Rebounds – The Lakers out-rebounded the Thunder 43-41 last night. However, no single Thunder player notched more than eight rebounds. The Lakers will have to dominate the boards from here on out in order to win this series. They are a very capable rebounding team, and must count on this, as well as defense to win.
Kobe Bryant – Kobe had a sub-par game, but the Thunder played tough defense on him as well. His teammates will have to step up and create plays for him and each other going forward. Kobe is no longer 27 years-old, and can not take over games for an entire 48 minutes anymore. Ball movement will be key going forward. Additionally, Kobe absolutely shut down Russell Westbrook in the last regular season meeting between the two teams and will have to do this again throughout this series. It’s going to tire him out extensively, but it will be be necessary for Bryant to bring out the defensive stops against Westbrook if the Lakers want to have a chance to win this series.
Assists – Speaking of ball movement, no Laker had more than four assists. This will have to change. With multiple play-makers in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Ramon Sessions, the Lakers will have to look to move the ball more and create plays for each other.
The Big Men – Andrew Bynum had a nice night, but his effort was will be overshadowed by the big loss. Even though Bynum got his numbers, he did not dominate the game. Bynum is capable of changing any game defensively in a huge way. We saw flashes of this in Games 1 and 7 of the first round series against the Denver Nuggets. When Bynum is active and committed on defense, the Lakers look like a completely different team.
As for Pau Gasol, Gasol looked like he was starting to get aggressive in the second quarter, but then faded as the game went on. Gasol must step up and play the way he did in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs. Additionally, Gasol was the best play-maker in the first round this season and must look to duplicate that. His role this season is more of a facilitating one, and the offense will have to run through him a lot more so he can set up his teammates as well as score himself. When Gasol gets touches, Bynum gets easy buckets. When Bynum gets easy buckets, he plays great defense. It’s as simple as that.
Metta World Peace – Coming off a great defensive effort and overall solid game in Game 7 on Saturday, World Peace didn’t have quite the impact Monday as he did in that game. If he can put together a string of brilliant defensive performances as well as maintain his shooting accuracy, the Lakers definitely have a chance to win this series.
Matt Barnes – Barnes had a quiet eight points and two rebounds. We don’t know the extent of his ankle injury, but where Barnes has made his biggest impact this season has been on the offensive glass. If Barnes can play solid defense and crash the offensive boards, he will give the Lakers a much needed boost.
Steve Blake – Blake, who came off a hot-shooting 19-point performance on Saturday, was scoreless in 19 minutes of play. The tempo of last night’s game didn’t allow him to spot up and shoot set shots, but he will have to find a way to contribute somehow.
Ramon Sessions – Sessions has been extremely quiet in the playoffs. When he first joined the Lakers, he was putting up great numbers and really added a new dimension to this team. However, he has since slid production-wise. Sessions has the talent, and is probably just adjusting to playoff-style basketball, but he must regain his confidence and become more aggressive and assertive. Kobe can’t create shots for everyone and create shots for himself throughout games, and that’s why Sessions was brought along. If Sessions can become more aggressive and in turn be more productive, the Lakers will greatly benefit.
Bench – Wherever the production comes from, it will have to be present for the Lakers going forward. If not, it will be up to the starters to play extremely heavy minutes in order to keep games close in the future.
Tempo – The tempo of the game last night was extremely fast-paced. The Lakers must find a way to slow the game down and get back on defense. The Thunder push the ball up the court extremely fast, so the Lakers have to find a way to limit this. Crashing the offensive glass is one way they can do this. The Thunder know that when the Lakers have a chance to set their defense, it is extremely hard to score in the lane against their two seven-footers. That is why they make it a point to get the ball up the court before Gasol and Bynum can get there.
Mindset – The Lakers seem to have the right mindset following the loss; other than Devin Ebanks losing his cool in garbage time. Metta World Peace said he thought the Lakers performed relatively well. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol sat on the bench and calmly discussed what can be done differently between the two in order to be more successful in Game 2. No one needs to worry about Kobe, as he has been in every situation possible. The fact that the Lakers aren’t discouraged after last night’s beating is a great sign. They aren’t sitting around moping amongst themselves, and are instead trying to find ways to work through the game plan going forward.
As for Lakers fans, you need not be worried either. It never feels good to have your team demolished by 30 points, but the Lakers have been in this position plenty of times before. At the end of the day, the Lakers lost Game 1 on the road. They need to just “steal” one win on the road in order to swing the momentum in their favor. The Thunder had nine days off, and were pumped up and ready to go in Game 1. There’s no doubt they are a young team and will be ready to play in each game of this series, but at least now the Lakers know what to expect.
The Lakers sustained a setback, but they have Game 2 on Wednesday to turn things around.