Coming off a brutal defeat, the Lakers look to regain their composure and put their best foot forward in Game 2. Luckily the 29-point deficit won’t carry over to tonight’s game, so hopefully the Lakers approach tonight’s game with a positive attitude. As the old adage goes, one can’t change the past, but only focus on the current moment and altering the future. That being said, there are some lessons to be learned from Monday’s debacle. You can bet that the coaching staff and the players were studying film all day Tuesday. Let’s hope that their game plan will yield a better result tonight.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Win the Turnover Battle – The most ridiculous stat of Monday’s night game wasn’t the ending score. It wasn’t even the Thunder’s 53 percent team field goal percentage. The most eye popping stat was that the Thunder had a 3.25 steal to turnover ratio. The Lakers had 15 turnovers, 13 of which were Thunder steals. During the regular season the Thunder had the highest rate of turnovers per game at 16. They’re not known for taking good care of the rock, so the Lakers need to exploit this weakness and create havoc around the ball. When the Thunder turn over the ball, it totally throws off their rhythm. Case in point: The Thunder lost to the lowly Wizards when forced into 21 turnovers.
Unfortunately the Lakers are the worst team in the league at creating turnovers (10.9 per game during the regular season). However that is no excuse, great teams make the necessary adjustments required to win in the playoffs. This will be a true test of Mike Brown’s ability. The Lakers will have to figure out some way to disrupt the Thunder’s offensive flow if they want to have a chance of beating them.
Hand-in-Face-Defense – On Monday the Thunder trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden combined for 69 points on 52 percent shooting. Many of their points came from uncontested jumpers outside of the paint. The Lakers’ game plan was clear: take away the drive and force the Thunder guards to hit the open J. Well, the Thunder took what was given to them and hit the open shot all night long. Clearly, this isn’t the best approach. While it is important to acknowledge the Thunder’s superior athleticism, there is no excuse for letting the Thunder fire at will. Parts of Monday’s game began to resemble a backyard H-O-R-S-E battle.
The Lakers need to get up in the Thunder’s grill, and by grill I actually mean eye. Durant, Westbrook and Harden have proven that they can hit the open jumper, so the Lakers need to play up on them and rely on help defense to clog the paint if the Thunder opt to drive.
Feed Bynum – The Thunder chose not to double team Bynum in Game 1. Despite this, Bynum only had 12 shot attempts en route to 20 points. He should have double the amount of shots tonight since the Thunder simply cannot match up with him one-on-one. Should Perkins sit out Game 2 due to injury, the paint advantage will swing ever more in Bynum’s favor. Sessions, who struggled to find his shot in Game 1, should look to pull defenders and dish to Bynum.
Game 2, Semi-Finals, Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
6:30 PM PST, May 16, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Game 1: Los Angeles 90 at Oklahoma City 119
Game 2: Tonight
Game 3: Friday, vs Oklahoma City – 7:30 p.m. – ESPN
Game 4: Saturday, vs Oklahoma City – 7:30 p.m. – TNT
*Game 5: May 21, at Oklahoma City – TBD – TNT
*Game 6: May 23, vs Oklahoma City – TBD – ESPN
*Game 7: May 27, at Oklahoma City – TBD – TNT
Thunder Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
Key Reserves: G James Harden, G Derek Fisher, F Nick Collison