Lakers/Thunder: Free Throws Win Games

Phillip Barnett —  May 18, 2012

If you’ve ever played a lick of organized hoops, you’ve had at least one coach who stressed the importance of hitting free throws. Tonight, the age old adage of free throws winning games came to fruition as the Lakers connected on 41 of 42 from the charity stripe to cut the Thunder series lead to 2-1. Through three games, we’ve seen the Lakers get blown out, take a gut-wretching loss and gut out a three-point win. The following are what I felt were a few keys to tonight’s win.

  • Ramon Sessions finally got off to a good start tonight. He spent a lot of time in the paint, hitting on a few floaters in the lane and got a few layups. And when he didn’t score, his penetration freed up open shots for others, including the three-pointer that Ron hit at the end of the half. During the half, Darius tweeted that Sessions only recorded eight points and five assists in his previous three games combined; tonight, he had 10 points and four assists at the half. Although he didn’t see the floor much in the second half, and when he did he wasn’t much of a factor, it was nice to finally see his presence felt in a positive manner.
  • Continuing with our PG theme, after Blake missed the game winner in Game 2, he responded tonight with a decent game off the bench and helped to close out the game tonight with some solid defense on Russell Westbrook and James Harden down the stretch. He hit two jumpers about midway through the fourth and shot 4/5 from the field for 12 points. He even had eight rebounds (!).
  • Andrew Bynum didn’t have the greatest shooting night tonight, just two-for-13 from the field, but he physically punished the Thunder bigs when he caught the ball with deep position. It was interesting watching him fight for position with Kendrick Perkins, who is no push over. Both bigs won individual battles on various possessions, but Drew was able to draw several fouls on the Thunder bigs to get to the free throw line, where he hit 11 of 12 (the Lakers only miss from the line). As the game progressed, Bynum seemed to lose interest in fighting and calling for the ball and the Lakers as a unit seemed disinterested in trying to get him the ball, which led to a few forced possessions down the stretch.
  • Kobe also didn’t have the greatest shooting night (nine-for-25 for the second straight game), but he found a way to get to the line 18 times — without a miss. There was a stretch in the third quarter where the Lakers did nothing but run a mid-post isolation on the wing for Kobe against Thabo Sefolosha which resulted in a few empty possessions. They switched things up with a couple of high P&Rs, once with Gasol, once with Bynum, and he was able to take a couple of uncontested mid-range jumpers, which he knocked down. In the fourth quarter he took advantage of match-ups and switches, including two straight jump shots over Fish and a drawn foul on the smaller Russell Westbrook.
  • Despite the Laker win, Kevin Durant continued to play out of his mind. He had 31 points on 23 shots which included a monster jam over Jordan Hill; an awkward, off balanced shot that kissed off the glass after bouncing off Ron Artest; and another wild shot that he flipped in while falling down. At some point, KD is going to fall back to earth, but if he continues to shoot as well as he has all series, the Lakers are just going to have to focus their defensive efforts to stopping everyone else. He’s been absolutely incredible.

Tomorrow, the series picks up again as tonight was the first of a rare post-season back-to-back. Lets hope the guys get much rest, tomorrow will be another dog fight with the young guns of the Thunder.

Phillip Barnett

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48 responses to Lakers/Thunder: Free Throws Win Games

  1. Both this thread and the announcers talked about the bad shooting night Kobe had. My question is — were you all watching the same game?

    Think hard about the 4th qtr and didn’t you see that Blake and Pau were simply not going to take any shots further out than 10 feet? Also, Pau was pushed to the free-throw line, then further out toward the 3pt line. He accepted this and became a ‘top of the circle’ point guard. The Lakers essentially were playing with one big down low, three players who preferred not to shoot, and Kobe. The Thunder were doubling and fronting Bynum so he couldn’t get a pass from Pau and two men played close to Kobe at all times. Pau was continually only looking to pass to Kobe and, finally, Kobe had to come close to get the ball – making defending both of them easier.

    With Pau feeding Kobe throughout the clock, he inevitably got the rock with less than 6 seconds left any number of times – and these were possessions out near the 3pt line.

    Just exactly how was he supposed to get good, high percentage shots out of that kind of offense? If this is how the Lakers will play, then I really fear for tomorrow. Yes, we won, but the end was not really pretty – Kobe just was able to will the ball into the basket.

  2. Great win. Felt like a loss a number of times. But the Lakers pulled it out, and sank all their big free throws.

    Just vintage Kobe tonight. And nice shot hitting from Blake in the 4th.

    I said this in the last thread but I’m curious to if others in this thread think the same:

    Shouldn’t Russell Westbrook be suspended for that Temper Tantrum he threw in the first half when he 1st punched Artest in the Back of the Leg (going for the knee) followed by straight up shoving him down?

    If Artest makes that same action – its 10 games. Russell Westbrook? Causes the other team to get a technical.

    All I ask for is consistency – that was a dangerous and dirty play going for Artest’s knee – and the league shouldn’t stand for it.

  3. I highly recommend watching the post game interviews with Vic the Brick. He always asks Pro-Laker questions: “How did you feel playing against a legend like Kobe Bryant?”. “when the Lakers wiped your lead away, what did you think?”. “the Lakera are the graleateat team in the history of the NBA. …. Uh, I don’t have a question. Just a statement. “

  4. Kobe on Fisher, “I love him but he’s a midget.”

  5. Many on here swore Lakers couldn’t compete with Thunder. And Lakers have dominated the pace last 8 quarters.

    Credit to Mike Brown his defense is playing great. His adjustments are exactly what turned this series around.

    Westbrook game 1 10-15 fg. Since 12-35 fg

    RW, KD, JH each had 1 assist. Exactly the way Lakers want them to play. Iso heavy and Jumpers.

  6. Free Throws are a huge part of success at this great game of basketball! It’s one of the things I had taught as a coach because of how strategy changes due to effectiveness of players to hit shots at the line after creating “and-1″ opportunities! Not unhappy Lakers let Shaq go in favor of Kobe, this as one of the biggest reasons why. This is WHY Kobe is so “clutch”! Gotta gets his fingers fixed, may help hang on to ball better… just sayin’

  7. gonna miss Kobe when he retires for good.

  8. nimble: no doubt about it. One of a kind. 36/7/6/2 in essentially a elimination game. Great all around game.

    Bynum 2/13 (who played with hard all game), Ron 3/10 (defense has been great all 3 games), Subpar Jordan Hill game, Subpar Barnes game, 14 bench points and Lakers STILL won vs Thunder. Lakers beat one of the best teams in the league when no one played to their capabilities except Blake.

  9. Jeff Van Gundy was channeling his inner Darius, talking about the economy of dribbles when it comes to Kobe. You can see the difference when he’s decisive. And when he tries to multiple pump-fake routine, just like Darius called, he got stuck, turned around, and promptly turned the ball over to Westbrook.

    As Kobe’s aged, so little of his game has slipped (skills-wise) so the 1 area that has is glaringly obvious: his handle is weaker than I can ever remember. Guess there had to be some penalty for playing through those finger injuries. But his dribble seems higher and clumsier than ever. Losing the ball out of bounds against Fish was just 1 example.

    The point is, it’s imperative that Kobe minimize his dribbles not only for the sake of decisiveness, but because his handle is a relative weakness now. That’s why I didn’t like him trying to push past Fisher in the backcourt with plenty of time (to close the quarter).

    Hill, Sessions, and Blake will have to come tonight and buy our big guns some rest. And hopefully Barnes will do something resembling a basketball play at some point in this series.

  10. finally…yes yes yesssssss!!!! the same strategy for the next 3 games and for sure 4-1 score card baby….go lakers

  11. Moving picks and bear hugs are not fouls this series. Every Laker is getting rooted out of their spots ala Boston 2008. Is Barnes’ ankle or head the problem? 2nd playoff year in a row that he’s coming up m.i.a. His balance is off and he’s totally reactionary on defense thus far. The refs are allow the defender to lead with the elbow before the play engages. He’s physically overmatched so I expected more savvy from Barnes than what he’s been showing.

  12. Not to whine about the refs, but Perkins’ moving screens are so far outside the rules it’s just comical, and he sometimes sets moving screens three or four times each possession.

    If they actually called him for this, he’d foul out with nine or 10 minutes to play in the first quarter.

    What he gets away with is the most egregious violation of the rules since the modern refs basically chucked the carrying violation from the rule book.

    I’m not sure what would make a purist’s head explode more quickly: watching Perkins set screens with no fouls called, or watching guys like Nash or Chris Paul palm the ball each dribble with no whistles, ever.

  13. I was right on 4 out of 5 of my Keys to victory bullet points.
    The only one I got wrong was turnovers.
    -Pau and Andrew played big. Not too effective on offense, but they scored, rebounded, defended and blocked shots enough to win.
    -Sessions has to show up and be aggressive. He did.
    -One bench player has to score 12 or more points. Steve Blake showed up with 12 big points.
    -OKC can’t get hot from the outside. They didn’t
    -We have to limit our turnovers and force OKC to at least hit their avg on Turnovers. We didn’t and OKC didn’t.

    The Lakers have to do ALL these things in order to have a shot to win.

    We can pencil in Kobe for his 28+ and Metta for 13pts. The x-factors are Sessions, Pau and Andrew and who on the bench will give us a shot in the arm for that game. Between Blake , Barnes and Hill, one of them has to get 12+ points plus whatever the other two give.

    My steak was good and I don’t feel the urge to get hammered to dull the pain of my team losing.
    For tonight, Life is Good.

  14. Durant is due for one play-off choke game in his career…. Hopefully tomorrow or game 5.

  15. @12

    a night cap after a great victory is never offensive!

    need a bottle of wine – stores close at 2PM – it’s CA law!

  16. i’m really happy that Kobe stuffed Fishers mouth!

  17. Game 1 was very depressing. Game 2 was very disappointing. This game was relief with a tinge of hope.

  18. this game was so close, i almost couldn´t bear watching… kevin durant is the only guy in the league who is just like kobe: the game is never over when he is on the floor and you always fear his last shot is going in. He is the future of this league.

    imo, the hero of this game was steve blake. I know that 12 points are not a lot, but his defense in the 4th quarter was great and he hit the most timely shots when nothing else was even close to going in. he went hard after rebounds (something all our guards must do with westbrook and harden around) and not once did you see fear in his eyes.

    most important adjustment for game 4: convince pau to do what kobe did in this game. catch and go as soon as the ball is in his hands. we need points from him and he needs to draw some fouls. he was great tonight in the 1st quarter and then stopped doing it and it was just hard to watch.

    GO LAKERS

  19. if one watches the interview before the 4th quarter of Game 2 (twoooooooooooo0

    Scottie Brooks was livid after the lakers were up 63-60!

    he had no clue what to do.

    now, he took a page out of the George Karl book, and he is complaining about FT’s.

    how pathetic!

  20. 2010, RD 1, G3. OKC headed home down 2-0 to the Lakers and won, 101-96. FTAs:

    OKC 34
    Lakers 12

  21. Hillary Ocholla May 19, 2012 at 3:23 am

    @17: Interesting stat.

    Why are Thunder fans so mad about the loss?

  22. Did anyone see World Peace get tripped by Ibaka on that last play to free Durant? (luckily Durant didn’t score). Shouldn’t that be a foul…?

  23. Has anyone noticed what may be potentially going on here?

    We may have 4 small market teams in the conference finals:

    It’s almost like, the NBA has put the wheels in motion to satisfy the majority board of governors group (small market owners).

    It would be pretty fishy, if we had the trade veto, 4 teams that play in a small market in the conference finals, and the whatever the result of the draft lottery winners all benefiting small market teams.

    Wouldn’t all of this scream collusion after a drag out, kick-in-the-mud, lockout just this past fall?

    Obviously this is speculation, but it just feels like something is going on.

  24. Evidently neither the Sixers nor Pacers got their memos instructing them to fail vs the C’s and Heat, respectively.

    Can we dare hope the Lakers have a little momentum of their own going?

  25. The fact that thunder fans are complaining about how the there is a big conspiracy to let the lakers win, and Lakers are also complaining about the officiating and how there is a conspiracy to get 4 small market teams in the finals is the best proof that no shenanigans are going on.

  26. The OKC and Lakers point guard position scored about the same number of points and rebounded the same. The only difference? Lakers’ point guards did on 9/14 shooting, OKC was 9/25. When our point guards can contribute like this, we will win.

  27. Funky Chicken May 19, 2012 at 9:02 am

    While in Boston, Perkins learned from the best (KG) illegal screen setter in the game.

    The unfortunate thing is that we have perimeter guys who either go below the screen (the guards) or fight hard to go around the screen (MWP) but neither hit the screen and flail their arms the way Fisher used to. Without that kind of excessive acting job by the defender, it seems that the officials don’t call illegal screens. Hate to be one calling for more flopping in today’s game, but something needs to be done to grab the officials’ attention….

  28. Moving screens are OK in the NBA this year. It’s unbelievable what screeners are getting away with.

  29. Problem with small market team theory is that also equates to small market ratings. Spurs/Pacers would be a ratings disaster with only advertisers being Burger King and Ross Stores.

    Activator
    See now if you made friends instead of calling others out your wine problems last night might have been solved since I own a beer and wine distribution company throughout California. Be nice to fellow Laker fans!

    http://www.calbevimports.com/Italiawineimports.com

  30. I am also disgusted by Perkins and his moving screens. There are two ways to combat the moving screens.

    One, to flop or draw attention to it, as Funky noted…..Two, simply accept that moving screens will be ignored by the refs, and employ moving screens as part of the Lakers’ offensive strategy.

    Unfortunately, the Thunder have two guys who flop at any slight contact (Harden and Fish), so the second option might not be wise.

    Scratch the second option, it’s time to flop!

  31. Lakers got it last night, we have to support them again tonight, this time with strong statement from Drew and Pau. Pau should not keep on passing the ball when he’s only within the range of the rim. Pau is a great citizen of the world but he’s acting like the Catalan currency, a weak Euro. He has to protect his turf, he’s more intelligent than Perkins and Ibaka. Just make a HOOK DUNK and that will create fouls too. A small player like Ibaka or Perkins can only jump once but they cannot keep on jumping if the 7 footer keeps on persevering.

    I totally agree with Craig W., those who are criticizing Kobe at the closing minutes are not watching the game. Every Laker was looking for Kobe as their savior, why not help and aim for a good shot? Only Hill and Artest are the one fighting for possession after possession. I missed Matt Barnes, is he playing in spirit? I missed Ebanks from starter in the Denver series to a bench warmer in this series. Mbrown is too nice of a Coach to the Thunder. Thank God, we still have Kobe or else, we’re a toast!

  32. Can Andrew Goudelock handle Fisher? Offensively, he can match his points and I think he can defend the old man. Boy, I hate him talking to fellow Thunder and revealing all the secrets of Mbrown, I know it’s part of the game but he comes now to Staple as an enemy combatant who has issues to settle against his former team. The love he has developed over the years in the Southland just disappeared within our sight of his collaboration with the enemy. Shannon Brown was also in the same boat as Fisher but IMO, he’s not acting with spite like Fisher, yet SB was more effective in his production.

    The old player doesn’t want to hear this, he should retire and just fade away.

  33. Remember when my brother and I had a talk before the postseason regarding just how bad Matt Barnes will be? Because it’s a poorly kept playoff secret within NBA circles that energy guys with limited skills underperform in the playoffs when everyone is playing hard. Well… Matt Barnes has been worse than my brother and I predicted. Here are the KBros on Matt’s postseason….

    6. The nightmare postseason for Matt Barnes continues.

    He has had some horrendous games this playoffs, but Friday’s might have been the worst. No points, five personal fouls, a host of blow-by’s on the perimeter defensively, and three turnovers, including a killer giveaway to James Harden with just under seven minutes remaining that resulted in OKC going up by five.

    Imagine… If we could replace Barnes with someone who can add something to the floor. At least Blake can shoot. Matt is giving us nothing. Mike Brown is going to need to do someone before we head back to OKC.

  34. Remember when my brother and I had a talk before the postseason regarding just how good Andrew Bynum will be? Because it’s a poorly kept playoff secret within NBA circles that superstar guys with unlimited skills over-perform in the playoffs when everyone is playing hard. Well… Andrew Bynum has been better than my brother and I predicted. Here are the VBros on Andrew’s postseason….

    8. The magnificent postseason for Andrew Bynum continues.

    He has had some great games this playoffs, but Friday’s might have been the best. 15 points, 2/13 FG, etc.

  35. Lakers are almost certainly not going to win this series still. Not only is game 4 a must win, but they will need to win the next 3 and close it out in 6, no way they are going to OKC and winning a game 7 there. Tired legs are going to hurt the Lakers tonight, win the series or not, I’d like to see the Lakers put up a fight and not get beat in 5 games, but I am putting my money on the yougner OKC tonight.

  36. Aaron,

    It is quite obvious that Barnes is still hobbled. Watch him, He just can’t move, that is the reason for all the fouls over the series, he can’t move his feet. And he reaches.

    My question for Mike Brown would be, is a Matt Barnes at 50% really better then Ebanks at 100% ? I personally would go with Ebanks.

  37. #34. Zing!

    Aaron, this is a rule that applies to every human being in the universe:
    Regardless of knowledge or background, “speculation” is a fancy word for “guess”. Sometimes you’ll be right, sometimes you’ll be wrong. When you’re right, it helps to be gracious about it and avoid tooting your own horn. When you’re wrong, it helps to be gracious about it and acknowledge your error.

    You will always show up to acknowledge when you’ve guessed correctly (as in the case of Matt Barnes, though I’d wager his playoff woes have little to do with you and your brother’s proposition), but you virtually never acknowledge your errors (case in point: Andrew Bynum who is WOEFULLY underperforming). Why is this?

    That said, I like you (or at least, the spirit that I identify via your grammatical style) and respect your knowledge of the game. It’s just not necessary to remind everyone of it all the time, especially when you don’t balance it out with the occasional admission of defeat.

    Anyway, someone said something to the effect that the Lakers have “controlled the pace for the last 8 quarters” and I disagree. Although they should be up 2-1 in this series, they’ve been fortunate not to see OKC catch fire in these last two games- I guarantee if OKC does, it will completely unravel the Laker defensive effort. Right now, the offense isn’t cutting it and the Lakers are LUCKY that Kobe was able to bail them out at the line and make up for his ball-bobbling. The margin for error is so low for the Lakers–every little mistake they make, OKC capitalizes on. The Lakers going up 12 is nothing to OKC, but the reverse is overwhelming to the Lakers. They have to be better than they were last night to win tonight.

  38. Hillary Ocholla,

    Well, any time that a small-market team loses a big, tight playoff game to the Lakers, the refereeing is where a lot of people will go, particularly if it’s Kobe getting the calls. FTA numbers for that 2010 series, Games 3-6:

    G3 @OKC 34, LA 12
    G4 @OKC 48, LA 28
    G5 @LA 31, OKC 24
    G6 @OKC 31, LA 14

    Games in LA, total: Lakers +4
    Games in OKC, total: OKC +69

    JA Adande just posted the totals in a Tweet; no doubt he is hearing it on Twitter from OKC fans and LakerHaters.

    Also, Philadelphia had a bigger FTA margin last night than the Lakers did:

    @PHI 36, BOS 19

    On the season, the 76ers were 30th–last–in the NBA in FTA and shot 154 fewer FTs than opponents did.

    The Lakers, OTOH, were +374 in the category on the season. OKC, which was #1 in the NBA in getting to the line, was +225.

  39. Billbill,

    Hilarious.

  40. Thunder up by 5 pts in more than 2 minutes left, and lost. Lakers up by 7 pts in more than 2 mins left in Gm2, and lost. Hey look it this way, and being down 2-1 is not bad at all. Lakers could have lost Game 3, but did not. Blakes missed 3 pt shot at the buzzer is equal to Durants missed 3 pt shot last night at the buzzer. So its not too bad right. Its fair and square now. Just win game 4 by a good margin and its down to best of 3. Right guys?

  41. Billbill – great post.

    Kobe Bryant with a message to Henry Abbott:

    “I don’t give a [expletive] what you say,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports late Friday. “If I go out there and miss game winners, and people say, ‘Kobe choked, or Kobe is seven for whatever in pressure situations.’ Well, [expletive] you.

    “Because I don’t play for your [expletive] approval. I play for my own love and enjoyment of the game. And to win. That’s what I play for. Most of the time, when guys feel the pressure, they’re worried about what people might say about them. I don’t have that fear, and it enables me to forget bad plays and to take shots and play my game.”

  42. Some good contributions of our 2 bigs, Pau in the first Q and Bynum on FT with only one miss plus of course their blocks and rebounds here and there. However, for the Lakers to win this series, we need more because the OK team are relentless and physical.

    I remember the Big Dipper, heard and read it then in the 60’s, how he dominated scoring in this league by just raising his hand and go for dunk, finger roll, follow up and whatever works, just keep on score, score, score. They pushed him, brawled him or hustled him like what Perkin does, but Big Dipper knows his edge and he’s competing with time. Wilt just keeps on scoring as long as time permits.

    I wish Pau and Drew will read this story of this great 7 footer predecessor and be inspired to use it in their game.

  43. Laker FANatic 4 Life May 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    The Lakers near perfect performance at the line shows that veteran poise that the thunder lack. Leave no points on the table, this is OUR main advantage LakerNAtion…Heard the new Laker Anthem for 2012 called “we are not done yet” by The Ides with Felli Fel and its a straight heatrock>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mid6UpN-GpQ

  44. 28 unless its on Lebron, then its flagrant

    There were a lot of phantom and make up calls last night

  45. billbill,
    Bynum has one bad shooting game while still dominating the game on both sides of the ball. That’s why he is who he is. He can shoot poorly and still dominate as Mike Brown said after the game… “Drew was a monster tonight.”. The facts are Bynum is the only Laker facing double teams for a reason. He missed shots he normally makes. Unfortunately he is the only Laker basically generating good looks for himself and hs teammates. And forget about his impact defensivley and on the boards. That’s why Brown said after the game… “Drew was the player of the game. We asked him to do things defensivley guys his size aren’t asked to do. Things that can’t show up in the box score.”

  46. Like I said last game Kobe doesn’t have what it takes to win anymore. It okc 1-0 lakers 1-0 and Kobe 0-2. So with the lakers up 7 again Kobe starts chucking they stop running plays. You have to amnesty Kobe’s contract because he’s owed like 60 million and he can’t be counted on anymore.

  47. live by Kobe, die by Kobe