Well, this wasn’t the impression that the Lakers should have made on the second round series opener against the Thunder, was it? The Lakers were coming off a grueling first round series against the Denver Nuggets that went the full distance, which ended Saturday night in Game 7.
The energetic and passionate play displayed by the Lakers on Saturday night certainly didn’t translate to last night’s Game 1 119-90 loss in Oklahoma City. Oh and by the way, the Thunder did not show any signs of rust after a nine-day rest between series’.
So, what went wrong for the Lakers in Game 1? To be honest, almost everything went wrong, but let’s analyze the five major areas that can be adjusted before Game 2.
1. Turnovers- I cannot wait for a time when I don’t have to write about the concern of controlling the ball and committing senseless turnovers. By simply taking care of the ball, you prevent the defense from being able to do so much against you. At the end of the first half in Game 1, the Lakers had committed eight turnovers, which led to 16 points for Oklahoma City. Meanwhile at the half, the Lakers were only able to force one turnover by the Thunder. By the end of the game, the Lakers added seven more turnovers (15 total), while the Thunder’s game total was just four. The Thunder finished with 22 points off of turnovers compared to six by the Lakers.
2. No Defense- The defense was horrible in Game 1, as the Thunder were pretty much able to do whatever they wanted to on the offense end. The Thunder shot 53 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from the three-point line on Monday night. The Lakers were late, sometimes very late, on defensive rotations, which made the Lakers scramble on defense. This led to too many opportunities for the Thunder to move the ball to the open man who seemed to convert at will. There was a lack of communication with the Lakers on defense, which allowed the Thunder to take advantage of Laker miscues, leading to easy opportunities around the rim. The Thunder found their rhythm early on and the Lakers did not do enough on defense to disrupt it or change it.
3. Not Enough Inside Presence- Despite being able to do more on the defensive end, Andrew Bynum had a decent night offensively, posting 20 points and 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Game 7 against Denver seemed to drain Pau Gasol. His energy and intensity that was on full display seemed to have missed the plane to Oklahoma City, and he had the worst +/- on the team with a -29 . Gasol posted 10 points and 7 boards, but didn’t get to the line once during Game 1. The Lakers went away from working their offense from the inside out, and relied on way too may jumpers to get their offense going, which clearly never did. The Thunder beat the Lakers in points in the paint, which cannot and should not be allowed again if the Lakers want a chance in this series. The Lakers struggled from the field last night and their dependence on outside jumpers led to the Thunder getting out on the break. The Thunder finished with 13 fast break points compared to zero, yes zero, by the Lakers.
4. No Bench or Role Player Production- The biggest difference among players came from the production between Ramon Sessions and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook had a stellar game with 27 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Meanwhile, Sessions shot just 1-7, earning two points, three assists and zero rebounds. He appeared to tweak his ankle, but this lack of production cannot be repeated, especially going after a powerhouse like Westbrook. The Lakers’ bench failed to contribute in Game 1, posting a total of 26 points. Meanwhile, the Thunder bench collected a total of 50 points. The Lakers’ bench and role players like Sessions and Metta World Peace, even though World Peace had a good first half, need to step up and contribute as they did in Game 7 of the first round.
5. No Energy- There was a concern from many going into this game that there would be a problem with the amount of energy the Lakers would come out with considering the series against the Nuggets only ended two days ago. There remains a bit of concern with this issue considering the Thunder’s youth, athleticism and speed and the Laker’s age and struggle against teams who excel in transition. The Lakers looked drained in Game 1 from the opening-tip, which is not a good sign especially with a condensed series schedule, including back-to-back games in Game 3 and 4.
The good news is that this is only one game and the above problems can be adjusted in order for the team to improve and truly compete. We all knew that this was going to be a tough series, and it’s only going to get tougher. This is when true champions emerge and prove the critics wrong. The Lakers have every ability to do just that. It is time for them to prove it.