Lakers – Thunder Running Diary

FisherRead about the Lakers vs. Thunder games as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Thunder Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers 105, Thunder 98: Postgame
Lakers – Thunder Running Diary 2-10-2009

Lakers 107, Thunder 93: Postgame
Lakers – Thunder Running Diary 2-24-2009

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Thunder: Desmond Mason, DJ White

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Ariza, Odom and Gasol
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic

Stat Check
One thing about having a young team is that you’re simply going to turn the ball over a lot. For OKC, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant do just that, ranking 5th and 8th in the entire NBA with 3.4 and 3.2 TO’s per game. This shouldn’t be too surprising, however, since the two youngsters have the ball for the majority of the Thunder’s possessions and are charged with making plays.

ArizaFirst Quarter
A few other things to keep in mind tonight: A) Not only are the Thunder one of two teams in the league to conduct a pregame prayer (New Orleans), but they also play the state song of Oklahoma while a season ticket holder waves the OK flag; B) The Lakers got crushed on the glass (45-30) last time they were here and don’t plan on that happening again to the league’s top rebounding team; C) Phil Jackson’s now one game away from tying Pat Riley for the most games coached in Lakers history.

11:25 Ariza nicely picked off a Thunder pass before finishing with a two-handed dunk at the other end, backing Gasol’s open jumper to put L.A. 4-0. That the Lakers are going to be able to get good looks against OKC’s young defense is just as clear as Michael Scott’s not going to appreciate having Stringer Bell from “The Wire” as his new boss on “The Office.”

8:27 L.A.’s lead quickly became nine when focused Odom scored seven straight points, first canning a three, then sticking a driving layup and finally tipping in a Bryant miss. Lamar seemed particularly focused in the locker room before the game, and proceeded to score nine of L.A.’s first 15 points to put his team up early. Having a zoned-in Lakers starting five wasn’t helping OKC much.

6:08 While forcing OKC into perimeter jumpers, Fisher stuck two of his own and Bryant got to the rack. No one was missing as L.A. opened shooting 75 percent (9-of-12) to take a 21-10 lead.

5:12 The kid behind me yelled out “Hey Lamar!” when Odom came over under the hoop to inbound the ball. It was no surprise to me that Odom turned around, smiled and said, “What’s up man?” It’s really not possible to dislike Lamar Odom … That’d be like suggesting that peanut butter and jelly don’t go together, or that there are as many good restaurants in Oklahoma City as there are in Chicago.

3:47 Gasol’s putback put L.A. up 25-13 as Jordan Farmar checked in fairly early for Fisher, who’d made all three of his shots and notched two assists. Jackson said not to be surprised if Farmar spells Fisher more often throughout the road trip.

1:58 A rather nasty, mean-spirited alley-oop went from one superstar to another as Kobe found Pau well above the rim for a two-hander that put L.A. up 11. After another good, active defensive possession, Walton joined Farmar, Bryant, Odom and Gasol on the floor…

1:07 And immediately took advantage of a mismatch by scoring on the baseline. He did the same with Westbrook switched over on him to put L.A. up 35-20, and was on pace to score like 40 points. Good thing we did a lil’ piece on Walton and Farmar this morning.

0:01.0 Just for good measure, Bryant capped off L.A.’s extremely solid first quarter with a double-pump layup in traffic. A 17-point lead fairly told the Lakers’ story of dominance, as did their 66.7 shooting percentage, Oklahoma City’s struggle to score (20 points on 40.9 percent shooting) and five turnovers, plus 26 points in the paint for the road team. Apparently, the Lakers decided to carry the fourth quarter in Chicago right into this game.

GasolSecond Quarter
9:14 Well, we were curious to see if the bench could keep up its effectiveness from Saturday evening, and through three minutes, the answer was no. OKC outscored the Lakers (who had Gasol in instead of Odom from last game) 8-2 to open the quarter until two Josh Powell free throws made it 41-28 Lakers.

7:46 L.A. got two good looks on their next two chances, however, courtesy of Walton (3-of-4) and Vujacic (a driving layup) to go back up by 15.

6:20 Walton continued an excellent quarter with a turnaround jumper in the lane to get to eight points in seven minutes. Speaking of Walton, make sure to check The Popcorn Machine tomorrow, as he’s the subject of our latest podcast. We spent about 30 minutes in his room earlier today talking about subjects as wide-ranging as high school fashion (or lack there of), 2-on-2 games with Larry Bird and learning how to drive in Tijuana. The PM is now available on iTunes for download, as is J-Peezy’s Playlist.

5:25 L.A.’s lineup out of a timeout: the starters plus Mbenga in for Gasol. Bryant promptly swatted Durant near the rim, before feeding Mbenga, who got fouled. The bench had a shaky start, but ended up recuperating just fine thanks mostly to Walton.

2:15 Odom continued his impressive (+19) game with another jumper, his fifth hit in six attempts for 11 points with five boards. He’d go on to hit two foul shots on the next possession after again closing up the lane from the weakside and forcing a OKC miss, reminding us that he doesn’t get enough credit for his D. There’s a reason for that excellent +/- (4th in the NBA), after all. Alas, with those foul shots, L.A. reclaimed the once 17-point lead.

0:47.0 Mbenga was playing well enough defensively, including his final-minute swat, to keep Pau on the bench as L.A. pushed its lead to 62-38, completing an 11-0 run to close the half. After Odom’s four straight points, Fisher added free throws, Bryant a triple and Ariza a put-back dunk to get to 62.

All in all, it was an extremely professional half for the Lakers, who for once showed no interest in letting a team with inferior talent stick around. The only Laker who didn’t shoot well was Bryant, who came in at 4-for-12 en route to 13 points (tied with Odom). We’ll see if the Lakers can keep up the dominance/energy in the second half with OKC’s sold out crowd clamoring for a run.

Fisher/ArizaThird Quarter
11:20 Durant, whom L.A. limited to eight points on 4-of-13 shooting (all jumpers), opened up with a make as his agent and a rumored Gatoraid rep were buried in their cell phones from their courtside seats. I thought maybe they’d look up when the PA announcer said KD’s name, but nope. That was fun for some reason.

9:14 Odom scored off a nice give-and-go play with Pau, though OKC hit back-to-back threes to “cut” the lead to 20.

6:22 It’s fair to say that Odom’s jumper looked better than it had in a few games as he stroked another triple to get to a team-high 18 points, putting L.A. up 78-56. Yet just as we (I) were (was) singing Odom’s praises, he committed a rather silly foul, reaching in after Gasol’s miss in transition to get his fifth foul. L.A. was up 20, but still, that idea was about as good as “Real World” Chet’s plan to make a life size cutout photo of himself and stick it on the house wall*.
*Upon further consideration, Chet’s idea was much, much, much worse. Sorry Lamar.

3:22 There’s your highlight, SportsCenter. After a Lakers steal, Bryant leaked out in transition, caught an outlet pass and threw the ball behind his back to a trailing Ariza, who got all fierce on the rim after twisting his body around a Thunder defender.

2:01 Just figured out why Odom committed the foul – he wanted more burn for J-Peezy, who canned his fourth straight shot to get to 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting to put L.A. up 90-68. There’s been no let-down to speak of for L.A.

0:06.9 Bryant picked Sefolosha’s pocket and fed Ariza on the break, but his pass just got away from Pau in what would have surely been a dunk. Instead, L.A. took an 18-point lead into the fourth, conceding six points off their halftime lead but looking anything but vulnerable. It’ll be interesting to see what Phil does with L.A.’s minutes here … Odom’s five fouls will probably force him to play Gasol, though it wouldn’t bother me to see Mbenga in there with Powell.

Fourth Quarter
12:00 Nope, it’s Pau, with Powell, Walton, Vujacic and Farmar Gasol had played 32 minutes already, but hopefully won’t need to stay out there long.

9:40 A really nice play off the fastbreak from Walton, who put his body in front of Durant to shield towards the hoop, then dropped it off to Farmar for a layup that kept the lead at 21. On the less positive side for L.A., neither Farmar or Vujacic were able to convert offensively, combining to shoot 1-for-7, though their defense and ball movement had been just fine.

8:25 Mbenga and Odom checked in, intent upon keeping Gasol on the bench … But Odom was immediately whistled for a foul, his sixth, when Westbrook drove to the hole. It looked like Mbenga might have been the culprit, but either way, that may have made it difficult to keep Gasol on the bench. Powell came right back in after 10 seconds rest.

6:12 A triple from Walton continued his solid night off the bench and put L.A.’s lead back at 20.

5:45 L.A.’s alley-oop inbounds play strikes again, this time with Shannon Brown jumping at least 50 inches into the air an slamming it home*. Meanwhile, the Thunder had conceded the loss, symbolized by Malik Rose’s entrance into the game and a good portion of the crowd heading for the exits.
*My text message from Ty Nowell after that play: “Shannon Brown is fun.”

2:59 I don’t like when the t-shirt throwing guys with the big potato guns throw shirts to kids sitting in the first few rows decked out in their team’s official jerseys. Obviously, those kids can afford their own t-shirts. You have the big gun for a reason, dude, why not help out the upper level? Come on.

0:35 And there’s another example of why Shannon Brown is fun. Out of nowhere, he leapt into the air from the baseline for a far-too-easy two-handed slam, the final point of emphasis in L.A.’s dominating 107-89 victory.