How the Lakers Need to Stand Up to Rolling Thunder

To be quite honest, trying to figure out a feasible defensive strategy to use against Westbrook takes me back to my days in high school when I was attempting to navigate my way through pre-calculus and take my word for it, I’m like Adam Morrison when it comes to upper level math.  With the personnel that the Lakers have at the lead guard position, this current puzzle that we’re stuck with solving eerily mirrors those unfruitful memories I have of thinking that I had answered the math problem correctly and traced my steps over and over, only to have the teacher keep telling me that I’m wrong.  I mean, if the team hasn’t figured it out by now, how am I supposed to?

It’s clear that Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw, Jim Cleamons, and Frank Hamblen haven’t devised an effective blueprint to stopping, even slowing down Russell Westbrook yet.  If there’s anything that I myself can suggest though, it would be to control the things that our team is more than capable of dictating.

First, the turnovers must be cut down to five or less per game against this fast OKC Thunder squad.  The run outs are killing us and all it does is harden our young opponent’s belief that they can control the tempo and even perhaps win this series by doing so.  Westbrook feeds off our giveaways and has been making all the right consequential plays.  Taking care of the ball is a simple start to minimizing Russell’s impact in the running game.

Second, I’ve got to go with communication on defense.  I touched on this in my previous editorial and unfortunately, it has not improved.  Allowing deep penetration on the break is a bit more understandable, but we cannot allow Westbrook to get to the rim in half-court sets.  Despite the fact that Fish is just incapable of keeping up with Russell’s dribble drive, it also does seem like Phil is employing a similar defensive tactic to the one used against Aaron Brooks last season.  In Game 3, Doug Collins mentioned the fact that Drew and Pau were just not on the same page with Derek because it did appear that Fish was allowing Russell to make his take to the cup, but none of our bigs were there to back him up.  After Collins had highlighted that, on the next defensive possession, Gasol was shading to Fisher’s side and roaming along the paint, but it needs to be consistent and executed better.  Communication is imperative on defense and again, it’s something that can be controlled so let’s hope everyone gets on the same agenda.

Lastly, as stupid as this may sound, I’d even go so far as to say that we should dare Westbrook to beat us all on his own.  He knows it, we know it, the world knows it – none of our point guards can stop him and he’s going to get his regardless.  Even though Durant’s scoring is at his usual clip, his shooting percentage is way down in the series and for the most part, everyone would agree that this is more Westbrook’s coming out party and he is the Thunder’s MVP right now.  The Lakers must continue to make life uncomfortable for KD, but also, we can’t give up any easy open looks to the likes of James Harden, Jeff Green, and even Serge Ibaka who nailed a couple of timely jumpers in Game 4 that kept their momentum strong.  As I stated, I realize it sounds risky and even foolish, but I’d be hard pressed to believe that Westbrook can win this series on his own without any substantial help from the rest of his teammates.

The Lakers have two days to do all the discussing and tweaking that they have to do until Game 5 hit the Staples Center on Tuesday night.  As I’m sure we all do, I hemorrhage purple and gold so I’ve got to believe with every ounce of my Laker loving soul that the team will play with more heart and pride for the rest of this series.

Let’s go Lakers!

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