Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Thunder

Darius Soriano —  March 13, 2014

With all the hubbub about Kobe being ruled out for the rest of the season and Phil Jackson looking like he will go to the Knicks, it might be easy to forget that the Lakers have a game tonight.

The good news is that the Lakers are well rested and are coming off a win. The bad news is that they are traveling to Oklahoma City to play the same team they just upset on national television. In other words, if the Lakers were hoping to sneak into OKC and take advantage of a team who won’t take them seriously, that ship sailed when the final buzzer on Sunday went off with the Lakers in the lead.

So expect this game to go much differently than the one four days ago. Namely:

  • Don’t expect Jodie Meeks to shake free for so many open jumpers
  • Don’t expect the Durant/Westbrook duo to shoot 15 for 42 from the floor
  • Don’t expect OKC to rely so heavily on the three (they took 35 shots from behind the arc last game) for their offense

What I also don’t expect is for the Thunder to play as small as they did for as long as they did in the last game. In Sunday’s contest Steven Adams and Nick Collison combined to play a little under 22 minutes. This led to Durant logging a lot of minutes at PF and Serge Ibaka sliding up to play a lot of Center. However, with Ibaka guarding Pau he was less of a threat as a weak side helper defensively and had to do much more on ball work against Pau in the post. Pau didn’t necessarily take advantage of him down there, but it did mean that the Thunder had less help in the paint with the result being a more spread out D that yielded too many open jumpers against good Lakers’ ball movement.

Tonight I think OKC plays more traditional lineups for longer with more size up-front to not only try to limit Pau down low, but to give them the help they need on the back line that allows them to better chase the Lakers’ perimeter threats. Even low level scouting tells you that the Lakers need to hit a high number of threes to win any game and if the Thunder need to, they will likely start to overplay on those types of shots to make L.A. do more work off the dribble and finish over size when going to the basket.

Offensively, I also expect the Thunder to try and push the tempo a bit more and get easier opportunities to score in transition. Look for Westbrook and Reggie Jackson to try and get to the rim in the open court and if those chances aren’t there to pull the ball back and look for Durant and Ibaka as trailers near the three point line. Both are more than capable of hitting open jumpers and if Durant is a guy who goes unguarded on too many possessions he can easily get points in bunches to make the Lakers pay.

For the Lakers, then, the only thing they can really do is try to play their game in a way that keeps the Thunder off balance enough that the game remains close. That will be much harder today since Sunday’s game is so fresh on everyone’s mind and the Thunder will surely be looking to snuff out what the Lakers do best early and send them onto plan B. Whether the Lakers have enough to overcome or counter that is the big question, but based off this year’s results I think we know the answer is likely “no”.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TNT and TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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43 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Thunder

  1. Good stuff as always Darius. This is one of those games where I just don’t want to watch because I have the feeling it’s gonna get ugly fast. I’m sure OKC hasn’t forgotten about what happened the last time these teams played each other and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers lose by a cool 20. Hopefully I’m wrong and they at least keep it close but I’d be surprised. I’d love to hear if I’m the only one who feels this way.

  2. darius: love it when you keep things in perspective.

    use to turn the sound off on nationally televised games and listen to chick hearn on the radio. lately, just watching the games in mute mode.

    Go lakers

  3. Darius, you should just go ahead and say they have “zero chance” again. Don’t mince words. That seems to be the lucky chart these days…

  4. Kelly has really turned corner. Looks good.

  5. No Saturday night in LA today. Expect 25 point lose.

  6. Pau stayed home. 2 for 8 with 1 rbd

  7. Like we had a shot to win this game OKC wanted blood tonight. I knew this was gong to happen the moment i found out we won on Sunday and Meeks scored his 42 points. Getting closer to put this season out of its misery cant wait. The road to the lottery continues…

  8. Barkley was not very nice to Kobe.

  9. Im not watching, what he said Ko?

  10. @Fern
    He said that he’s old. Blah blah blah…’Father time is undefeated’

  11. Also he said he hates guys who go to press to throw coach under the bus.

    By the way this team really needs a point guard next year. OKC and Clips 3 string in better then our 2 guys.

  12. Surprised there are only 11 comments o the board so far

    Meeks stil looked good just didmt have any help on the screens

  13. @Ko Chuck has no standing to say anything about Kobe, he is a hypocrite, i remember he was headache on his playing days with the twist that he didnt won anything. Sore grapes my friend. About the pg situation not directed at you but i thought Farmar was this super duper pg he might have some good games but he will be avg or below avg most of the time. Nothing more than a second stringer but i would not be surprised if he is our starting pg next season.

  14. Barkley has always been a Kobe hater. He even struggled to have anything good to say about Kobe, or the Lakers for that matter, when they were in the midst of going to the Finals in 3 straight years.

  15. It just occurred to me that Slava Medevenko would have been a star in this offense: All offense and no defense!

    #OnetwothreeCancun! (Van Exel)

  16. Yahoo reports that if Carmelo going to Lakers, Lakers will have a new coach, a new coach for what ? Kobe and Carmelo will get pay a lot, no money left for other players, is that the way to win championship ? In my opinion, build a team first and then hire a coach later, if you have a team like Portland then we should talk about the coach.

  17. Surprised there are only 11 comments o the board so far

    Well, this game was as close to an automatic loss as you can get. No way OKC was going to lose two in a row to the Lakers, and if OKC doesn’t get HCA, the loss to the Lakers will be one of the games they point to as a cause.

    Other than watching guys like Kelly and Bazemore, there is not much reason to pay attention to the Lakers right now for most fans, and as we have covered, the franchise is probably better off losing these games than winning them.

    The Lakers have 17 games left. As an aside, I have always thought the NBA season has too many games. I get that the league wants the playoffs to start after the NCAA Tournament, but I think that it should be about 66-68 games over more or less the same time frame–start a little later and end at about the same time. or maybe a week sooner. I know that it won’t happen–the players won’t sacrifice salary and the owners won’t sacrifice revenue, but I think it would enhance the product. And rooting for a team like this has made me realize how long the season is in a different way.

  18. It is a LONG season. And next up is a 162 games of baseball before the playoffs. One thing that makes it seem so long is that with all the emphasis put on the postseason, one has to wonder if all these games are worth it. Nobody really cares any more about winning a conference or a division. All those games for homecourt/field advantage? Maybe they should shorten the regular season, and put more games into where it counts.

    So a predictable loss vs. OKC. Losing is one thing, but the team didn’t give an acceptable defensive effort, which is the Laker standard now.

  19. rr imagine what it is to be a Bucks fan lol, we are not used to this…

  20. Fern,

    I can take the bait on that one… but, I don’t believe I said that Farmar is a super duper PG. I said that Farmar could be a starter on a good team (not an elite PG, but an average NBA starter) specially because he’s a plus on defense. I also said he’s not quite there yet but he isn’t very far from it and the experience in Europe would help. He’s not a lockdown defender or even a defensive specialist, but he can hold his own. And everyone has bad games now and then, overall he’s still much better than Marshall…

    By the way, did you see the intensity of Marshall on that first possession? The way he bodied up Westbrook and jumped for the ball, the tenacity he showed fighting for the ball like it was the last possession in the game. We’re in good hands with Marshall as our starter 😉

    NOTE: couldn’t see more than the 1st period.

  21. DJ,

    The problem with the coach is about training and game approach habits. If you’re a rookie, your first coach in the NBA will make an impact on you for the immediate future, specially on the defensive side of the ball. I believe that MDA would be detrimental to player development, specially bigs, hence the need for a new coach, even if we’re not winning anything next season.

  22. Kobe says he put Jim Buss on notice about roster upgrades next year. Kobe has publicly expressed little confidence in Buss’ decision making. Ironic since a notable Buss decision was overpaying Kobe consuming cap space needed to sign other players.

  23. darius: we can all feel comfort in knowing that phil Jackson has his reservations in saying yes to the dress; err…make that bullet proof vest needed prior to making an appearance at madison square garden in new york city at some point in time of his choosing. ahh…..but it’s still early friday am; by mid day, expected to be another cool, mild 76 degrees here in sunny, southern california. drive by shootings….so 80’s. police pursuits? watching one now on my mobile device. boy, that suv sure looks like mine. naw, can’t be !!!!

    getting back to phil. can’t imagine he’s finding it hard to locate the shoe laces on his sandals. that would disrupt anyone’s day. and then of all things trying to tippy toe his way out the back door while future wifey is making his favorite dish for lunch: grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk.

    and of all things, he makes it to the vw van and then to the private air strip where dolan’s private jet is waiting; knowing full well that resigning in the near future for basketball reasons is now fully acceptable and recommended; consider the destination: a place that if you can make it there; you can make it anywhere; except los angeles; on a team currently owned/basketball operated by the non-midas jim buss.

    good luck to you phil jackson in your future endeavours; even if that includes having a burnt toasted grilled cheese sandwich today with future wifey because you got caught with shoelaces untied.

    Go lakers

  24. Nobody settled on the length of the season because they thought it would please the fans or contribute to a more exciting finish to the regular season.

    It’s done this way for financial reasons. PERIOD! And financial reasons always trump reasons that would otherwise promote the best form of competition. It’s true in every sport.

    I don’t know a single fan who thinks that having teams with under .500 records make the payoffs is great for promoting the most competitive model. The most competitive model wouldn’t have so many teams reaching the post season in the first place.

    Anybody think March Madness promotes the most responsible, deserving competitive post season format imaginable? Playing 30 regular season games before entering a single elimination tournament of road games involving 60 some odd other teams? If the NCAA were preoccupied with promoting the best competition model, we’d have conference champions only with a handful of at large teams, all told probably no more than 20, ina round robin, double elimination format.

    That would promote the best competition. But you have to pay the bills first , or there is no sport.

  25. Kobe has ‘no interest’ in playing for Dantoni next year.
    But he had plenty of nice things to say about management when they offered him $48 mil.
    Said how smart the FO was.

    My guess is that Pau may have told Kobe he’s gone if Dantoni returns – and Kobe knows without Pau his chances of another ring go from 1% to 0%.

  26. Reduced comments during the game: rr is correct. Many people have reduced/lost interest. We are down to the hard core group. So – whether we agree on things or not. Those of us left here are die hard Laker fans. And there has not been too many times in Laker history where that could be demonstrated
    Treylake: Coming at this from the other side of the “Kobe” spectrum – I actually agree. I will quote the movie – Heaven Can Wait – which is a LA movie and if you all have not seen it – you should. A sports reporter is interviewing the old owner of the Rams and asks how Leo Farnsworth tricked him out of the team. The former owner said – All I asked was sixty-seven million, and he said “okay.”.
    DJ: “In my opinion, build a team first and then hire a coach later” I can buy this as long as we build the best talent and not a bunch of stretch 4’s and run gun – no defense guys.
    C Hearn: World B Free would have been great for this offense : )

  27. Ironic since a notable Buss decision was overpaying Kobe consuming cap space needed to sign other players.
    Keep in mind that KB has worked his butt off his entire career (to put it quite mildly) to be the player he is, i.e. a living legend &1st ballot Hall of Famer, and in the process has brought immense accolades to the Lakers to earn those $48mil –
    KB´s also got a much closer understanding of the innerworkings of our FO than any of us; I just don´t think it´s him shooting his mouth off or being cheeky, not at this stage of his career.

    Could he have made a noble gesture and taken less? Without a doubt. But we all know KB from afar: the dividends from that agreement will be paid off on the court & hopefully, just hopefully, in the form of another Lakers championship.
    david h. – Turning the sound down on the national broadcasters and turning Chick way up was pure joy! 🙂

  28. Renato the problem i have right now is that well screw it, MDA should be fired, Marshall have no business being a starter in the NBA . Despite my critisism of Farmar he should be starting and Marshall come in with the second unit to run the offense, ypur right about Farmar being a solid defender and this team troubles are not in the offense, despite everything injuries and whatnot, this team can score with the best of them, but thats it, everything else is a total unbalanced mess. That bring me to another point i prefer Byron Scott as the new head coach if MDA is fired he is a Laker and had coached 2 rebuilding teams into playoff contention and he is a Laker and understand the culture and has won here, they might decide to keep MDA and try another run with a healthy team so if he cant get results he cant use the injury crutch anymore. I kinda intrigued by Lionel Hollins but only if he can adapt his coaching style to what the Lakers are triying to do, despite everything else MDA offense is not a bad system with the right horses and if Hollins can adapt his style to whats already built i have no problem with him being coach here. What we dont need is old fossils like Jerry Sloan and George Karl. I dont know we will find out soon enough.

  29. Wow Robert a World B. Free reference, either you’re a historian or you’re dating yourself lol. I love Kobe but I feel like he’s become a grumpy old man. If he really wanted a roster that could contend next year he should’ve taken less money. J C – you were on it when you talked about Kobe’s chances without Pau but depending on the coach they hire and who they get in the draft his chances may go up to 5 or 10 %. #wishfulthinking

  30. The only way Kobe would have taken less money is if the management had “guarenteed” that they would use free agency to build a winning roster around him. The Duncan and Lebron took less money on their respective teams is becuase they negotiated assurances from the management they were going to do what it takes to maintain a winning roster. The Lakers gave him no such assurances and hence he took the money. This is the way it works.

  31. Kobe’s no different than he’s ever been. He accepts nothing but the best from himself and the Lakers. Of course, they might not get what they want, but the effort has to be there. The Lakers gave him a contract, and he accepted it. It’s not his business to know the financial ins and outs of what the FO is up to. Nobody, except maybe ownership, knows what the Lakers will spend in the future. They say Kobe’s contract will not prevent them from doing what they want to do. They made the decision Kobe was worth the money, and he actually is worth more to the franchise than just his playing, an amount hard to estimate. He trusted that they would know what it takes to get it done. As it stands today, the issue is not what they’re paying Kobe. The FO is indicating they may hold back on spending what they have to spend.

  32. Regarding “no comments” and things being quiet here – you might want to consider that the incessant “MDA is crap”, “Jim Buss” is crap, “crap, we won a game -we’re supposed to be t**king” may have something to do with it.
    We get it. But posting the same thing said a different way 20 times in one thread is a bit much.
    I don’t post here often but used to always read the comments because people are very passionate and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, a lot of people who I used to see comment here don’t seem to be doing that much anymore.
    I’m sure nobody reading this cares what I think about this – wouldn’t really expect you to. But, there’s a lot of other blogs that are really active. Something to think about.

  33. According to Dr. Buss, Kobe brings in roughly $100 million dollars of income per year for the Lakers. Without Kobe this season, TV ratings have plummeted and sell out streaks have ended. At the time of the contract, Jimbo got a bargain. (btw, Kobe took a pay cut for those complaining).

    Jimbo took a ton of criticism for choosing MDA over Phil, and deservedly so……and with the Lakers “losing” Phil to NY, he will continue to be on the hot seat. Despite these monumental blunders, Jimbo can overcome this, depending on what he does this summer and next (i.e. hire a good coach and add a couple quality players).

    Overcoming the loss of Phil will be a fairly large uphill battle for Jimbo…. but if Jimbo had somehow lost Kobe to another team……..that is something that Jimbo would never be able to overcome. The criticism Jimbo is getting now would be dwarfed if he lost both the greatest coach and player in Laker history in his first couple years on the job, and the impact on the Lakers brand would be devastating.

    Jimbo has made some head scratching moves, but a rush to ensure Kobe stays with the Lakers was not one of them. It may have been his smartest move to date.

  34. I wasn’t too big on Kobe’s extension. But there is nothing that can be done about it now. Still I’m glad he is talking. The team needs his voice. Kobe is the first non-media type to explicitly mention the rift between Jim and Jeanie. It has to be resolved one way or another. I think Kobe is smart enough to know that people outside the Lakers organization can see that rift. It is what people refer to when they say the Lakers front office is in disarray. Why would any quality free agent want to jump head first into organization with a bickering siblings at the top?

    If Jeanie jets to New York with Phil that effectively ends the bickering (or at least the perception of it). The problem is her and Phil take their drawing power with them. Free agents (and their agents) know Phil Jackson. They even know Jeanie Buss. Both are very public figures associated with basketball success. Jim is still an enigma. And if he really wants to be the face of the Lakers, as his father was, he can’t be an enigma. The Lakers are not a basketball team. They are an institution and a movement. And there has to be a recognizable and very public face. Mitch and Jim are both behind the scenes guys. That works in San Antonio. But it doesn’t play in Los Angeles, not with the Lakers.

  35. EJ, Kobe took what the Lakers offered him. I wonder if any of us would say “gee 48 mill is fine and dandy but cut it to half and we have a deal” he took what the team offered him.i dont understand why people believe that players have to give discounts to billionare owners.

  36. Jesse, Thank you!

  37. I’m sure nobody reading this cares what I think about this – wouldn’t really expect you to. But, there’s a lot of other blogs that are really active. Something to think about

    SSR people were commenting yesterday that their Game Thread traffic was way down. There were about 80 comments at one point, and some guy said that there used to be “600 comments in a quarter.” Don’t know about other sites.

    And, as I have noted, both sides of the Buss/FO argument are equally repetitive, and repetition is inevitable in this context.

    Finally, several people, like Renato and T Rogers, who IIRC were more in the middle about the FO and/or MDA before, have gotten more definite and opinionated about the situation as the losses have piled up, so it is not just the usual suspects. The Lakers are in a very bad place organizationally, and in that sceanrio, people will focus on the decision-makers. The rebuttals to that are:

    1. Veto
    2. Injuries
    3. CBA
    4. You are a just a spoiled fan and shouldn’t question the FO.
    5. Stop complaining and give it more time.

    1 is legit; 2 and 3 have some merit but also have major holes, and 4 and 5 are just emotional rections. And we have heard all of those many, many times–from most of the same people.

  38. I don’t really think you can get players to play defense when everyone is in their contract year and are probably looking to pad their stats – defense, if they put any effort into it, reduces the number of possessions and hence decreases their shot and rebound opportunities.

    Just wish that we could get a defensive minded, young coach that could help the team develop a culture and a system that will be in place no matter who leaves and who joins, and keep him for the next decade or two…

  39. Well said Jesse…

  40. Jesse and Craig W.,

    I think we’re moving on beyond that phase. Here’s my view on why we have fewer comments during the game (I never post or read while the game is on…):

    1- The team sucks. No other way to put it. That means no extra effort to see a game if you have other things available (like going to the movies or whatever).

    2- There’s not much to root for because, well, the only thing that matters is the draft lottery.

    3- There are no tactical changes or different game approaches. One could argue that against OKC we decided to go small because of this or that against GSW we went big because we wanted to exploit a certain matchup. Or even that we ran a horns set more often because it was paying off and the opposing defense never quite adjusted. Or better yet, we tried a zone defense against a team that was cold from the outside. Literally, there’s nothing new happening from game to game when it comes to basketball as we see the same things happening over and over. We ran the same offense and run the same “defensive” patterns every single game.

    4- There’s the occasional flash of brilliance by a player (Meeks) but those are considered isolated events that don’t mean much beyond a hot shooting night from said player. It’s not like we’re watching any player turn into a reliable NBA starter slowly before our eyes. It’s not like those OKC fans that were able to watch KD turn into a superstar over that 4 year stretch.

    5- Kobe’s comments to the media brought some topics back to life, as well as PJ’s move to the Knicks. Which meant recycling a few topics.

    So, not really much to talk about right? I mean, what can we say after a loss like this one? Nevertheless, I think the discussion is still very intelligent and Darius is doing a great job of providing different stats and bringing up new points of view to the table. It’s just that there really isn’t much to talk about until we either start improving the product on the court (not likely until the end of season) or know what will happen regarding the roster and the coaches (assuming the FO won’t be changed, obviously). And really, I do care about what you think. I wouldn’t reply to you if that wasn’t the case and any discussion is far more interesting when there are different points of view. I believe everyone thinks the same.


    Totally agree with you on the coaching front.

  41. The truth is Kobe comments basically gave the FO an off ramp on theD’Antoni era. If the star player doesn’t want to play for a coach, the coach is gone and everybody understands that. Now the FO can frame D’Antoni’s firing as, “D’Antoni would have worked with more time but Kobe was too impatient and he is the face of the franchise, so what can we do?”. The truth is the hiring didn’t make sense at the time and makes less sense as each day passes but Kobe is basically absorbing part of the PR hit by “leaking” his displeasure with D’Antoni to the press.

  42. Just finished reading a 1998 SI article about the Buss kids. This exerpt below (from Janie Buss) had me shaking my head.

    …….Which leaves Jeanie, the fair Cordelia of this fractured family fable. “Only Jeanie has the brains and the desire,” Janie says. “She’s a great negotiator and a great numbers cruncher, and she knows how to say no. At some level, Johnny and Jimmy must understand that.”

    Janie believes her father’s “master plan” may be to sit back and watch the three children jockey for position. “Like I say, my dad is always 10 steps ahead,” she says. “I mink he’s testing us to see if we can get along. He’s getting us used to the fact that he won’t be around forever, and he’s watching each of us to figure out who should do what.

    “Well, I guess it’s better now than 10 years from now. But realistically, I don’t see how it could ever work.”………..

    See link to the full article below

  43. i seriously hope the jeanie buss critics have the decency to send her a thank you card. After all, as being in charge of the business side, she is the one who secured the time warner deal that is giving Jim Buss a very big financial cushion to learn from his multiple mistakes.

    If you haven’t noticed, there are less people attending the games. And the networks are dropping the laker games faster than some people here rush to defend Jim Buss. That’s a lot of lost revenue.

    And of course, having phil jackson as a fiancee probably provided absolutely no consideration in putting together the deal. I’m sure the people at time warner don’t know they are engaged…