Lakers vs. Thunder Pre-Game Report: Lakers Look to Bounce Back in Pivotal Game 3

The Lakers look to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in Game 2 as they continue the series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game 3 marks the start of back-to-back games in Los Angeles. Now that the Lakers have fallen to an 0-2 series record, they must win the next two games in L.A. to not only stay alive, but to have a legitimate shot at winning this series as well. After being blown out by the Thunder in Game 1 and handing the game over to Oklahoma City in the closing two minutes of Game 2, the Lakers will show what kind of team they are with their response in Game 3 tonight.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:

Limit the Turnovers – Turnovers turned out to be very costly in Game 2 and, in fact, changed the game in the clutch. The Lakers committed fourteen turnovers in Game 2, which lead to the Thunder scoring fifteen points off of the Lakers’ turnovers. The Thunder were able to capitalize on the Lakers’ habit of not taking care of the ball by getting out on the break, which turned into 18 fasrbreak points, compared to the Lakers’ five fastbreak points.

The Lakers did a much better job in Game 2 of forcing turnovers. Overall, the Lakers posted 17 points off of the Thunder’s 13 turnovers. This must continue in order to take advantage of every mistake that the Thunder make since getting easy opportunities on offense is a challenging thing to do.

Stay Physical and Smart – The Lakers are a finesse team and have been for quite awhile now. However, they are able to play with intensity and aggression when need be. This was proven during all but the final minutes of Game 2. During the regular season, the Lakers had a tendency to relax and let the game get away from them. This has happened in too many games for the Lakers so far in the post-season.

Led by two intense defenders in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder are a very physical team on defense. The Lakers were able to get the Thunder in foul trouble in Game 2 by pounding the ball inside. This must continue in Game 3, as it not only makes key Thunder players have to head to the bench early because of foul trouble, but it also allows the offense to play with more freedom since the defenders are afraid of getting a call against them.

Dominate Inside the Paint – The Lakers need to throw it inside to their frontcourt even more than they did in Game 2. The Lakers were able to win the rebound battle, second chance points and the points in the paint battle on Tuesday night, which will be essential to the offensive and defensive game plan. This allowed them to mainly control the tempo of the game and be able to set up their defense, as they continue to struggle on transition defense.

Andrew Bynum had a good game on Tuesday, with 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Pau Gasol posted better numbers, but still wasn’t as aggressive and dominating as the Lakers need him to be. I expect Gasol will step it up in Game 3, similar to his performance in Game 7 of the first round series. The role players for the Lakers, such as Matt Barnes and Ramon Sessions, need to contribute at a much higher level to the inside game by driving the ball and cutting to the rim.

Controlling the ball, playing with physicality and dominating the frontcourt on both ends of the court are going to be essential for the Lakers to get a win in front of the home crowd and to get back in this series. They have the tools that are necessary for the job, it is time for them to use them to get the job done.

Game 3, Semi-Finals, Western Conference
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers
7:30 PM PST, May 18, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Series Recap: Thunder lead 2-0
Game 1: Los Angeles 90 at Oklahoma City 119
Game 2: Los Angeles 75 at Oklahoma City 77
Game 3: Tonight
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
*If necessary

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

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