Here are a few aspects of last night’s 77-75 loss against the Thunder we will analyze:
Team Play – The Lakers played quite well overall, and contributed a solid defensive team effort. The offense was never fluid, but neither was the Thunder’s. However, the Lakers only had 11 assists throughout the whole game. That is not the way to win ballgames. To be blunt, Pau Gasol needs more touches because he makes things happen either for himself or for others when he has the ball. Additionally, Kobe took 25 shots, and probably shouldn’t have attempted so many. Either way, the Lakers used that style of play to approach the finish line with their biggest lead of the game–seven points. They just let it slip towards the end. Obviously, that is a huge negative, but with the fact that their offense never got going, they did pretty well throughout most of the game.
Rebounds – The Lakers out-rebounded the Thunder 41-36. However, they must look to dominate much more on the boards against this team going forward. They pulled down more offensive rebounds (11-6), which is a must for them to be successful.
Defense – The Lakers played pretty solid defense throughout the game. They held the Thunder to 77 points, and basically had the game locked up towards the end. They made things tough for the Thunder, and were poised to send a message to their young counterparts that if they want to advance to the Western Conference Finals, they would have to beat a solid, physical defensive team. However, the Thunder took advantage of the Lakers end-of-game mistakes and likely gained even more confidence.
Mental Lapse – The Lakers absolutely faltered towards the end of the game. They had the game in their pocket, and were ready to take it with them on the plane heading back to Los Angeles. But, they let the game slip away by committing costly turnovers and not playing smart down the stretch. Many fans will blame Steve Blake for not hitting a wide open three-pointer that would have placed the Lakers up by two with just seconds left on the block, but it’s really not his fault. His shot wasn’t going, and he played smart throughout the game, as did many Lakers. Had he made the shot, obviously he would have been a huge hero, but it was a decent look and it simply clanked off the rim.
Negative – The main negative here is the loss. The Lakers gave up a solid lead right at the end, and gave away the game. Now, instead of being tied 1-1 looking forward to two home games in Los Angeles, the Lakers face a tough 0-2 deficit against an extremely talented and hungry Oklahoma City team. Had the Lakers won, they would have taken back momentum and been in command. Now, the Lakers may never get over this mentally, and if they do, it may be hard to overcome physically. The only way for them to truly get over this loss would be to win the series.
Positive – The positive here is that the Lakers made it tough on the Thunder. They held the high-powered young squad to just 77 points and almost had the game in the bag. The Lakers will have to look at this loss as a learning experience, and understand that the Thunder just held home court, and that they now must defend their own home court. They will have to understand that they did enough to win the game on the road, but just collapsed mentally. Hopefully with the home crowd behind them, they can come out strong and set a tone early. Those are the only positives we can truly take away from the loss.