This Lakers team can be so frustrating to watch. I honestly couldn’t believe how well they came out of the gate, starting with that 10-0 run which was extended to a 15-3 run. They had the opportunity to really run this team out of their own building by stepping on their collective throats – instead, they went away from what got them the lead to begin with. Out of their first six shots, only two of them were taken outside of 15 feet. Simple math tells us that the Lakers were shooting only 33 percent of their shots outside of 15 feet. For the course of the rest of the first half, the Lakers would take 24 of their next 38 from 15 feet and beyond, including 19 three pointers. 19. That’s 63.2 percent of their shots from 15 feet and beyond plus they were on pace to shoot 38 three pointers on the game. Just to put that in perspective, Orlando shot the most three-pointers by far this season, and they averaged just over 27 attempts per game. It goes without saying that the Lakers took 19 in a half is WAY. TOO. MANY. And this led to one of the main reasons the Lakers lost the game. As Darius told it in his recap:
The Lakers shot 31 three pointers in this game, making only 10. One or two more makes means that the Lakers come much closer to winning this game, but I don’t think that matters one bit. That is way too many threes to shoot against the Thunder. Every Laker understands that long rebounds fuel OKC’s run outs, yet they proceeded to try and shoot the long ball to sustain their offense. The Lakers should be shooting 18-20 threes a game tops and those should be off of post ups and kick outs where shooters are wide open. The don’t need to shoot threes just because the initial post entry isn’t there or because they see a sliver of day light before a defender closes out on them. Discipline needs to be practiced and tonight the Lakers didn’t have it.
The Thunder had guys like James Harden and Jeff Green who were able to get going early because of all of those long rebounds. One of the easiest ways for guys to come out of slumps is for them to get easy buckets, and the Lakers shooting from the outside allows that to happen. Plus, it gave Russell Westbrook the opportunity to put down a couple of game changing dunks. While the Thunder were slumping in the first quarter, the play that really got them and their crowd into the game was that fast break dunk that he had coming from the left wing (a fast break that was beautifully executed, by the way). And there was also that VICIOUS dunk Westbrook that he dropped on Lamar Odom’s head with about 5:30 left in the second quarter.
Another huge reason the Thunder were able to pull out the win was because of Kevin Durant. You have to respect what he was able to do last night. Ron Artest did a great job of making all of his shots tough (he shot eight for 24), but even in shooting 33 percent, Durant had 29 points because he was much more aggressive than he was in both of the previous games getting to the line 13 times. He also made an impact of the game without scoring. From my game recap on Talkhoops.net, I said that he had “an extremely quiet 29 points.” When he was shooting free throws for his 26th and 27th points, I was legitimately shocked that he had that many. He was active on the boards, he was active on the defensive end, especially in the fourth, playing very good defense on Kobe.
Looking ahead, we know that the Lakers, if they play the right way, can run this team off the floor, but it’s about discipline at this point. Can the Lakers dedicate themselves to getting more touches inside? Can the Lakers rededicate themselves to rebounding the ball? Can the Lakers dedicate themselves to playing 48 minutes of defense? The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. It’s just a matter of doing, which, as we all know, is much easier said than done.
From Silver Screen and Roll: The Oklahoma City Thunder can score on the Los Angeles Lakers. That wasn’t at all certain before tonight’s contest, a 101 to 96 Thunder victory in Game Three of the first-round series, but OKC now has a strong offensive effort it can point to as evidence that it can indeed lay a glove on the Laker D. It helps to have 34 free-throw attempts, apparently, but it can be done. About those free-throw attempts, and in particular the ginormous gulf separating the Thunder’s FTA total and that of the Lakers, who shot only 12. It’s hard to win when your opponent is shooting from the line so much more often than you are.
From Talkhoops.net: Before the game started, TNT gave us a glimpse of the Thunder locker room where the 2010 coach of the year told his team that Serge Ibaka sent him a text that said that he didn’t need a motivational speech for the night’s game. Hearing something like that as a teammate of a guy who had to find his way to the NBA via The Republic of Congo and has had to learn English as a second language – that’s all the motivation that I need, and it was all the Thunder needed.
From the Daily Thunder: I really don’t know where to start. I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen trying to will some letters to come out of my fingers. But I don’t feel like I can accurately sum up what tonight’s game was like. I guess loud would at least be a start.With thunderstorms rolling into Oklahoma City right around tip-off, I thought this might be the sign. It kind of felt like destiny. I think people in Dallas could feel the energy pulsating from the Ford Center, even 30 minutes before the game started. Fifteen minutes before tip, everyone in the place was on their feet. And they stayed there until the first bucket dropped.
From Land O’ Lakers: For most of the first three quarters of Game 3 at Ford Center, the Lakers were able to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder at arms length. L.A. started strong, scoring the game’s first 10 points, and were up 15-3 three-and-a-half minutes in. The Thunder scratched and clawed their way back- Would you expect anything else? but whenever it seemed OKC would bust through, the Lakers pushed back. In the second quarter, it was Kobe Bryant hitting a series of three-pointers. In the third, he knocked down a couple more jumpers while Pau Gasol exerted influence.
From the Daily Dime: These are the moments we wait for in sports, why we wade through protracted contract negotiations and lockout talk and super-long television timeouts. All of a sudden none of that matters and the only thing filling your field of vision is Russell Westbrook soaring for a dunk over Lamar Odom, followed by an otherworldly noise filling your ears. “That was the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd,” the Thunder’s James Harden said. The decibel levels got jacked up even higher when Harden hit a 3-pointer, then Kevin Durant followed that with another 3 and the Oklahoma City Thunder, after playing from behind all night, had finally tied the score against the Lakers.
From The Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: The roaring crowd stood on their feet Thursday at Ford Center, and all eyes locked in on Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant squaring off at the top of the key. The Thunder had just been nearly six minutes removed from taking the lead for the first time all night, but the following sequence in the fourth quarter provided even more of a trickling affect. Bryant drove left, dribbled behind his back and slashed right toward the free-throw line. Durant slid back, Bryant dribbled the ball between his legs and drove left since Durant gave him space. After cutting past the left elbow, Bryant pulled up for a jumper outside of the paint, but Durant swatted the ball away, raising the crowd’s decibel level to deafening proportions.
From the Los Angeles Times: Amid a prairie-rumbling roar, the eternal Lakers debate raged. Good Kobe or bad Kobe? With his team surrounded by the young energy of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the screeching hopes of their newbie fans, would Kobe Bryant’s addiction to the ball and the dramatic lift the Lakers or doom them? Good Kobe or bad Kobe? With the Lakers needing a lift to close out Game 3 and essentially clinch this first-round series Thursday, would his renowned postseason pops save the day, or ruin it?
From the OC Register: Jerry Buss didn’t make the trip to Orlando for the Lakers to win the NBA championship in their final 2009 road playoff game. He did make the trip to Oklahoma City to see them lose their first 2010 road playoff game. If Buss was second-guessing that decision Thursday night from his seat upstairs at the Ford Center, he might’ve also been wondering about that new contract he generously gave Lamar Odom. Odom has been unable to adjust his mentality to being back as a bench player so far in the postseason, but Buss’ investment in Odom was already validated in the regular season by more injuries to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.