Lakers 87, Thunder 79: Game 1 Diary, Wrap Up

60198250Lakers – Thunder Gameday Page
The Lakers opened their title defense with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and we took a quarter-by-quarter look at the contest to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Inactives
Lakers: DJ Mbenga (eye)
Thunder: Byron Mullins, DJ White

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum*
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
*Bynum started his first game since March 19.

Lakers – Thunder Series Preview
For a complete series preview with the Thunder, we authored a player-by-player breakdown, sat down for a 7-minute on-camera interview with assistant coach Jim Cleamons (including Thunder clips and highlights) and more, which you can check out by clicking here.

60198160First Quarter
7:17 L.A.’s game plan worked quite well in the first five minutes (Phil Jackson’s coaching staff had put together one or two in the past), with the Lakers pounding the ball inside on offense and overloading the strong side defensively. That formula helped force OKC into 1-of-7 shooting, while L.A. missed two layups and still went 5-of-9 to take a 10-4 lead. More early good news for the home team: Andrew Bynum made two of three shots and was moving very well.

3:53 The Thunder managed to get four transition points (against which L.A.’s coaches warned) to stick around, but the Lakers responded out of a time out with a gorgeous play in which newly-checked-in Lamar Odom (Bynum had four points, four rebounds and a swat before being replaced) found Pau Gasol for an alley-oop dunk.

0:00 A terrific quarter, really, for the Lakers. It wasn’t so much the 27-13 score, but how they thoroughly controlled the flow. OKC struggled to get anything but contested jumpers on offense (5-of-19 from the field), while L.A. generally picked what it wanted to run, then executed quite well. The only Laker who struggled early, Derek Fisher, nailed three straight shots – including two 3-pointers – after missing his first four looks.

Second Quarter
7:45 With Kevin Durant checking back in after a 4-for-9 start, Ron Artest checked back in as well. His assignment was pretty clear, huh? Two Nenad Krstic free throws had made it 33-21 Lakers after a pretty and-1 bucket from Gasol, but Bryant immediately nailed a triple at the other end to push the lead to 15, getting himself into double digits with 10. What followed produced the biggest roar from STAPLES Center in a long time as Bynum first swatted Durant on D, then hammered home a huge dunk right on Krstic. I haven’t seen Bynum that pumped up in a long time, as witnessed by a plethora of hard high fives and chest bumps with each teammate into an OKC time out.

2:06 The Lakers were missing quite a few easy looks, including back-to-back tip back opportunities at the rim from Odom and Gasol, dropping the team’s shooting percentage to 43.6 percent. Yet they still led by 14 thanks to holding OKC to 37.5 percent. In unrelated news, the guys that made “Sonics Gate” were sitting behind the Thunder bench wearing Sonics retro kits and holding a sign saying “Seattle Drafted Durant.” They, of course, were rooting hard against the Thunder.

0:00 L.A.’s first poor stretch of the game occurred with Bynum on the bench as Westbrook, who had just two points in the first 22 minutes, scored eight straight as the Lakers’ lead dropped to eight. Fisher guarded him the same way he had with success early in the half, but the weak side help wasn’t there. Meanwhile, L.A. stayed cold from the field, making only 6-of-22 shots in the quarter (27 percent), but clearly had better scoring opportunities than the Thunder.

60198167Third Quarter
8:30Had you not watched the Lakers for a month, you’d be shocked to know that Bynum hadn’t played since March 19. A pretty move into the lane got him to 11 points with seven boards on 5-of-7 shooting, plus two blocks and some valuable help defense particularly on Westbrook. Very impressive from the 22-year-old center as L.A. went back up 10. Meanwhile, the D helped force OKC into 1-of-10 shooting to start the third.

5:02 Bynum’s help defense on Westbrook earlier in the quarter helped to deter the L.A. native from attempting a drive, though he did manage a floater that made it a 9-point game. One thing the Lakers can deploy on Westbrook, and did twice, is called Kobe Bryant, who both times forced Westbrook to give it up. Gasol, meanwhile, nailed two perimeter jumpers to get to 15 points.

1:05 Though Artest continued to miss perimeter J’s (1-of-7), he continued to be very effective on Durant, the league’s leading scorer in the regular season (30 ppg). It took Durant 11 minutes to make his first field goal of the quarter, getting him to just 5-of-16 shooting for 13 points. He did manage to get to the foul line four times in the final minute, making three to cut L.A.’s lead to eight (Odom would hit two himself with 2.3 seconds remaining) heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter
9:50 The Lakers – or the Thunder, for that matter – had gotten little from their bench in terms of scoring in limited minutes, which is why Jordan Farmar’s quick five points were so helpful to L.A. The second shot was a 3-pointer near the end of the shot clock that put L.A. up 69-58. Bench points were 13-8 in L.A.’s favor.

6:25 Almost immediately after I mentioned that Kobe was just 4-for-14 from the field and 6-of-10 from the foul line, he nailed a deep three-pointer to put L.A. up 10. One concern for L.A. at that point, however: Artest had picked up his fifth foul while defending Durant, who was just 6-of-20 from the field with Ron Ron on him like peanut butter on jelly all day.

3:31 Interesting moment as Durant drove straight into Bryant, who wanted a charge, but was called for the block. Two free throws ensued, cutting L.A.’s lead to six. Even more interesting was how much both Durant and Bryant were struggling from the field, both making just six of 21 and 19 attempts, respectively.

1:30 The game still in L.A.’s control, it didn’t seem completely over until Derek Fisher’s dagger 3-pointer. That’s why they love him in L.A., right? He hadn’t hit a shot since the first quarter, but pulled up early in the shot clock and buried a triple to put the Lakers up 10. L.A. would go on to win 87-79, its lead never seriously threatened.

Game 2 will take place on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m., but until then, your postgame wrap and numbers:

60198124POSTGAME WRAP
In his postgame presser, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said that his team couldn’t have played any harder in Sunday’s Game 1 87-79 loss to the Lakers, stating that defensively, it was “probably as well as we can possibly play.”

Though Brooks was deservedly proud of his team for the effort level – which to a degree helped limit the Lakers to just 41 percent shooting from the field – L.A. still held a comfortable lead throughout the game and never allowed the Thunder to get closer than six points in the second half.

Leading the way for L.A., as is often the case, was the team’s elite length.

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were effective and efficient on offense (making a combined 13-of-24 field goals) and combined to block seven shots to keep the Thunder largely out of the paint, helping the Lakers go relatively unaffected from a 6-for-19 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant.

“We did a good job, we played with each other very well,” said Bryant, who finished with 21 points while helping to facilitate ball movement into the bigs. “We were quick on our rotations and we anticipated very well.”

The Lakers’ effort was particularly good in the first quarter, when they jumped out to a 27-13 lead, and while Phil Jackson wasn’t thrilled with the team’s second half performance, he and the players knew it was good enough to win. And as the team had stated after being impressed in Friday and Saturday’s practices, it was certainly nice to get a healthy Bynum back into the mix.

“Energy, size, intimidation, a lot of good rebounding, good post presence – several things,” said Gasol of Bynum’s contribution. “He’s fresh. He’s ready to roll.”

Another key in the victory for L.A. was Ron Artest’s defense on Kevin Durant, which helped hold the league’s leading scorer to 24 points on 24 shots (7-of-24), leaving Durant frustrated particularly in the second half. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook hurt the Lakers with eight points in the final two minutes of the first half, but Jackson noted that the Lakers did a solid job against Westbrook particularly in the fourth quarter.

While the Thunder can and will certainly shoot the ball better (40.3 percent) as the series go on, the Lakers feel comfortable with their matchups and know their effort can improve into Tuesday’s Game 2.

NUMBERS
2 Double-doubles for the Lakers, as both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum posted point-rebound DD’s. The Spaniard was good for 19 and 13, while Bynum went for 13 and 12.

9 Blocks for the Lakers, six more than the league’s best shot-blocking team in the regular season, OKC. Bynum swatted four shots himself in 30 minutes, while Gasol blocked three and Kobe Bryant two.

12 OKC’s edge in fastbreak points (14-2), which wasn’t enough to overcome L.A.’s advantage on the glass (41-36) and from the 3-point line (eight makes to two).

30.4 Kevin Durant’s shooting percentage, as he was limited to 24 points 7-of-23 shooting thanks in part to Ron Artest’s solid defense throughout the afternoon. KD grabbed six boards with two assists and four turnovers in 42 minutes.

31.6 Bryant’s not-much-better percentage on 6-of-19, though he did add three assists, two steals, two blocks and two rebounds with two turnovers in 41 minutes.