Lakers/Thunder Game 2: Some Losses Just Hurt More

Darius Soriano —  May 16, 2012

Long time commenter Snoopy2006 said it well after the game ended:

When your team fights so hard the entire game – despite being overmatched, just fighting hard, uglying the game up, instigating the physicality – you become invested in every play. You start believing, you start living and dying with each play. When you’re up by 7 with the game almost over, you start to feel hope – which many of us didn’t think possible after Game 1. And when you give that up after 46 grueling, agonizing minutes – it’s heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking. Yep. That about sums it up.

The Lakers had this game won. Up 5 with two minutes left in the game, all the Lakers really had to do was milk some clock and create some points. Any points would have done – FT’s, a jumper, anything that gave them just the slightest bit of extra cushion while also draining some of those precious seconds off the game clock.

They did the opposite, however. A bad pass by Kobe was picked off by Kevin Durant and he raced the other way for a dunk. Three point game. Then Steve Blake telegraphed a pass that Russell Westbrook – Blake’s man, btw – jumped at to tip away that ultimately grazed Kobe’s arm before sailing out of bounds for another turnover. While that didn’t directly produce any OKC points, it shifted momentum a bit more in their direction. Two possessions later James Harden got a layup in transition to cut the lead to one. Then, after OKC fronted the post, deflected a pass, and turned the Lakers possession into a scramble, Kobe missed a three pointer that OKC took the other way. On that possession, Durant used a high P&R to shake free to the sideline where he hit a floater for the go-ahead basket.

With the Lakers trailing by one and only 18 seconds left they ran the clock down to 5 seconds before OKC gave their last team foul to make the Lakers inbound again. On that final possession, the Lakers ran a nice screen action to try and free Kobe going to the weak side of the floor but the D read it pretty well and Ron, in an alert move, passed to a wide open Steve Blake in the corner who fired up a three pointer that missed.

Game over. Heartbreak ensues.

What makes this loss so difficult to deal with is the fact that the Lakers forced OKC to play nearly an entire game outside of their comfort zone. They made the appropriate defensive adjustments to make their offense sputter, holding them to only 77 points on 42% shooting. The Lakers played the P&R much better, hedging higher and harder to pressure the ball handler and contest shots when he tried to pull up after turning the corner. When OKC tried to compensate for the extra help by rotating the ball out of this action, the Lakers weak side defenders read their passes perfectly, deflecting passes out of bounds and picking several off outright. On the curl plays that the Thunder run to get Durant going, the approach was the same – big men left their own man to clog the paint, make KD’s catches more difficult, and then contested shots when he did make catches that he tried to turn into the easy baskets he got in game one. This scrambling, active approach on D limited the Thunder to only 34 points in the paint while allowing them to only shoot 4-17 on shots in the 10-15 foot range.

Offensively, the Lakers also played a style that made the Thunder work. They pounded the ball inside relentlessly, playing bully ball through classic post ups and power back downs from the wing by Kobe and Ron. Thirty-nine of the Lakers seventy-eight shots came in the restricted area and fourteen more came from within 15 feet. The message was clear that the Lakers were going to play a physical, taxing game on offense and for most of the night it kept them close. The pace was what the Lakers wanted, the grinding nature of the possessions was more suited to them, and for most of the night it worked on the scoreboard even if it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.

It needed to be for all of the night, however. And it wasn’t.

The Lakers fell short and now must re-group while understanding that what they did tonight must be repeated, even if it will be difficult to do so. The Lakers are the overmatched team and with that must come a desperation to compete even when the odds don’t favor them. Tonight was the perfect example of what needs to happen even if botched play down the stretch robbed them of seeing a winning result for their efforts.

And while this game will stay with these players – especially Kobe – for some time, there is no time to sulk over the result. They must take inspiration from the good, stew over what went wrong, and repeat their effort from this game on Friday. It’s really the only way.

Darius Soriano

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48 responses to Lakers/Thunder Game 2: Some Losses Just Hurt More

  1. I wonder if Mike Brown was congratulating the team on a win during that OKC timeout with 2 minutes to go.

  2. Why was Kobe taking the ball out of bounds on the play that Kevin Durant stole the ball? Kobe had 6’10 Durant on him and he did no up-down ball fake, he held the ball high and then tried to pass from that position with long armed Durantula!

    MWP or Matt Barnes are the ones that usually make the inbound pass. No one else takes the ball out of bounds other than those two. There’s a reason, too. It’s a skill!

  3. Too much for Steve Blake…

    If he hit that shot, the whole post, comments, expectations, haters, refs, year…would have been different…Not blaming on him AT ALL, but hey, welcome to history making. Moments we’ll remember forever…We can’t blame on the refs, as they call the game in a very smart way. No need to expose it. Lakers did an AWESOME job getting miracle #1 done (entering the end of the 4th close to the oponent). But miracle #2 was the x-factor. Sad it was Blake to hold that weight…

    I’m proud of every single Laker player tonight, even Blake. We did what we suppose to do. And Kobe’s turnovers…

    …the cherry on top of Stern’s ice cream…

  4. ouch….i thought we won already…sad to say we lost again…damn….why did the lakes just hold on to the ball and waste few seconds instead of trying to score….let’s hope 2 home games are winnable and we can steal game 5…still….go lakers

  5. this is the most painful loss since game 4 of the 2008 finals

  6. Not going to beat a good team when your small forward is 2 for 10 and your 2 point guard are averaging 5 points a game, together.

    Just shows how bad thus NEW scouting staff is. Lakers have not had a good draft pick in 7 years and they just gave away a 1st round choice for another worthless point guard in Sessions.

    Sure teams will be standing in line to pay this guy $5 or $6 minutes next year.

    You can’t win in the NBA with the worst point guards and worst bench in the NBA. And aging superstars can’t play 1 on 5 basketball. Nice job front office.

    I won’t watch one minute of the Spurs-Heat finals. Time has come Laker fans to blow it up. We had a good run but nothing is forever.

    Hope they can at least win one game. 8 straight 2nd round losses is rather embarrassing.

  7. Monumental bummer of a loss. This was the equivalent of an NFL team having the lead, going to a prevent defense, only to see the other team march down the field for the winning score.

    After going up 75-68 the lakers went to that ‘prevent’ defense and tried to milk too much time off the clock (and on the defensive end trying too hard not to foul), ultimately leading the team to lose its aggressiveness and assertiveness which had gotten them the lead. This ‘prevent’ mindset, I think, led directly to Kobe’s horrible turnover, and to mix in another sports metaphor that turnover was like a boxer ahead on points in the final round letting their guard down and getting tagged on the chin, and then spending the rest of the fight hanging on the ropes trying to run out the clock.

    I’m rambling, but that’s because I’m so bummed.

  8. Karma for all those times we gave it to the Blazers.

  9. Buzz Lightyear May 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    In the immortal words of Bill Belechick, “You are what your record says you are”

    The Lakers “record” came back to bite them in the posterior tonight

    —The Lakers record of standing around on offense and watching Kobe Bryant shoot 35%

    —The Lakers record of TAFKARA/WMP combining spectacular defense with spectacular moments of brain-lock on offense (how many passes did he throw 10 feet over the head of the intended target?)

    —The Lakers record of failing to a starting quality NBA point guard

    —The Lakers record of failing to find ANYONE who can consistently hit an open jumper/3-pointer. San Antonio seems to be bristling with such players. Why can’t the Lakers find any?

    —The Lakers record of getting a lead, and then failing to continue to do the things that brought them the lead.

    —Etc., etc., etc.

    I was somewhat surprised the Lakers had a good chance to win this game, given the failures to stick with the defensive game plan, the number of uncontested open jump shots they gave up, the number of uncontested open jump shots they didn’t just miss, but missed full-on Brick City clang-off-the-backboard, the failure of anyone besides Kobe, Pau, and Drew to accomplish anything productive.

    And with all that, they were up 7 with two minutes to play…and they choked. They went into “stand around and watch Kobe” mode, they quit being aggressive either offensively or defensively, and they deserved every bitter moment of that bitter loss.

    Until the Laker players, coaches, and front office make a firm commitment to stick with the game plan, quit becoming Kobe’s spectators on offense, and find players that can address the Lakers deficiencies, 2nd-round playoff meat is all they deserve to be.

  10. From Yahoo Sports. Thus says it all.The Lakers had the ball with 18.6 seconds left, down one, but Bryant waited until there were six seconds left in the game to drive and force the Thunder to use the foul left that they had to give. Then, on a team featuring two seven footers that can score and pass, the Lakers drew a play that featured Blake (and, eventually, presumably, Bryant) in the opposite corners for 3-pointers. The ball went to Blake, Blake missed, Bryant pouted (not fouling to stop the clock soon after), and the Thunder stole a win.

  11. Heartbreaking is the word. Whether you had hope or not coming into the game, the team gave us hope, and then that hope was shattered. This is different for us, because we were an underdog and almost pulled it off. We are almost always a favorite. Perhaps Game 6 of 2006 is similar, but this is worse.

  12. I don’t think I’ve been this bummed after a loss since we got eliminated by the Spurs in 2003, and I think that was just because it was hard to fathom losing again after three straight titles. I know this wasn’t an elimination game, but it does hurt like one. We HAD IT, but instead of taking control of the series going home, we blew it and put ourselves in a nearly impossible hole.

  13. Thunder are up 2 – 0 and did what they were supposed to do which is win at home. If you want to look at it from a glass half full.

    Lakers sure did give one away. Those 2 minutes from Kobe have to be the worst since the Detroit finals. I commend him for the outstanding play he displayed all game. That turnover stands out. That’s a mental mistake which are usually based off fatigue. Don’t think he thought the pass through. Too easily telegraphed.

    Lakers dominated this game from start to finish so more things they can build on for game 3. Mike Brown made outstanding adjustments ones which I won’t question him again and am on board with him returning next year. He absolutely took Westbrook out the game walled off the paint and dared OKC bigs to beat Lakers from outside. We finally saw ELITE level coaching. That’s why he got the job.

    Instead of looking at the back to back. Game 3 is winnable. OKC has confidence but so do the Lakers. Bynum was a beast on defense and it was absurd he shot 4 FT’s. LAkers will have juice at home and need 3s to fall. It can be done.

  14. If Kobe isn’t going to shoot well he has to help in other areas 21 shots for 20 points so far this series coupled with 2 and 4 assists games. Thabo has a good read on his game has for some time but doing other things may get him more space to score.

    Too many times he got the ball with no other option but shoot ( that can be blamed on Sessions he dribbles dribbles dribbles clock every possession). I trust Kobe and he will lead Lakers to a victory but may need to do it other ways than what he’s trying so far.

  15. it can be done…but will it? i highly doubt it. lakers played a pretty good game and okc played marginal and they still lost. sadly, this is going to be a repeat of last year…a sweep.

  16. no need to be sad now, since we already loss. we just need to accept it, and move on from here. we are still in this series. lets just think that they covered their court (not really well). we must do the say except to cover gm 3 and 4 with pride and hunger. we had them for 46 minutes. maybe next game we can finish them for 48 minutes. i still believe coz Lakers are born winners.

  17. “The sky has fallen” would be the best line to sum up the game.

  18. i think that OKC is looking pretty beatable now. this was unfortunate, but it should also bring confidence. i don’t think that the Lakers are really overmatched.

    i think that both teams are very evenly matched, except that OKC is more aggressive. that makes sense since they’re younger. the Lakers have experience, so they need to execute.

    if the Lakers commitment to execution deepens from this game, they will win the series, barring acts of God. most of the game, the Laker’s discipline had OKC stymied. if the Lakers had shot just a little bit better, they would have won easily(well, in the sense of having the flow of the game in their control).

    it is only natural that OKC will make it’s runs, they are very potent. the Lakers really do control their destiny in this series. if they work very hard, they really can win this in 6. i’m not seeing the future, i’m just not hanging my head. if the team doesn’t compete, like in game 1, then obviously they cannot win.

    i saw a team prepared to win, talking and scheming. they can work it out. i see hope in MB’s system. i think that that’s what he really wants to bring, a team that works it out together. personally, i hope that it works. i’m not saying i know that it will, i’m not saying it can’t either, both extrmes are not based in reality, the games still have to be played. if we know for sure what will happen, it won’t be any fun. i’d rather have hope, especially since they showed that they really CAN beat OKC.

    the reason this game hurt so many fans is because they thought the Lakers were going to win. that’s something that Lakers fans haven’t had in this series yet, before tonight.

  19. I don’t think the Lakers went into “stand around and watch Kobe bail us out” mode in the last 2 minutes. Sure, our offense bogged down and Kobe was left to shoot the ball with not much time on the shot clock, but Kobe’s gotta at least play a decoy and not just stand around and watch the other 4 teammates try to make a play. We’ve seen what can happen when RW was caught paying attention to Kobe and left Blake wide open for a 3. Even if Kobe does not have the stamina at this point to single-handedly create his own shot, he’s gotta at least pretend to run off screens or whatever just to keep the defense off balance. If he’s just going to stand around on the weakside and pout when the ball doesn’t come to him, then I’m sorry we’ll be hard-pressed to force a game 5.

  20. Well that’s tough – MB made some adjustments, let Jordan Hill guard KD, Harden was stopped by Kobe, Westbrook was slowed and the Lakers set the pace of the game. The Lakers should take heart that they SHOULD have won this game. Some execution the last two minutes and they win. But they didn’t. They have to play similarly well-executed games, letting Jordan Hill and MWP slow the Thunder’s big guns. I have to admit I was more impressed than I had anticipated being by MB’s coaching adjustments. The Lakers can beat this team.

  21. It’s damage control and looking forward to the future time. The Lakers players did try to win, they actually played their millionaires’ guts out, Kobe included.

    However, this team needs a new coach with a different approach. Brown is not a bad man, so pay him the full severance and free him to enjoy his life. Get George Karl to come to LA for the next season, he is one of the winningest coaches in the NBA who can get full attention from the stars. He’s also crazy and clever enough to be able to make some systemic changes that can rejuvenate the team.

    The window is small. Kobe & Co. is not getting any younger. So it’s now or never.

  22. Warren Wee Lim May 17, 2012 at 2:41 am

    So we have now lost both games with a combined margin of 80 points.

  23. This is sooooo hard to swallow, we had it, we made the adjustments and GAVE IT AWAY on a silver platter. You can’t keep harping on the last play we SHOULD NOT have been in that position in the first place. C’mon, I realize that we are not the Lakers of old, but now that Bosh is out do I have to see the Celtics slip into the finals????? Noooooooooooooooooo.

  24. I understand we have 4 post players, I get it. But Kobe is no longer a wing player, he needs to be in the low post to maximize effectiveness and minimize turnovers.

    I don’t understand this, we watched Jordan win 3 titles shooting from one spot, why not copy the blueprint.

    Kobe can no longer dribble or successfully negotiate his way to the basket on a regular basis, let him shoot 25 fadeaways from the left block….simple solution to all the turnovers and broken plays…..

  25. Heartbreaking.

    Steve Blake Bad Pass.

    Lakers dont understand that Thunder have foul to give so don’t go early.

    Steve Blake wide open 3 – not even close. How many think Fisher makes that 3 if the roles were reversed? I’d bet my life fisher makes that 3. Role players have to step up to win championships. The wide open 3 was the true backbreaker.

    Ugh.

  26. D-Wade and LeBron James are crying for big guy who can help they win. Lakers have two big guys, and they forgot in the final 2 min. It’s not heartbreaking loss, it’s dump loss. This Lakers team playing like Atlanta, Philadelphia, they found a way to lose at the end.

  27. This was prob the most heartbreaking loss ive encountered personally in the kobe era – 1st time i think ever (or since the horrible loss in the finals 08) that as soon as blake’s 3 rimmed out, I turned off the tv and didnt watch any postgame and still havent…Heartbreaking to say the least

    Really hope we can somehow somehow win 2 games at home, and at least have some hope now that SOME adjustments were seen to slow these guys down. Looking grim either way you slice it in that over the next 2 games the most likely scenarios will. E either a 3-0 hole and the lakers are in do or die in potentially the last home game o season…OR rebound tmw split home games and head to OKC w them looking to close out series. To win 4/5 next games is almost imPossible against this team, only HOPE now is to push them to 7…All starters need to be as physical as possible, esp bigs, to wear them down over next couple games to stand a chance…Just hope we are not he ones worn down after last 7 game series and tempo of thunder..BOTTOM LINE: GO LAKERS keepin the faith!!!

  28. Forgot to mention that, as much as i love him, kobe cost us the game in the last 2 min w the turnovers…need to establish bynum/gasol in post and play inside out ESP in the 4th qtr…Kobe needs to see more PnR and off ball action, which would happen if sessions would show up for a change. He is working way too hard of the dribble and heavy isos at this stage in his career and simply needs to get the ball and play post heavy if he wants to go iso…Cant believe we blew that lead still…crazy when you think about ’10 gasol tip in buzzer beater to beat OKC, how that game changed landscape of series with a win, and we won the whole shibang that yr – This loss def could have same impact in opposte direction…We need to come out fearless, lots of energy and physicality and try to gain momentum to hold home. Would love to hear what others have to say about OKC’s/la’s adjustments for game 3.

  29. I commented to my brother (the Spurs fan) that these past two seasons felt a lot like the 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 seasons where the team had pretty much reached a point where it was probably time to break up the band.

    Last night didn’t remind me of that, but it reminded me of 1991 as we all watched Magic’s Lakers hand the torch to Michael’s Bulls – when you just realized that there was no way to argue that – at that moment – the other team was superior, and this was their time.

    I don’t know if this season is going to be the Thunder’s time or if it’s going to be the Spurs’ defying age, but last night for me felt like the official “It’s not our time anymore.” That was the kind of game that we used to win. Now someone else is winning them.

    I’m still hoping the Lakers can pull it out. I will still be a giant ball of stress as each game is played – hoping with every fiber that the Lakers will flip some switch and somehow be better, smarter, more solid than the Thunder, but I don’t honestly believe it will happen.

  30. Bryant gave only hollow excuses, ignoring the obvious: He coughed up this game, allowing the Lakers to somehow waste a seven-point lead in the final 128 seconds. He lost a pass to Durant, let another go through his hands, missed a 3-pointer and had a shot thrown back by James Harden. It was two minutes, eight seconds of chaos, one blunder after another. Never has Bryant looked so clumsy – so mortal – in such a big moment.

    From J.Luden Yahoo Sports. Kobe shooting 43% in this years playoffs with over 3 turnovers per game is not that far off his season avarage. As is Metta shooting 31% in playoffs which is what he was for 50 of the first 62 games.

    The point I guess is Kobe is still very good but every team knows he is going to control the game at the end. Sad as it is Lakers probably win if Brown put 4 guards and Metta in the last 2 minutes and kept the ball out of Kobe’s hands. Kobe is not immortal anymore. And for guys like Jordan and Kobe that is impossible to except. A “my bad” in his interview might have been nice.

  31. Had that “my dog died yesterday” feeling in the morning upon awakening.

    I blame this one solely on Kobe. His play in the last 3 minutes was.. not Kobe-esque.

  32. Matt R,

    Good post. I sent an email to that effect to Robert last night; basically, I think if the Lakers had held on and won, it would have been more or less like when they pulled out Game 1 of the 91 Finals in Chicago. The 2012 Thunder isn’t as good as the 91 Bulls of course, but I don’t think Blake’s shot dropping would have turned the series.

    Doesn’t make the loss any less frustrating.

  33. Sessions 2 pts 2 reb 1.5 ast 20% fg

    Fisher 4 pts 1 reb 1.5 ast 30% fg

  34. Kevin_ @13

    I agree with you all the way especially about the coaching. He made some quality tweaking within the parameters of his model/system. Cut a couple of bonehead decisions on the court and the sky would be a little bluer over Staples today.

  35. Definitely lost sleep last night because of that late game collapse. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought that my boy Durant got traded to us sometime during the 4th qtr the way Kobe, basically, assisted him for a layup on that inbounds pass. Had nothing to do with fatigue, it was just a bad pass n my opinion.

    Can’t be upset with Ron-Ron. Fact of the matter is that Kobe WASN’T open and Blake was WIDE open. Just so happened that he missed the shot.

    Much respect to Coach Mike Brown and his staff for the Defensive Adjustments that stymied, arguably, the most potent offense that’s left in the playoffs.

    Bottom Line: We gift wrapped the victory for them. It’s 1 game at a time, now lets go home and get that 1.

  36. You know were playing 4 on 5 out there, and it just does’nt seem fair to dump on Kobe so much. The guy played his ass off and came up short at the end. I’m more concerned over how Sessions is playing. He looks scared. And He’s playing scared. Were getting absolutely nothing from our point guard spot. Give the Lakers some credit for playing as hard as they did.

  37. Phil Jackson should have been proud of the game the Lakers played last night. They regrouped after the thrashing they got in game 1, figured out what they needed to do, and played a great game. I would have like to see Gasol inbound the ball in the last 2 min since the inbound plays were not working. He is a much better passer and has the height to get the ball over players. For all the Chicken Littles who think the team should be blown up, last night was an emphatic no!

  38. Everybody today in the media is blaming Kobe’s offense or lack there of in the final two minutes. But it was his lack of defense that cost the Lakers the game. Two blow byes by Harden right by Kobe to allow the Thunder to tie the game. Kobe was the guy who got every loose ball. Every defensive stop. Not only did he stop being Kobe on offensive in crunch time… He more importantly stopped being Kobe on defense in crunch time. That’s why I asked right before the game ended… “the end of Kobe?”. In what might be his last chance to tie Jordan… He swung and missed over and over.

  39. PG’s in this series not named Westbrook

    A. 1-6 fg 5 pts 6 reb 4 ast

    B. 2-10 fg 4 pts 4 reb 3 ast

    C. 3-10 fg 8 pts 2 reb 3 ast

    2 of those players play for Lakers.

  40. We told you Ramon Sessions was hot garbage.

  41. Unbelievable. I’ll continue to root & hope the Lakers can pull off the miracle & win games 3 & 4, and go on to win the series, but logically the season ended in the last 2 minutes of last night’s game. At least Kobe won’t be able to blame a teammate for not getting his 6th ring.

  42. I watched every minute of that game.

    Why is the blame going to Kobe – when the Lakers as a team scored 75 points.

    I know they played good defense – but . . . 75 points, against a non-dominant team on defense.

    This isn’t the Celtics of 2008 the Lakers are playing. The Thunder are a middle of the pack defensive team.

    Yet again – 75 points.

    Lakers can still win this series – so long as the team doesn’t give up like the fans seem to want to.

    Win game 3, and then pressure is on OKC in game 4.

    If the Lakers tie this series 2-2; then its an epic game 5 battle.

    So they just have to focus and win this next game. Can only win one – and lose one – at a time.

    Might be helpful if they score more than 75 points though.

    And by the way – Kobe played nasty defense all game. The Laker’s perimeter defending is solely relying on him to guard 2 positions – SG and PG. OKC has two very good athletes that Kobe has to deal with on that end, while at the same time, two very strong athletes that wear on Kobe in the post.

    Its the same thing as Lebron playing the power forward position for the heat. That type of stuff can be done for quarters at a time. But to ask a player to get no relief for games and series is just crazy.

    I fully expect the Lakers to win game 3 so long as they have the right mindset at home and so long as #17 decides he wants to play hard.

  43. Cdog,

    Stop grinding the Andrew Bynum axe. We get it, you don’t like him. He wasn’t the problem yesterday. The team as whole played well and lost that game in the last two minutes. And Kobe’s fingerprints are all over the last two mintues. It is what it is.

  44. Kobes fingerprints were all over the whole game. But who else was fearless enough to step up and shoot the damn ball?? Bynum was being fronted the whole quarter. The Lakers never tried to post Pau. Ron Ron wasnt making any shots. And just forget the point guards in that quarter. (Or for the series so far.) Cmon Man stop harping on Kobe’s failures. Sheesh!! at least he has the Nuts to step up and fight hard!!!

  45. Tough game for you guys last night – great defense and scheme. I thought Steve Blake was great after the game when he was interviewed – it must really suck for him, but some go in, some don’t. It may just be our year this year.

    I do want to say that the author of this blog does a really nice job. Most of the other team’s sites like this suck. Ours is really good, but you guys are blessed to have a writer like Darius.

  46. #45. Thank you for the kind words. Much appreciated. Not sure if the OKC site you reference is Daily Thunder, but that site is very good and Royce does a great job with it.

  47. Thanks Thunderer – appreciate the visit.