First-Round Fever: Game 3

APRIL 22| THURS |ROUND 1, GAME 3 | (1) Lakers vs. (8) Thunder: LAL Lead Series 2-0

The Lakers managed to squeak out a win in Game 2, Now leading the series 2-0, they’ll be playing at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City .

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It was another tight game. With defense being a huge anchor for both teams, the offense was stagnant. But the Lakers had the luxury of having the best player in the league on their side, Kobe Bryant.

Bryant scored 39 points to lift L.A. past Oklahoma, 95-92. Showing he can still push the team to victory.

The champs were aware that the Thunder were gonna play much tougher to start things off in Game 2. And they did just that.

Oklahoma came out with a purpose as their offense seemed noticeably more fluid, and lead at the end of the first half, 47-45.

The Lakers were unable to get in the paint successfully. Oklahoma flooded the colored area and blocked 13 shots, including 7 from the 20-year old rookie Serge Ibaka.

Kevin Durant had a better game, but was still held in check for the most part by the defense of Ron Artest. Durant was 12-26 but was 2-5 in the fourth quater, and 4-11 in the 2nd half all together.

Bryant was the big plus L.A. needed when they were differed from using their two big men. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and was able to get the energy back up for the Lakers late in the game.

Russell Westbrook wasn’t the factor he was in Game 1, he spent most of his time on the bench in foul trouble. If Westbrook doesn’t have a huge game tonight, Oklahoma will be exiting the series earlier than they had anticipated.

So far its been a pretty tight matchup. Both teams have played exceptional defense and have been able to respond to each other’s scoring runs.

But the Lakers will leave their cool and calm arena for an anxious and rowdy crowd that awaits the Thunder in the Ford Center tonight.

L.A. has a chance to take complete control of this series with a win. For a less strenuous game, they’ll have to be more efficient offensively. The effort’s been there, but the execution is lacking a bit.

Here are the keys for the Lakers to pull out a win.

KEYS FOR THE GAME:

Controlling the Tempo

The Lakers will look to get more open-floor points to gain a cushion on the Thunder. In Game 2, they only scored 6 fastbreak points. However, Oklahoma didn’t much of a better job, only +5 in that area.

L.A. should be able to control the game, as they did in Game 1. Using the halfcourt to their advantage and limiting the Thunder’s opportunities to get going offensively.

Twin Tower Dominance

As said before, the Twin Towers are the key for the Lakers in this series. Bryant doesn’t have to look dominate. Oklahoma may be a young and athletic team, but essentially, their frontcourt is too small to compete successfully against the two 7-footers. Pau & Drew will need dominate on defense if shots aren’t falling for them.

Silencing the Thunder

The Ford Center will be roaring tonight, for this will be their first home game in the postseason since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City. The Lakers will have to keep the crowd out of the game in order to establish their dominance over the young–but– tough team. Their continual pressure defensively is great way to keep this team cold as Artest’s “No Buckets” motto has been very visible.

Offense Efficiency

Stated above, the Lakers have been superb defensively, but their offense has yet to really pick up. They’ll be looking to move the ball a lot better inside the arc. Ron Artest has to look to get in the post, as he’s shooting less than 25 percent from 3-point territory.

Bryant had a great game, but will possibly look to be more of a facilitator in tonight’s game. He had just one assist in Game 2, 4 under his league average.

Lamar Odom

Phil Jackson wants Odom to be more aggressive with his scoring. Lamar has been able to find his way to the basket at any time, but has took more shots from 15-feet out. If Odom can come to life in Game 3, this will be an easy victory for the defending champs.

PROJECTED STARTERS:

LAKERS:

(C) A. Bynum

(PF) P. Gasol

(SF) R. Artest

(SG) K. Bryant

(PG) D. Fisher

X-Factor: Lamar Odom and bench play.

THUNDER:

(C) N. Kristic

(PF) J. Green

(SF) K. Durant

(SG) S. Sefolosha

(PG) R. Westbrook

X-Factor: Russell Westrbook

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