The most crucial thing that needs to change for the rest of the series and the entire playoffs for that matter, is that Lamar Odom needs to finally realize that our title defense began last Sunday afternoon. If he does not show up soon, we will not only fail to repeat, but this first round against the Thunder begins to look a lot less like a 1 vs. 8 matchup and more like a series up for grabs. There were many instances in Game 3 where Lamar just did not even look like he was in the game at all, especially on defense and a couple 50/50 plays that he could have jousted for. We can only hope that someone on the team reminds him how integral he is to our long-term success. Come no LO, we need you.
Obviously, Kobe’s choices of shots must be cleaned up as well, but that is something that he will take a look at and make the necessary changes, no question. I look back to Game 3 of against the Utah Jazz last year when the Mamba went 5 of 24 and basically played a lot like he did last night, jacking up hapless jumpers and rendering the triangle completely irrelevant.
If there’s any solace to be taken here, Kobe did bounce back and huge at that, going for a smooth 38 points on 16 of 24 in Game 4 at Energy Solutions Arena. The only difference was that he was much healthier and physically capable. However even with that being said, Kobe’s legs did not seem like much of a problem, but rather, Durant’s length appeared to be more of the issue. Most importantly though, he must force the issue and get to the line as well because him not shooting any free throws in a playoff game is unacceptable. Either way, the Mamba is the master of adjustments and I have the utmost confidence that he will play big and play smart for us come Saturday. Oh yeah, one more thing – please guard James Harden, at least a little bit. If there’s anyone who should know what a confident rookie looks like, it’s you Kobe.
Lastly, I’d really like to see the Lakers continue playing the strong team defense that they did in Game 1, 2, and the first half of Game 3. While we did have more lapses than I’d like to see in Game 3, mental errors are something that I believe Phil will get the team to correct. Ron simply cannot play so aggressively on Durant at the Ford Center like he did when we cut it to a one-possession game at 98-96 with about 50 seconds to play. He has to be more intuitive and realize that he does himself no favors by bodying up KD and getting his arms on him like he did because the referees are more than likely going to call him for the foul, which they did, allowing OKC’s 90% free throw maestro to ice the game.
I’m not one to make guarantees and burden our Lakers with the proverbial jinx, but I just don’t see us losing Game 4. We could have obviously played better, but it’s not as if we did not play well enough to squeak out another win. Westbrook and Durant simply hit SHOTS in the fourth and rightfully so. I hope the Lakers recognize the fact that this series can turn very bad, very fast because the Thunder are young, energized, athletic, and awfully talented across the board. Let’s also not forget that they have the NBA Coach of the Year, Scott Brooks, leading them in the right direction.
Regardless, we are the defending champs and unquestionably the better team. I don’t care if Brian Shaw has to come out of retirement, but we have to pound the ball inside to Drew and Pau until it literally deflates. Shooting an excessive amount of threes and perimeter shots against the shot clock is not how this series will be won.
Like I said though, the Lakers are now officially in a series and the excitement flowing through every fiber of my body is a high that I know all Laker fans are feeling – in addition to frustration I’m sure. But hey, this is the NBA Playoffs 2010. Last year only counts for experience at this point and just like every other team, we’re gunning for that top spot once again.
Saturday can’t come soon enough!
[phpbay]Lakers Jerseys, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]