVERY game in this series like they played last night.

    Will the 2 of them have enough Mental & Physical Toughness to do so?

  12. Kobe played facilitator last night out of necessity it seemed. He had zero energy and couldn’t even make free throws, yet Karl kept sending the double team and Kobe made the initial pass to set the offense in motion. If OKC sends double teams the same way, here’s hoping Kobe is just as patient when he’s feeling better. It gives the team just the balance it needs.

  13. Wow… Nate Jones… Haha. We went to high school together.

  14. Must be a slow day for news, ESPN has an article up about MWP refusing to shake Harden’s hand. SPORTS JOURNALISM AT IT’S FINEST!

  15. Feed the big men. If the double comes, go inside out, rotate the ball and find the open shot. The Lakers shooters just need to let it fly like Ron did last night, and Blake did to a degree. If you are open and can set your feet, shoot. The Lakers do that and the O will be fine. I’m pretty sure they can have some combination of Ron/Barnes/Blake/Sessions get hot from the outside 4 out of 7 times. As long as they attack and make the smart pass, I don’t think the O will be a problem.

    On the other end, Artest just changes things on the defensive end. His size, his hands, his footwork on that end, his energy… It’s just something to behold and it infects the whole team. When it gets to this level of play, and you are going against as talented a team as OKC, it’s about having each others’ back. It will be the team defense that carries the team, not individual match-ups. As much as we might worry about who guards their 3 when they are on the court together, it’s really about how the help reacts when any of those guys inevitably beats their defender. Harden is a worry because he is so good at taking what the D gives and he finds his bigs for easy shots. Whatever big is on the weak-side when Harden has the ball is going to have to use his size to try and cut off the skip passes and anything trying to get through the opposite side while he shift over to the other big’s guy. It’s going to be really interesting to see if Bynum and Pau can stay engaged and I think with Ron playing, they will. Remember, until Ron was ejected, the Lakers were taking control of the game. The Lakers lost momentum and didn’t make their come-back until Hill came in and began to hedge hard on the P&R the way the bigs are supposed to. Obviously the loss of Harden was huge, but so was losing Ron.

    Steal one in OKC and try and hold serve at home. That Friday/Saturday back to back worries me, but its time to dig deep and beating OKC would be a major accomplishment. They are young, hungry, talented, skilled, and enjoy continuity. They have some weaknesses down low and we happen to have the bigs to exploit it. This is why we watch.

    If this goes seven I’ll be pleasantly surprised and then anything can happen. 12 more to #17

  16. Why did I pick the Lakers to upset the Heat in the NBA Finals?

    KEVIN DING (@KevinDing)
    5/13/12 10:51 AM
    Last night: Bynum and @paugasol 1st players in NBA playoff history to combine for 30+ points, 30+ rebounds, 20+ offensive rebs, 10+ blocks.

  17. w/r/t harden: it’s about denying him the ball, delaying okc from running their offense, and making an ally of the clock. then pounce on him with traps.

    that’s how you grind their harden-centric sets down to a halt.

    man, the spurs are going to have their hands full with chris paul. tony parker is many things, but he’s not a tony allen level defender. chris paul is going to go through them like a hot knife through butter. he’s going to pick and roll them to death.

  18. The game between the Clips and the Griz is a prime example of how far the NBA has sunk. The refs are “Letting them play”, which is a euphemism for abdicating all responsibility to call a decent game. Too much contact, holding and grabbing detracts from the sport. The league is becoming more UFC every day.

  19. Funky Chicken May 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    71 points at home in a game 7? Memphis choked.

  20. Congrats to the Clippers. They played tough. Their depth paid off.

  21. For me the keys to the OKC series are Blake and Barnes. The main match ups are a wash, with both sides having certain advantages. Steve needs to continue to shoot without hesitation and knock some down. Hopefully Barnes ankle is on the mend because we will really need him, especially when Harden is on the court. He also needs to find his shot for us to win.

  22. “I don’t shake substitutes’ hands.” Awesome. Artest’s press interviews are comedic gold; love that guy.

  23. I think OKC’s best lineup is when they go Small.

    Harden @ the 1. Westbrook @ the 2. Some other shooter at the 3. Durant at the 4. and Ibaka at the 5.

    That makes them most dangerous – as they will run up and down the court and will have legitimate shooters.

    Assuming Artest has Durant duty, And Kobe has WB duty, who’s going to be the body on Harden?

    And it’ll probably mitigate #17 as well, because he won’t even be in the scene for most of the defensive plays.

    Expect a lot of the Thunder playing small because of that.

  24. bosh out with an abdominal strain.

    without bosh to space the floor, it’s only a matter of time before indiana makes the pack-the-paint adjustment and clogs lanes.

  25. Tra: “the fact that they handled us relatively easily in the 2nd half of those 3 games”. Spot On

    1st quarter

    Game 1. +4 LAL

    Game 2. +12 LAL

    Game 3. +6 OKC

    Each 1st half

    Game 1. 46 – 43 OKC

    Game 2. 49 – 44 LAL

    Game 3. 52 – 47 OKC

    Game gets away in the 3rd quarter

    G1. +8 OKC

    G2. +12 OKC

    G3. +11 OKC

  26. The back-to-back in the 2nd round was established before the season even started, right after the lockout ended. It had nothing to do with us getting pushed to a Game 7 or Stern trying to “give it to us,” in December no one had any idea who would face off in the semis.

    Most likely Brown will have to go with Blake or Sessions on Westbrook when Brooks goes to his 3-headed monster. Although I can’t decide if Blake on Westbrook or Blake on Harden is a bigger mismatch. Westbrook is the explosive one, and Blake isn’t the weakest guard … so he might actually match up a tiny bit better with Harden. Not sure there.

    If Black Swan and the 1-in-5 games version of Blake show up for each game, we have a shot.

  27. @ Kevin: “Block the lane off from Westbrook. I’d bet my house he doesn’t hit the mid range like he did vs Dallas. Make him shoot jumpers.”

    You think he only did that against Dallas? You Sir know nothing about the Thunder!

  28. @27

    Would much rather have WB taking 18 footers than the alternatives which are:

    (1) Driving to the lane and getting touch fouls
    (2) Having him shoot 3′s (as even if he’s a worse 3 point shooter, 2 3′s is equivalent to 3 twos, and offensive rebounds are easier to get off 3′s)
    (2) Kevin Durant doing anything
    (3) James Harden doing anything

    At some point WB’s shot are going up. And as good as he is, he’s still streaky as well.

    Would be nice not to see his dumb “shot went in so ill blow on my pointer fingers and act like I have guns” routine as well.

  29. Jeremy: Every team wants Westbrook shooting jumpers. He was 10-31 vs Lakers and 61% at the rim this year. Which do you prefer he shoot?

    Shooting 50% from midrange in a series is an anamoly. He’ll cool off and struggle shooting over the bigs length like he did this year.

  30. On offense, we need to have a super Kobe ala 2010 vs. Phoenix Suns. If Thabo is guarding kobe the best play is an iso coz Thabo is bad one on one defender and if harden is on Kobe we should let him play on the block and make harden make those defensive mistakes. As for Pau, we need to see the same spaniard that played in game 7. Ibaka maybe a good shot blocker but if Pau would be aggressive against him Pau can score 25-30pts a night against Ibaka as he is not a good low post defender. Most of his blocks comes from help defense. Plus if Pau would continue to attack Ibaka he would be made to be honest and not loaf around and help on Bynum’s defender. On defense. I say we let Kobe guard westbrook and let him take those jumpers. Westbrook will not shoot over 50% on those jumpers and he is more of a shoot first point guard. If OKC would have Durant, Westbrook and Harden on the floor the defensive matchups should be Kobe on Westbrook, Artest on Harden and Ebanks/Barnes on Durant. Let durant create plays for his team as this is a weakness of Durant he is not a good passer and tends to shoot jumpers instead of moving the ball around if faced with a situation where he is tasked to create the play. There is a reason why the Thunders are at the bottom of the assists per game average and that is because they depend on their three stars heavily. Let Westbrook, Harden, Durant take those jumpshots and clog the lane. Stay with your man and do not double. Just give these guys a few inches that would tempt them to take those jumpers and we have a good chance for an upset. We need every laker to show up the key would be Kobe & Pau’s brilliance on offense and #17′s D on the block to keep those guards from penetrating. Lakers should treat every game a must win in this series.

  31. Just some thoughts

    Marts ankle better get right in a hurry because he will be seeing a lot of Harding.

    Kobe should start on Westbrook and not allow him to find his groove. Once you do that shooters may struggle even if someone else is guarding them. That’s what happened in the last game. Metta disrupted Durant and he could never get it going even with Ebanks on him.

    The offense needs to run through Gasol. Ibaka is a world class help defender but if he is occupied by Gasol he can’t help as much. Plus he can’t match up to Pau’s length close to the rim.

    Okc will play Andrew straight up with Perkins. He needs to abuse them. And he is capable of doing it. Perkins is only 6′ 10″ and not nearly as long. With deep position Perkins cant stop him.

    Kobe needs to be Kobe

    Metta needs to be Ron.

    Blake needs to be the shooter he is capable of being.

    Pace, rebounding and D wins this for the Lakers. Lakers in 6

  32. The Lakers have very little chance playing OKC. I know, it sounds as if am hating on the Lakers, but am not. The Lakers need everything to go right for them for them to win on the road, and then they need their bench to be consistent, which they have the worst bench in the NBA playoffs,

    Then there’s the Bynum factor, when he play’s he’s good, when he doesn’t, he admits he didn’t bring his game for whatever reason. Let’s not forget Pau, Perkins punks him every year and at every opportunity.

    MWP as bad as he has played and with the IQ of a cricket, he will shoot the team into oblivion.

    Session, what happened to him? He’s plays with no fire at all.

    Kobe will be Kobe, but not the old Kobe, and that’s what they will need to be competitive.

  33. That’s right! I hope that Artest can contain Durant and as a result Westbrook decides he wants to be the man. (At least for some critcal moments in a few games)

    I also hope Bynum doesn’t get bored in this series and that Pau playsvery aggresive.

    If all of that happens, we might have a chance :)

  34. What about a Kobe, Barnes and Metta to match up with the Durant, Harden and Westbrook lineup?

    You could post up whomever Westbrook guards (and pray that the open shots fall once okc double teams the postup)

  35. @31 – That lineup might work if the “good” Barnes comes back.

    He was horrendous last series.

    Plus, that leaves Kobe as the only ball handler. If he’s going to be guarding WB for long stretches, he can’t be ball dominant as well. He will wear out. Must more important to keep his offense fresh by allowing another guard on the court and let him focus his D on Westbrook.

  36. Sportswriter

    Thanks! Next you will be telling my 7 year old son there is no Santa and telling all those people on welfare they will never win tbe lottery.

    Logic is nice but then name 50 people who didn’t live in Dallas last year the Mavs would win it all!

    OKC are very good but last time I checked they have the same number of championships as King James. Give Peace a chance(and Kobe to).

  37. At this point, nothing is stopping a Heat/Thunder Finals.

    Not even the Spurs.

    The Thunder have the look. They are VERY hungry, and play with tremendous energy.

    Their chemistry has bonded them as a team.

    The Lakers are not going to the finals with their bench. They are also very lazy-minded and they simply don’t have any margin for it.

    They play like they are the favorites, and if they can afford to let their guards down.

    Vegas favors the Thunder in this series with the same spread that the Heat are favored over the Pacers.

  38. we should pressure them by attacking from the start. instill hunger and passion to go to the next level. they have good offensive players, however these players do not seem to play good D, so we attack them in order to lessen their offense.

    Bynum and Gasol working hard againts their bigs will bring good results for our team.

    I am hoping that MB will bring out a new tactic that will put us ahead of OKC, these 2 young coaches seem to fit against each other.

  39. Just curious. For those saying we have little to no chance against OKC, which Thunder team are you talking about. The one that was rolling early or the one that looked vulnerable down down the stretch and probably should have lost the first two games at home to the Mav’s?

  40. its funny that people talk about perkins and his defense but i actually think drew is the one player who can dominate him. drew is taller bigger can shoot over perk and can hit free throws. unlike d12 drew has moves so its possible with single coverage that drew wins his matchup in a convincing fashion. the wild card is pau who “should” dominate ibaka but just rarely seems to be the game 7 pau we just saw.
    kobe should also get good post position for easy scores.
    ultimately though if the other supporting players cant hit their shots then its all a moot point.

  41. The Hill-Collison will be a match up to watch. They both hustle and give their team extra possessions. Could make a difference with the bench units.

  42. The key will be whether or not the Lakers can comepete to start the 2nd and 4th quarters when Mike Brown unexplicably plays a lineup with Pau Gasol and no Kobe or Bynum. Just doesn’t make sense.

    Sportswriter – I absolutely agree with you. I feel like the Lakers have no chance. I am a die hard Lakers fan but I feel it is unrealistic to believe the Lakers can beat the Thunder 4 times in a series. I don’t see how anyone can watch our team and think that we are a championship team right now. I just don’t see it.

  43. My oh my – Gives the Lakers a chance guys – geez.

    Does it help your psyche to think the Lakers are going to lose ahead of time, so that if they do you won’t be as disappointed?

    Lakers certainly have a shot in this series. It’s going to be about consistent execution, and the margin for error is small, but they certainly can do it.

    #17 can show up 4/7 games right? I mean its one more than the three games he showed up in the last series, so I may be asking a lot. But he is a professional basketball player right?

  44. Watching how the refs called the Clips game today brought me that feeling back…

    Yeap, OKC x Heat.

    Quite curious why Stern seems to pick Heat games to make an appearance…

  45. Cmon on people if Lakers doesnt have a chance against OKC then might as well forfeit the series in their favor and let them advance to the third round without any fight. The beauty of being a fan is to root for your team specially if they are the underdog. If they come out victorious then such victory will be as sweet when they were favored to win. Honestly, I have this feeling that this would be an easier series than the First round.

  46. Magic phil — uhh I think stern was there to hand lebron the mvp trophy.

  47. Funky Chicken May 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    It is a very sad statement that going into the second round of the playoffs against a favored team many of us would be surprised to see all Lakers play hard in each game of the next series. If they do, they’ll have a good chance; if they don’t, they’ll get destroyed.

    It’s on Andrew and Pau. Game 7 effort will keep the Lakers in the series, and game 5 and 6 effort will get them swept.

  48. thisisweaksauce May 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Funky Chicken (47),

    This. A sad statement indeed.

    I don’t understand a lack of effort or a sense of entitlement when you are not defending champions.

  49. The Nuggets series was a good test for the Lakers stretching their workout through a rigorous 7 games. In the 2nd round, Lakers are underdog but a fearsome foursome Kobe, Pau, Drew and Metta plus role players. Don’t bet against experience and twin towers, they could make difference and put this Thunder at their right place.

    What are the advantages of the Lakers?

    Thunders are rusty after a long rest. They’re eager beaver young athletic cheetahs but not so experienced in late season. Beating the Lakers is not an easy task too.

    Thunder remembers the most recent game where they lost in two OT’s. Lakers don’t just fold if given an opening to steal games.

    However, if Lakers are overwhelmingly favorite like in Denver series, they have a tendency to be over confident. With Thunder, they know the odds are against them being on the road, Kobe is dangerous when Lakers are underdog and challenged by the long shot odds of TNT guys. Beware of the Mamba, he could steal Game 1 in OK.

  50. yeah I agree with you guys, I think the biggest edge we have is still our post-season experience. Though much has change with our lineup, we as a Lakers team knows what it takes to be on this level, and we have the greatest baller in this era – KB24 with our best/above average lineup. we can definitely beat them, in any aspect of the game.

  51. This is a good weekend for the LA teams: Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers won except the Angels.

    MBrown should consider playing McRoberts in this series because it will be a running game. He should consider the battle of attrition in finding the right combination in each segment of the game making use of rest & attack mode. If he sticks only to 8 players, they’re gassed and overwhelmed by the 4th quarter.

    Who will control the rebounds? Bynum/Gasol/Hill vs. Ibaka/Collison/Perkins. Lakers have the disadvantage if they apply the tactic on Game 7 in the Nuggets series. Who will stop Durant, Harden and Westbrook? Kobe, Peace and Sessions. I think this is even. Harden would still be conscious of Metta’s elbow when driving to the hoop.

  52. I saw Dallas team playing in OKC in 2 closed games, the difference is Dallas team did not have twin towers. Lakers got to steal game 1 or game 2 because game 3,4 on Friday, Saturday in LA, it’s tough. Like Kobe said, you have to trick yourself,…, back against the wall, every game like game 7, if Lakers can do that, we’ll be ok, if Lakers can’t play harder, forget this season.

  53. I think it really comes down to how hard we play. If everyone gives it the effort we saw in game 7, we can definetly beat OKC. People really think we are going to be a pushover….and I think if OKC wins they will have to earn it. In my eyes this is the finals…and I think experience, size and Kobe will allow us to beat OKC. I still think OkC is a year away…and Kobe in his entire playoff career. Has never lost a series where the other teams best player is younger than him.

  54. My gut says The Thunder in 5.

    only because I expect the lakers to be down 2 to 1, and we all know Bynum will freak out if that game 4 isn’t going the lakers way. Once they lose game 4, game 5 (in OKC) will be a blowout. Leading to OKC fans and Laker haters quoting Bynum:

    “Closeout games are easy.’

    Unless…

    … nah, who am I kidding.

    ________
    What’s the line on Dfish commiting a flagrant foul in this series?

  55. Biggest advantage the Lakers have – rebounding. They’re the best rebounding team left in the playoffs (net rebounding % in the regular season), while OKC is basically the second-worst. While Ibaka and Perkins will probably play pretty good D on our bigs, they will have a lot more trouble preventing the control over the glass that the Lakers can achieve.

  56. The Lakers generally have two advantages over opponents: Kobe even in his 16th year, is usually the best wing on the floor; and, of course, quality size. This team, however, has Durant, and Perkins and Ibaka match up pretty well Bynum and Gasol. Hill is OK, but Collison is better in the 3rd big/garbage/energy guy role.

    Additionally, as Darius suggests in the main post, I don’t see how the Lakers can cover Durant, Westbrook AND Harden, and Brooks puts all three of them out there together sometimes.
    Finally, OKC leads the league in TOs…but the Lakers are dead last in forcing them and turn the ball over quite a bit themselves, particularly adjusting for pace.

    Add in the schedule and the fatigue issues…I just can’t see the Lakers pulling this off.

  57. Every playoff round starts even–with a slight edge to the home team. That’s OKC–but the edge is slight.

    If the game degenerates to slug it out half court basketball, the Lakers could easily win–if they avoid turnovers and keep OKC off the free throw line. If the game degenerates to playground basketball, the Lakers could get blown out. Both teams will strive to play at their preferred tempo. OKC is much more capable of using a preferred tempo to score in bunches before settling back into a slower defensively oriented game–especially with a change in lineup.

    The Lakers need balanced offensive and defensive strategies, requiring Kobe to always be part of the team plan. Turnovers, steals, and unprepared three pointers are the Lakers albatross. All three can be problems for OKC as well. Balance breeds chemistry, and the Lakers need all their best chemistry all the time.

    Hill and Sessions might be bigger difference makers than many think.

  58. chibi: the bosh injury sucks. We don’t know the severity but it reminds me of the when malone reinjured himself in the playoffs in 04.

    As noted earlier Lakers problems with okc come in the 2nd half 3rd quarter to be specific. Playing a full 48 minutes is what the rest of teams in playoffs do. Something the Lakers have rarely done game 1 being the latest example. It can be done. Maybe the game 7 total team effort is what it took to get this team on track. I like our chances.

  59. anti Dwyer Abbott May 14, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Stern giftwrapped first game to Heat.Unbelievable foul calls.

  60. I’m a Laker fan but unfortunately think the Lakers will lose in 4 or 5. Thunder are just way too athletic/young and have too much fire power to overwhelm the Lakers.

    Can see Bynum not showing up and same with Pau. Kobe and mwp will play their hearts out but the rest – meh. Why do they have to be convinced to play hard – it’s the fricking playoffs and they get paid millions of dollars to play a game.

    These guys are so blessed to have the ability to get paid this insane amount of money and not even earn it.

    For the Lakers to even take a game, everything will have to go in their favor.

    Not a laker hater even though it may appear so by my comments. Just tired of watching mediocre, uninspired play by underachievers. I admire Denver’s less talented team but willingness to give it their all.

  61. We’re clearly the underdogs in this series. But if the stars align and we can steal either game 1 or 2 on the road, I think we have a shot.

    Pau and Andrew must play aggressive basketball and maximize their length and abilities down the low block. Pau is on the decline as a player, but he is still a great distributor and decision-maker. If they don’t double Andrew, I’d say he should be our #1 option. When Drew and Pau are involved on offense, they play better defense, so I hope the guards make quick decisive passes in to the post.

  62. As several commentators have noted, this series depends on which Lakers show up. If we are motivated, we have a good chance. But we need to consistently bring it. OKC is so talented and young and athletic that they can change the tide of a game in an instant. We, on the other hand, have to play a methodical 4Q of basketball in order to win against such a talented team.

    If we come out disciplined, something the Lakers shown little propensity for, then we can win. But as Darius always says, and Kurt before him, there’s a reason why they play the games. And anything can happen in a seven game series.

    I’m not fond of predictions, and though I see OKC as favorites, their advantage is not so wide requiring us to state our chances in the realm of impossibilities, vis a vis, rr. Can resurrect the we believe magic of the GSW?

  63. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2012 at 3:10 am

    If you aren’t giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, why not just go home and enjoy the rest of the time off rather than “try” to get yourself deeper into the post-season?

    Be thankful you have a team that is still playing mid-May. Be thankful you have a team that’s capable of playing through June. Be thankful you have a team that’s capable of being the last team standing mid-June. Seriously, I don’t understand where all the pessimism is from. This is a team that has the components to win a championship. A to Z. Our biggest opponents are ourselves, not the OKC Thunder or San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat. Fu<k em all. You can win the series with this team and the last thing it takes are pessimists like most of you.

  64. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2012 at 3:16 am

    I maintain that this team has an ’08 feel. For those of you who suffer from short-term memory loss, that’s the year we acquired Pau Gasol mid-season and went on to face (and lose to) the Celtics.

    Regardless of the possible outcome, my support is with my team. Even if I am the last soul that remains to believe we can win this. I am not being a die-hard-dumb-optimist, I am still in the bounds of realism. This team has what it takes, the “broken-ness” feel of the team went with Lamar and Fish. And even though I still feel for those 2 guys still, they are no longer wearing purple and gold. I believe in Jordan Hill averaging 8pts 8rbs instead. I believe in Ramon Sessions attacking the rim instead. I believe in Matt Barnes being a fully capable reserve instead. I believe that Steve Blake can average 12ppg in the next series. I believe that Bynum and Gasol can exploit our size advantage. I believe Kobe is still the best in the game despite the emergence of the game’s new stars.

    Shame on you if you do not share my passion.

  65. If the Lakers win this series against the Thunder, and somehow go on and win the championship. Just think of the headlines for Kobe’s 6th championship.

    i) Kobe’s team will have been the underdog in each series (save for Denver, until game 7) yet somehow win.
    ii) En-route to the championship: The Lakers beat the No. 1 team in the league that has the 2012 scoring champion; the 6th man of the year champion; and beat his ex-backcourt partner and friend Derek Fisher.
    iii) This is a scenario for the WCF’s: The Lakers beat the Clippers in a first ever hallway series in the finals. Kobe and Chris Paul duel it out in the 4th quarter with the 16th year player Kobe having a retro scoring night to edge Chris Paul for the finals victory.
    iv) Scenario for the finals: Kobe and the Lakers win the championship when MB reveals a secret weapon on how to guard Lebron James. Or, the Lakers beat their arch-enemy the Celtics in a final showdown against two of Kobe’s personal enemies: Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

    Kobe’s 6th championship ring story line could be fodder for twitter, headlines, tag lines story lines and blogs for ever!

  66. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Being objective about matters, I am also concerned about matchups, intensity, confidence, ego, desire and determination. That said I do not, and never ever underestimate any opponent much less so facing a very very good Thunder team.

    Being objective, I also choose not to predict outcomes that are yet to be determined. Instead, I will point out several things that are important for the team (and the fanbase) to realize:

    1. OKC is fast, young and talented. In contrast, LA is medium-paced, older and also talented.

    2. OKC has 3 stars. So do we.

    3. OKC has a newbie coach, albeit a very good one. So do we.

    4. OKC has the league’s best scorer. Guess what, so do we.

    The playoffs are about 4 Ms: match ups, mismatches, mindset and moments. Whichever team can muster all four of those things to go their way will win. Just like the quarter-split-concept in coaching: win 3 quarters (out of the 4) and you win the game.

  67. At Warren

    Thats the spirit, enough said…

    All we gotta do is believe, have faith and trust in them. Underdogs or not, Thunder will go through us.

    Men of GOD, have some FAITH…

    Lets GO!!!

  68. Just remember that OKC’s best scorer scores more on lest shots that Kobe

  69. Warren Wee Lim May 14, 2012 at 6:25 am

    ^ So?

  70. http://probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/05/14/bynum-thinks-lakers-will-win-title-if-they-focus-on-defense/

    I’m tired of Bynum talking. He’s said the same things over and over. He said the same thing after Game 1, after which we watched Mosgov and McGee repeatedly beat him down the floor. I remember how optimistic we were after his “Note to self” comment.

    Pau made a statement through action in Game 7 (and Drew was much better in that game as well, defensively). But all these sound bytes about defense are growing old fast. Just play the game, participate in team huddles, and let your defensive impact do the talking.

    I think we have a chance as long as we bring Game 7 focus to every game. And frankly if we don’t, then we don’t deserve to win anyway.

  71. @Warren Wee Lim

    great points, position and spirit.

    wondering what Kobe will say reading some of these posts and write ups on various sites (after he called the media idiots)

    and if remember correctly, the Lakers still have Kobe “Bean”Bryant. when he throws in the towel, i will accept defeat!

  72. I really do think Bynum will have an easier time this series. Perkins is a good defender but he doesn’t challenge Bynum’s shots like McGee did and he surely doesn’t run up and down the court as well, which really exposed Bynum as a plodder.

    Also they don’t have a stretch four so Westbrook will have less room in the key to operate than Lawson did.

    Don’t get me wrong I don’t have any illusions on our chances since OKC is world’s better at the 1-3 position then Denver was, but I do think it was a weird matchup for Gasol/Bynum and I expect them to have a better series.

  73. Passion and hope are great things in sports. I would love to see the Lakers pull this off; it would be awesome.

    But the matchups, the talent, the schedule, and the facts all favor Oklahoma City.

    Chris Bosh is “out indefinitely” with an abdominal strain. There is now a real possibility that Boston will make it to the NBA Finals.

  74. ShotFromTheCorner May 14, 2012 at 9:52 am

    The Lakers only real chance is to have Kobe Bryant completely buy into defending.

    If Kobe focuses on being a shut-down defender, especially on Westbrook, that allows MWP to work on Durant the entire series. Have Barnes/Hill/Sessions provide help on the double teams and clog the outlet lanes.

    But Bryant has to truly dedicate all of his energy to defense.

    Let the big men handle the load on offense, take the occasional three pointer, and simply hustle hustle hustle on defense.

    Anything less than that, and the Thunder walk over the Lakers in 5 games.

    As a by the by… I see the Finals shaping up as Spurs / Celtics this season.

    Good as the Thunder are, and as the Lakers *could* be, the Spurs are simply playing lights out right now… and they have been there before.

    And, with Bosh hurt, and perhaps done for the season, Boston just became that much nastier for Miami to deal with, and Miami has struggled with them to begin with.

  75. If you believe on those odds, then Clippers should already been eliminated. Everyone including ESPN experts have dismissed their chances. Same with the Lakers, habitual prognosticators and realist aficionados have their predictions based on numbers game, match-ups, season performance and the last series. I think the only advantage of OKC here is the home court, other than that everything comes out even in a play off series with the Lakers.

    As Laker fans and this is our home site, I think it is nice to be positive and show some homerism before the series start. You have not seen anything yet, why anticipate a loss? There is a difference between interpretation of the game that had just transpired and anticipating what will happen on a game to be held tonight. If you’re that type of fan who adheres on the latter, then where is the joy of a Laker fan in expressing it in a Laker forum?

    Long timed Lakers fans have no fear whatsoever. We have experienced the best and worst of Lakers in every era. Today is another fresh start, so whatever the problems ahead, we always believe that our team will prevail.

  76. Fisher-Cook-Harden-Collison-Nazr

    Sessions-Blake-Barnes-Hill-Pau

    Lakers will have to break even or be on the plus side every minute of these lineups.

  77. This is a series where #17 will have to put up or shut up and get out of town. The whole point of having a big center is that he can draw double teams and fouls.

    OKC’s gameplan on defense is consistently to NOT double the big men – because there aren’t any good big men, so guards like WB and Durant can get out in transition and so Ibaka can roam the paint for rebounds.

    It will be #17′s job to immediately get the punk that is Perkins into foul trouble, as the Thunder will then have to play Ibaka on him. Ibaka is still foul prone and won’t leave #17 as easily in the paint as he will leave Pau at the top of the Key.

    Kobe and Metta are going to have their hands full on the wings, every minute that they play – so for the Lakers to get enough offense in this series, our Bigs have to be dominant.

    I trust Pau will give his all, and may have another dramatically awesome performance like that game 7 against Denver, where he was BY FAR our best big man. But Pau’s time is no longer meant for him to be the #2 on this team.

    #17, you have your chance. This series rides on your shoulders, as the Thunder have built there roster to be able to always have a Fresh and long defender on Kobe (see Durant, Sefalosha, Harden).

    Don’t forget – Shaq and Kobe did this to the more talented kings in 2002. And Shaq and Kobe did this to the more talented and stacked Blazers in 2000. #17 is a player in his prime who the Thunder can’t matchup against – and who must sacrifice their offensive firepower by always keeping a Perkins/Nazr Mohammed type player in the game.

    Does #17 have it in him to be a gamer and change a series?

  78. Part I of our Thunder preview is up. (There was only supposed to be one part, but there was too much to say.)

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2012/05/14/series-preview-part-i-defending-the-thunder-offense/

  79. I have been hearing/reading/dwelling on and about the Lakers’ inevitable demise, with precincts everywhere touting the Thunder’s superior….well, EVERYTHING. Their superiority spills into the intangibles as they will be “motivated” by Harden Vengeance, Fisher Vengeance, ’09 Pau Tip-In Vengeance. I actually thought that the rousing concussion win was a sign of just how little chance we had (look at the confluence of events that had to come together for us to BARELY beat that team at home…e.g. a dub-dub from Jordan Hill, Harden not playing in the second half, Westbrook shooting terribly-props to Kobe, the Thunder’s turnover bug-a-boo leaving JUST enough of a crack in the comeback door)…

    And yet today I feel calm. Serene, even. I know how good Oklahoma City is. I know the Lakers went all Lakers in the first round and did what they do in the most difficult way possible. I know 4 games in 6 days, including a back to back, plays into the hands of the younger, more athletic, faster, blah, blah, blah-er Thunder.

    And then I went to the Four Factors.

    OKC was the second best shooting team in the league, at 52% eFG. The Lakers were way down at 13th in the league in this category. OKC was better pretty much across the board. They are better three point shooters (36 to 33), better free throw shooters (1st in the league at 81%), and better two point shooters (51 to 49). Defensively, both are top ten teams, but the Thunder are a little better, as the 4th best team compared to the Lakers’ sixth best rating (46% to 48%).

    Combine that with OKC’s stunning dominance at the Free Throw Line, and things don’t look good for the Lake Show. Nobody shoots better from the line, and nobody gets points from the line (27%) more often than the Thunder. Defensively, the Thunder are a middle of the road team, providing their opponents with free throw points on 20% of opponent attempts.

    And this is the First Major Point of Contention in this series. The Lakers, despite all that we routinely point out as weaknesses, do one thing better than anybody.

    They don’t foul.

    The Lakers allow free throw points at a 16% clip, a stark contrast with OKC’s impressive 27% offensive mark. This is going to be really, really important. So far in the playoffs, uselessness and fatigue have taken Pau and Bynum off the floor, but fouls have not. If the Lakers hold to form here against the aggressive slashers of OKC, it will go a long way towards the Lakers pulling the upset. Just mathematically speaking, if OKC wins in this area, they’ve got 55% of the Four Factors locked down, so to speak. This would negate……

    The Lakers advantages in the other categories. The Lakers are the 10th worst team in the league at turning the ball over, but OKC is the worst, giving it up on 15% of their possessions. It’s easy to see why their Free Throw game must be as good as it is for them to succeed, given how often they have possessions that don’t result in shot attempts. The Lakers are the worst team in the league at forcing turnovers, but watching OKC suggests to me that they aren’t getting stripped or intercepted as much as they are being reckless and overly-aggressive with the ball. Points off turnovers are an area where the Lakers may be able to carve into their supposed disadvantages in this series.

    Rebounding is another area where the Lakers should* have an advantage in the series. Both teams get after at on the offensive boars (Lakers 29% ORB and Thunder 28%), both good for top ten ratings. The Lakers are 6th, the Thunder are 8th. However, defensively, the Lakers are the 5th best rebounding team in the league (tied at 75% with Dallas) while the Thunder are the 8th worst. In theory, the Thunder should have a harder time keeping the Lakers off the boards than vice versa. The asterisk is for effort, the single-most crucial factor in rebounding success, imo. If the Lakers play hard, they should take the advantage in these categories.

    So to recap, the Thunder take the shooting component and its 40%, the Lakers take turnovers and rebounding, good for 45% of the formula, and the remaining 15% comes down to those foul shots. If everything stays on paper, then the series could really come down to that last 15%, where strength meets strength.

    Tactically, the two things I wonder about are:

    1. How much of Kobe’s energy does he devote to covering Westbrook? I’m betting the Lakers go with the “Let’s try to hang until the 4th, then spring the Mamba on R-Dub if necessary.” I have doubts about this, just as I have doubts about putting Kobe on Raphael for the entire series. His d on Westbrook in that final game was inspiring, and it was the closest we’ve seen #24 look like #8 on that end of the floor in a long, long, time.

    2. Everybody’s kvetching about who’s gonna guard Harden, but watching the first two games of OKC v. Dallas, what struck me is how he plays a very aggressive form of Kobe’s “Rover” role for the Thunder. He blew up a number of Dallas crunch time possessions by leaving his man and going after the ball. Will the Lakers recognize this? Can they make him pay for voluntarily putting himself out of position if he fails to come up with a steal or force a turnover?

    The Last of the Shaq/Kobe era champions won the Western Conference when they were able to get by the Kings. I always felt there was a subtle psychological shift in that series. After blowing the Lakers out in Game 3 at Staples, and then having BSB snatch a 3-1 lead from them, the Kings started to think and strut and act as if they were the favorites in the series. Instead of the scrappy underdog, the Kings were favored to close out the series, especially with 2 of the last three in Moo City. I always thought that thinking of themselves as the favorites put just enough pressure on the Kings to help the Lakers, and it sure seemed that way in Game 7. I can only hope that the Thunder, clearly identified as the favorites, have a little of this agita. I tend to doubt it, because KD and Harden are stone cold killers, but you never know.

    Either way, I’m not that worried. That’ll change in 7 hours or so I’m sure. My heart tells me the Lakers are in trouble. My Mom graciously sprung for tickets to Game 4 on Saturday, and I don’t want her first in- person Laker game in 11 years to be a funeral. My heart is telling me the Lakers are in trouble, but the numbers are suggesting they’ve got more than a puncher’s chance in this series.