Lakers Give Up Another Lead, Go Down 3-1 Against Thunder

Here are a few aspects of last night’s 103-100 loss we will analyze:

Rebounds – The Lakers took care of the boards and had a 43-39 advantage last night. Many of the rebounds were offensive boards, as the Lakers out-rebounded the Thunder on the offensive glass, 18-9. However, the Thunder stayed in the game and came back late.

Kobe Bryant – Kobe was brilliant early, hitting tough shot after tough shot. Additionally, he held James Harden to just 2-for-11 shooting, which is a rare thing. However, he took 28 shots and seemed to be the only guy taking shots in the fourth quarter. Even though he took 25 shots the previous night and the Lakers won, last night the team went away from their big guys late, and it hurt them badly. Kobe admitted that he was taking tough shots towards the end, and said that either they will have to find ways to free him up more, or other guys will have to be aggressive.

Ramon Sessions – Sessions played great while he was out there. He was aggressive and converted on plays at the rim; he also dished out five assists. However, once he was out of the game, Kobe was the only one really handling the ball and making plays. Steve Blake is the guard Mike Brown has chosen to go with towards the end of games and has a spot-up-shooter’s role, and that’s fine. However, Sessions really took pressure off of Kobe in the first half, and will have to continue to be aggressive in the second half of games going forward.

Andrew Bynum – Bynum played great early on and gave the Thunder problems. However, he had most of his numbers by halftime and wasn’t much of a factor in the second half. He attributed his inability to get the ball on the Thunder’s defensive strategy of “fronting” him. Either way, the Lakers will have to find a way to get him the ball throughout the whole game.

Pau Gasol – Gasol had a very costly turnover late in the game, but he could have helped the Lakers in other areas as well. The Lakers want to play a slow-paced, half-court offensive style of basketball. That basically describes Gasol’s best attributes. Pau is the league’s best big-man passer, and had just two assists. He has probably the most skills out of any big man in the league, but he had just 10 points.

Gasol is much too talented of a player to not be involved. Whether the problem is that he isn’t getting enough touches or that he’s not being aggressive enough, something will have to change. Gasol has the skills to counter the “fronting” that they do on Bynum, and has the ability to really hurt the Thunder in many areas. He will have to step up and produce numbers for the Lakers if they want a chance at winning this series now. We’ve seen him dominate before, and hope he can do it again.

After the game, Kobe said Gasol is being left alone and will have to be more assertive in Game 5, and guaranteed that he will be.

Mental Lapse – Last night’s loss wasn’t as much of a mental lapse as the Game 2 loss was. It was more a combination of the Thunder’s relentless assault, and the Lakers’ poor execution down the stretch. However, the Lakers went away from their game plan, and thought they could win on Kobe Bryant’s shooting. It didn’t work out. They needed to make some adjustments in the fourth, but they didn’t.

Negative – The negative here is obviously the loss. The Lakers realistically could be up 3-1 right now instead of being down 1-3. They just couldn’t close out two huge games, and are paying for it now. Another negative is the fatigue that will set in from having their confidence drained once again. They somehow managed to shake off the Game 2 loss and won a hard fought battle in Game 3. However, a second heartbreaking loss could be the nail in the coffin for the Lakers.

Positive – It’s really hard to take away positives from another letdown. The Lakers played a great 40 out of 48 minutes last night, and had the Thunder once again headed for a loss. But, for the second time in the series, they let it slip. However, they know how they must play in order to win, and know what it will take for them to defeat the Thunder. The Lakers haven’t truly played great team basketball all series, but they have played great defense at times. If they can somehow collectively step up, and if they can share the ball enough so Kobe doesn’t take 25+ shots a game, they can win behind some good, solid team ball.

The Thunder have the star power to have two guys (Durant and Westbrook) take 20+ shots and still beat teams. Kobe Bryant simply can’t do it alone against this team and is outnumbered when it comes to superstar scoring (two against one). Kobe will have to keep his teammates involved throughout the entire game. Most of the times the Lakers have come away with big wins, it has been done on contributions from everyone on the floor in the fourth quarter. Last night, virtually the only one taking shots in the fourth was Kobe. Nobody truly knows whose fault it is, but the Lakers will have to regroup and make adjustments. They certainly have the ability to get team wins and win against tough opponents.

The Lakers definitely have a daunting task ahead of them by having to win three games in a row against an extremely hot-shooting, high-scoring, All-Star filled Thunder team. However, if any team has the ability to truly come together and win some ball games, it’s the Los Angeles Lakers. They just have to do just that–play together–for all 48 minutes.

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