Monthly Archive for May, 2012

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Game 5 Shootaround Notes

We took some notes from Lakers shootaround in advance of Monday evening’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City:

One Game at a Time: That was the central theme of the shootaround session. The Lakers are trying to focus only on winning Game 5, and not thinking about the fact that they’re down 3-1 and would have to win three straight, including two on the road, to win the series. That’s always in the “easier said than done” area, but it’s the only sensible way to approach a game.

Mental Frustration: The angst of a team that feels like it was in great position to win two of the three games they lost, the Lakers blowing a 7-point lead with two minutes left in Game 2 and a 9-point lead with six minutes to play in Game 4 is high. But that’s also part of the “one game at a time” mindset, the dismissal of emotion from earlier in the series, if possible.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are tall: It’s always a good reminder how long the two largest Lakers are when leaving shootaround with a stiff neck from staring straight up.

The 7-Footers: Speaking of tall people … the Lakers clearly need to get a bigger impact from Bynum and Gasol than the two bigs were able to produce in the second half of Game 4, tired legs or not, if they’re to win Game 5. They combined for only eight points and four boards in that fateful second half after playing quite well in the previous 10 quarters of the series. Expect Gasol in particular to step up early, after he took what was probably an unfair amount of blame for L.A.’s crunch time woes in Game 4 as he opted to make a dangerous pass that Kevin Durant intercepted instead of taking an open shot in the final minute. The prideful Spaniard will look to respond as he did to a poor Game 6 at Denver, when he exploded for 23 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in Game 7.

Pick and Roll D: The biggest adjustment the Lakers made between a blowout loss in Game 1 and three consecutive tight games played mostly at their pace came on pick and roll defense. The Lakers changed Bynum’s coverages in particular, encouraging him to show hard and bother Russell Westbrook when he came hard off screen/rolls, and for the most part it really worked well. Westbrook was shooting below 40 percent in Games 2 and 3 and the first half of Game 4, but eventually Bynum (though it wasn’t him on every possession) tired and Westbrook exploded for 23 points in the second half of Game 4. Fatigue had to have been an issue in the rare playoff back to back. For those looking for an explanation: Bynum had played 40 minutes in Game 3, and then over 42 in Game 4, having previously played consecutive 40-minute games only in a March 13/14 back to back at Memphis and New Orleans, in which both games went to overtime. It’s also possible that Bynum had gotten frustrated with his lack of touches on offense especially in the fourth quarter, which at times affected his defensive production throughout the season.

World Peace Seeks 1-on-1 Assignment: Metta World Peace praised OKC’s coaching staff for running Durant off all kinds of down screens, often involving the over-physical Kendrick Perkins, to free the NBA’s leading scorer throughout the series. World Peace relishes chances to defend Durant 1-on-1, but pointed out that it’s very rare Durant isn’t getting a screen of some sort. That makes MWP’s job more difficult, which is one of the reasons why he’s been so determined to fight Durant when he’s off the ball and try to deny him the ball in the first place. On offense, OKC has been helping off MWP quite a bit to double Bynum (most often) and Gasol, and World Peace nailed four triples in Game 4. He is shooting 38 percent from three in his five postseason games.

Sessions in the Mix: After two quiet road games to start the series, point guard Ramon Sessions was more assertive at STAPLES Center, taking nine shots in each home game (22 total points) after attempting only 10 total in OKC (four points). He added nine collective assists after managing only three total in Games 1 and 2, causing the Thunder some problems with his penetration off screen/rolls. However, Steve Blake’s been getting the crunch time minutes – and has played well in them – so Sessions hasn’t been able to impact the games late. L.A. will need his aggression and speed in Game 5.

Elimination Games: Courtesy of the Lakers Game Notes: The Lakers are 44-42 in postseason elimination games (games in which a loss would end a Lakers playoff run), going 35-36 since moving to Los Angeles and 9-6 while playing in Minneapolis. Since 2000, the Lakers are 9-6 in 15 elimination games: Game 7 of the WC First Round vs. Denver (W), Game 4 of the WC Semifinals at Dallas (L), Game 6 & 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals vs. Boston (W), Game 7 of the 2009 WC Semifinals vs. Houston (W), Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals at Boston (L), Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals vs. Boston (W), Game 5 of the 2007 WC First Round at Phoenix (L), Game 7 of the 2006 WC First Round at Phoenix (L), Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals at Detroit (L), Game 6 of the 2003 WC Semis versus San Antonio (L), Game 7 of the 2002 WC Finals at Sacramento (W), Game 6 of the 2002 WC Finals vs. Sacramento (W), Game 7 of the 2000 WC Finals vs. Portland (W) and Game 5 of the 2000 WC First Round vs. Sacramento (W).

LAL – OKC: Game 4 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 103-100 Game 4 loss to Oklahoma City, in which they couldn’t hold a 9-point lead with 6:03 to go in the fourth quarter:

Points for Russell Westbrook on an efficient 15 of 26 shooting, plus 6 of 7 free throws, to lead all scorers. He was particularly deadly in the second half, scoring 23 points to keep OKC in the game. The L.A. native was particularly dangerous coming explosively off screens, which Andrew Bynum had deterred successfully since Game 2; doing so is very tiring, however, and Westbrook gained steam in the second half as Bynum tired. “It was an amazing win,” he summarized. “We kept fighting for each other.”

Field goal attempts for Kobe Bryant, who made 12 while being forced into a bevy of tough looks in the final six minutes. He was fantastic in the third quarter, willing L.A. to a double digit lead, but couldn’t find the hole in the fourth. After 18 free throw attempts in Game 3, all of which he made, he converted 14 of 17 in this one to help him reach 38 points, the 87th time he’s been at least to 30 in the playoffs (second only to Michael Jordan). He added eight boards and five assists, but will remember only the fact that L.A. lost one it had to have.

L.A.’s biggest lead of the fourth quarter and the game, coming on Jordan Hill’s put-back with 8:03 to play. But Derek Fisher, who was otherwise quiet throughout the evening, answered with a three to trim the lead back to 10, which Thunder coach Scott Brooks said was critical to the team’s confidence.

Total points for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the second half, after Bynum alone had 14 in the first half. L.A.’s inability to get the ball inside especially down the stretch, whether the fault of the bigs for not getting open/being aggressive or the perimeter players for not finding ways to get the ball inside and settling for contested jumpers. Either way, it didn’t work for the Lakers.

Free throws missed by the Lakers, a killer in a 3-point game, after they missed only one on the previous night.

Three-pointers hit by Metta World Peace on eight attempts, including two at the start of the fourth quarter that helped push L.A.’s lead to a game-high 13 points. He finished with 14 points, six boards and two steals.

To reiterate the point that LAL’s big men were tired: Bynum and Gasol had only two rebounds apiece in the second half, while Durant alone had seven in that time. Bynum finished with 18points, nine boards, four assists, three blocks and two steals, Gasol a quiet 10 points, five boards, three blocks and two assists.

More fast break points for the Lakers than OKC, not something one might expect, but L.A. had only two in the second half.

LAL 100, OKC 103: Game 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday evening 2nd Round playoff Game 4 vs. Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to build upon a Game 3 victory, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
OKC: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

7:00 Despite an intense, emotional Game 3 that came down to the final minutes just 24 hours earlier on this rare playoff back-to-back, neither team showed signs of fatigue in the opening minutes, as they combined to make 12 of 17 shots in a 14-all tie, including 3 of 3 from Bynum, already one more shot than he made in Game 3 (2 of 13).

2:59 The first triple of the game came courtesy of Metta World Peace, whose top-of-the-key launch put LAL up 21-18 into the first Thunder time out. All five Lakers had scored, combining to shoot 64.3 percent from the field, led by six apiece from All-Stars Bynum and Bryant. Westbrook paced OKC with eight.

0:00 Bynum finished 4 of 4 from the field after another make, for 10 points plus three assists and three boards, leading L.A. to a 29-24 lead after one. Brown called him the star of the game in LAL’s Game 3 victory despite his shooting struggles, so it was a big positive to see Bynum continue to play defense as effectively while also converting at the other end.

9:35 Officially dominating the game: Bynum. He followed up a swat of Mohammad, his second, by sprinting full court, collecting a pass at the FT line, taking one step and dunking home his seventh field goal in eight attempts. That gave him 14 points, with three boards, three assists (one short of Sessions’ four) and the two blocks. In related news, LAL led 36-26.

4:46 After draining all 18 of his foul attempts to set a Lakers franchise playoff record, Bryant finally missed one after hitting his first five, and though he got his own rebound, Ibaka blocked him at the rim to lead to Durant’s fast break dunk, cutting LAL’s lead to eight at 47-39.

0:00 It was quite fun to watch the final minute or so at STAPLES, thanks to Kobe Bryant, breaking out three consecutive hard drives to the rim, scoring through contact on the first and third while getting blocked by Perkins on the second. The third drive came with 2.6 seconds left, and came plus the foul on Perk (his third), and kept the Lakers up 10 at the half. Sessions was excellent in the half, scoring eight points with four assists, and sparking LAL’s 13-8 edge in fastbreak points, certainly unexpected against the youthful OKC legs.

8:00 The teams spent the first four minutes of the third exchanging hoops, both scoring eight points as L.A. maintained its 10-point lead. At some point, L.A. would have to expect OKC to make a run with those young, athletic legs, but they continued to control tempo as they had throughout the first half.

5:56 Kobe continued to punish Sefolosha as OKC failed to bring a help defender, going three for four from the field, and making five trips to the line (including a technical) to score 10 points in the first half of the period, keeping the Lakers up 12.

1:50 Yet another Kobe conversion in the paint preceded two free throw misses from Bynum (who was 10 of 11 in Game 3, but may have been tiring a bit) and 1 of 2 from World Peace, the lead thus staying at 10 instead of 13. LAL went 41 of 42 in Game 3, but was 16 of 22 in this one. Bryant then missed one of his foul shots, but he made up for it with a buzzer-beating J over Westbrook, giving him 31 points (the 87th of his playoff career, trailing only Michael Jordan’s 109) and the Lakers an 80-71 lead despite 27 from Westbrook and 20 from Durant, OKC hanging around.

8:40 With Kobe getting some much deserved rest after carrying LAL through the third, World Peace stepped up in a major way, draining two triples, hitting 1 of 2 free throws (team at just 69 percent) and finding Bynum for an easy lay in, accounting for all nine Lakers points. Then for good measure, he tied up Ibaka with five seconds left on the shot clock, resulting in LAL winning the jump ball, holding onto an 11-point lead.

2:27 Suddenly, the Lakers offense had stalled completely, and Westbrook/Durant took full advantage to trim the lead to only two despite two missed FT’s from Durant. Moments later, they’d actually take their first lead since the first quarter when Perkins tipped in Westbrook’s miss with 1:16 to go, though Kobe’s two free throws tied it back up at 98 on the ensuing possession with 1:04 to play.

0:00 For the second devastating time in three games, the Lakers blew a lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, this time a 9-point edge with just under six minutes to play. The final blow in a 16-6 run to end the game came from Durant, who rose to break a 100-all tie with a top-of-the-key triple. Bryant missed the ensuing three-pointer on the other end that would have tied the game with 8.9 seconds to go, but L.A. would regret a few opportunities they passed up. The most glaring would come from Gasol, who instead of rising to take a 15-foot jumper, tried to make a cross court that Durant intercepted, before hitting the three with 13.7 left on the other end. OKC never let up for a second despite trailing by double digits for nearly the entire second half, and coldly made its final run behind Westbrook (37 points) and Durant (31), thus tearing victory away from L.A.’s hands to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Oklahoma City for Monday’s Game 5. We’ll see you there.

LAL – OKC: Game 3 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s dramatic 99-96 victory, in which the Lakers erased a 5-point deficit with 2:54 to play:

Missed free throw in the entire night for the Lakers, who sank 41 of 42, highlighted by Kobe Bryant’s 18 for 18 and Andrew Bynum’s 11 for 12. Bryant hit six of his 18 in the final 1:09, including two with 9.8 seconds left to force OKC into a game-tying three-point attempt that Kevin Durant missed.

Said Mike Brown: “Every possession is huge in a series against a very good team like the Thunder, and that means when you go to the line you have to knock them down,” said Mike Brown. “For us to step up to the line and have the concentration and focus that we had, especially at a clip of 41 of 42, is huge.”

Assists for Pau Gasol to match Bryant for the team lead, as OKC committed a lot of attention to the 7-foot Spaniard. He added 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal to his 12 points on only eight field goal attempts, saying after the game that he again just tries to find ways to help his team win regardless of what the defense does.

Season-high rebounds for Steve Blake in his 28 minutes, including a huge offensive board with 45 seconds left that got Kobe an extra look, which he used to draw a foul on Russell Westbrook and hit two key free throws to put L.A. up one in the final minute. Blake added 12 points, hitting two huge shots to tie the game with 5:57 left, the second a triple, erasing a 5-point OKC lead. Brown cited Blake’s constant “multiple effort” and toughness.

Field goal misses for Andrew Bynum on 13 attempts, such a rare poor shooting night for one of the league’s most efficient players. That’s what made his night all the more impressive to Mike Brown*, who had this to say: “‘Drew was an absolute monster. I cannot take my hat off to anybody more than Bynum.” Bynum was extremely active on pick and rolls, repeatedly closing out to discourage open looks on pick and roll sets, and grabbed 11 rebounds plus three blocks. Despite recording the only Lakers missed free throw, he still hit 11 of 12.
*Brown actually pulled Bynum aside early in the fourth quarter during a time out, telling him to just keep doing what he was doing, playing hard every play despite the misses, and Bynum certainly did.

Lakers turnovers, which nearly proved fatal, as Westbrook’s strip of Bryant and dunk on the other end with 2:54 left produced a 92-87 OKC lead. LAL needed a 6-0 run to reclaim the edge, at the 1:09 mark, on two Kobe free throws.

Points for Bryant, a game-high, half of them coming at the foul line. It was the 86th time in his career that Kobe has hit at least the 30-point mark in a playoff game, second only to Michael Jordan’s 109. In a humorous postgame presser, Bryant said: 1) “Put your big boy pants on, leave your diaper at home” in response to a question about having to play a back-to-back; 2) “Come on, he’s like 5-2″ on hitting two jumpers in the fourth over Derek Fisher; and 3) “Pau was (being) politically correct. I’ll give you the real s&*#.”

Lakers shooting percentage in the game, thanks to a poor second half performance from the field. “Tonight was a great defensive effort,” explained Westbrook. It was certainly a physical contest, OKC’s bigs pushing Bynum off his spots,

L.A.’s free throw percentage, the second best in NBA playoff history with a minimum of 30 attempts, trailing only a 49 of 50 by Dallas at San Antonio on May 19, 2003.

LAL 99, OKC 96: Game 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening Game 3 2nd Round playoff game vs. Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a crushing last-minute loss in Game 2, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
OKC: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

9:25 The first two minutes were for L.A. a very strong continuation of the solid defense they played in Game 2, the Thunder missing all five of their attempts, while a bucket each from every starter but World Peace had L.A. up 8-0, causing OKC’s time out.

4:12 The trend continued despite a line up shift from OKC, putting Westbrook on the bench in favor of Fisher and moving Durant to the four (Harden and Sefolosha on the wings, Perkins remaining inside), with Bryant’s third field goal making it 18-6 for the home team. Two standing ovations had already come out of a frenzied STAPLES crowd, appreciating a terrific effort full of ball movement on O and aggression on D.

2:34 Harden did stop the run with consecutive drives to draw two Kobe fouls (3 of 4 free throws) while going hard to the hoop with his head down, and Fisher converted a transition finger roll after Blake’s turnover. So L.A. had finally cooled off, but still led 18-11 into their first time out. At quarter’s end, the lead was 23-15, the third consecutive excellent defensive quarter (if you take out the final two minutes of Game 2, of course). All five starters scored, with the corner three from World Peace giving him the lowest point total.

6:10 With Bryant and Bynum resting on the bench, LAL’s second unit conceded an 18-9 run to OKC, fueled mostly by Harden’s penetration off pick and rolls (12 points), while Durant’s triple capped a run to make it 33-32 OKC. The lead, as large as 12 in the first quarter, was thus gone alone with the momentum.

3:50 Our first bit of legit testiness came as World Peace tried to tie Westbrook up while OKC’s PG was on the ground, Westbrook taking exception and swiping out at MWP, but matching T’s were the only result as the refs did a good job of breaking up the respective teams. L.A. had re-taken the lead with four consecutive Bryant free throws, helped on by Jordan Hill’s activity inside on the glass (plus his huge swat of Durant).

0:00 A buzzer-beating triple from World Peace, who barely had time to collect the Sessions pass before firing, allowed L.A. a 50-47 lead heading into the break. A concern, however, was the defense, which conceded 32 Thunder points after just 15 were allowed in the first quarter. OKC improved from 30 percent to 41 percent overall with the hot second period, LAL hanging around 44.4 percent, and getting 15 of 15 makes at the foul line.

6:07 A 13-6 run out of the half from the visitors allowed their biggest lead of the game, at 60-56, behind Kevin Durant. With LAL’s trapping of Westbrook on pick and rolls working well, the Thunder put the ball in Durant’s hands, and his scoring (two field goals) and play-making (dish for a Sefolosha three) taking advantage of two unforced Lakers turnovers.

1:49 With OKC in the bonus, LAL was pleased to see Fisher get switched over to Kobe, as they banged on each other until Fish was called for the foul, allowing Kobe to make the 21st and 22nd Lakers free throws in as many attempts. He was 10 of 10 and Bynum 8 of 8, allowing L.A. to trim what had been a 7-point lead to one. That would be the margin after three, L.A. improving to a perfect 24 for 24 as Blake FT’s countered two from Durant (23 points, one more than Kobe).

10:00 Mike Brown decided to keep both Bynum and Gasol in to start the fourth, resting only Kobe (Blake in with the starters), and four straight free throws from the bigs (team now 28 for 28) got LAL the lead back. However, the Lakers couldn’t keep OKC off the line either, particularly Harden, who hit four more freebies of his own (9 of 10 total) to make it 74-73.

6:40 James Harden continued to absolutely kill the Lakers, drawing consecutive fouls in about a five-second stretch (neither of which featured hardly any contact), two bonus free throws preceding a Durant layup (from Harden) and then Harden’s transition three off a Barnes turnover.

3:25 An off ball foul on Harden put Kobe at the line, and two more makes cut OKC’s lead to one. It helped a struggling half court LAL offense that did manage to get five straight points all from Steve Blake (a pull-up J and a line-drive triple), but was otherwise having a hard time getting anything going inside. Bynum was only 2 for 12, getting pushed out of his favored spots by Perkins.

1:09 An extremely timely 6-0 Lakers run, fueled by Kobe with a driving layup and then two free throws, erased a 5-point lead to make it 93-92 Lakers, much to the pleasure of the standing STAPLES Center.

0:09.8 After blowing Game 2 in the final two minutes, the Lakers erased a 5-point lead in the final two minutes of this one, with Bryant sealing the win at the foul line, going a perfect 18 for 18 (the team was 41 of 42), his final two with nine seconds left protecting a 99-96 margin. OKC didn’t have any time outs, and thus had to settle for Durant’s 30-foot attempt which actually just missed. Ibaka got the board with three seconds left, but inexplicably tried to stick it back in instead of kicking out for a three. Bynum swatted him, the horn sounding moments later, LAL securing a comeback victory to make it a 2-1 series heading into Saturday’s Game 4. We’ll see you there.

Lakers Game 2 Adjustments Work, But…

Little noise could be heard aside from the steady rumble of the engines as the Lakers team plane soared from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in Thursday’s early morning hours, a heartbreaking 77-75 defeat to the Thunder slowly sinking in.

Blowing a big lead in the final moments of any game, let alone a potential momentum-shifting playoff game against an excellent team, takes a mental toll on a team. But Wednesday’s loss hurts all the more because the Lakers had almost flawlessly executed their game plan.

The entire tempo of the game had gone as L.A.’s coaching staff drew up prior to the action: possessions were slowed; turnovers were minimized; the ball was often taken out of the hands of All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant; and the Lakers’ ball movement was at times good enough to take away OKC’s strong side overload.

All of that produced a 75-68 lead with just over two minutes to play.

Then the execution, the careful attention to detail … all of it … disappeared when it mattered most, with Kobe Bryant – even if his will had propelled L.A. into the lead – taking the lion’s share of the blame, accounting for a a costly turnover that Kevin Durant turned into a dunk, seeing the ball go off his hands on a subsequent trip and watching two of his jump shots fall short.

The Thunder got easy baskets at the rim, created quick turnovers and forced contested jump shots, a game-ending 9-0 run eviscerating L.A.’s foreseen victory and changing the outlook on a series they now trail 2-0 heading into a Friday and Saturday back-to-back at STAPLES Center.

“I thought we did a great job throughout the game, just not the last two minutes,” said Mike Brown. “We were better, we made some adjustments. We talked about playing more physical and protecting one another and that is what our guys did and it gave us a chance to win on the road. Our guys fought, I have to give them credit for that.”

The defense was indeed good enough to put L.A. in position to win, thanks in large part to a change in how they played screen/rolls. The coaching staff decided to aggressively trap Westbrook in particular, taking away the 15-foot pull-up jump shot that killed the Lakers in Game 1, OKC ultimately scoring 119 points on 45 of 83 (53 percent) shooting.

In Game 2, L.A. conceded 15 fewer makes, and that’s with four allowed in the final two minutes, enough to trim 42 points off the Thunder total. The plan worked well enough that Andrew Bynum said after Thursday’s practice that the Lakers now know how to defend OKC, and simply need to continue to execute as the series goes on. Bryant agreed.

“It’s a tough loss but the biggest thing for us was that we found some things out defensively that we feel we can do that’s effective,” said Kobe. “They did a great job. It was a great comeback by them in the last two minutes. They got themselves a gritty win. Now it’s up to us to go back home and defend our home court.”

LAL – OKC: Game 2 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s crushing 77-75 Game 2 loss to Oklahoma City to fall down 2-0 in the Round 2 series:

Point lead the Lakers held with 2:08 to play after consecutive buckets from Andrew Bynum made it 75-68. L.A. then completely lost the edge they’d carried throughout a second half in which OKC had made only 7 of 27 shots, allowing the Thunder to score on four of the final five possessions. Kobe Bryant missed two jumpers, Steve Blake missed a good look at a three with five seconds left that would have put L.A. up two, and the two guards combined for two critical turnovers that occurred 30 feet away from the hoop.

Missed three-pointers for the Lakers, who connected on only two in the contest.

Fewer field goals made by the Thunder from their Game 1 victory, in which they hit 44 of 83 shots for 119 points. In Game 2, LAL had allowed only 25 field goals up until those fatal final two minutes, at which point OKC made 4 of its final 5 shots, the go-ahead bucket from the baseline for Kevin Durant. They were under 40 percent until that point, finishing the game at 42 percent.

Points for Kobe Bryant, but it took him 25 shots to get there. Bynum matched with 20 points of his own on 8 of 19 shooting, plus nine rebounds and excellent pick and roll defense for much of the game.

Russell Westbrook’s shooting percentage on 5 of 17 from the field, the Lakers making an excellent adjustment on him by trapping his pick and roll sets aggressively. Westbrook had only 15 points, after his 10 for 15 Game 1 produced 29 points in 27 minutes.

Rebounds for the Lakers, five more than Oklahoma City, the second straight game L.A. had the rebounding edge. Of the 19 games OKC was out-rebounded in the regular season, they won only five, but still managed to pull out two victories, one easy, one very difficult.

Fewer Thunder points in Game 2 than Game 1, making the loss sting all the more for L.A., since it came at the Lakers’ pace.

LAL 75, OKC 77: Game 2 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening Game 2 2nd Round playoff game at Oklahoma City, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
OKC: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

7:35 L.A.’s defensive game plan — get the ball out of Westbrook’s hands and make Ibaka, Perkins and Sefolosha hit shots — worked pretty well to start, until Westbrook beat a trap to get two free throws, Sefolosha hit a three and Durant scored on a pull-up in transition to make it 10-6. L.A.’s offense wasn’t all that sharp, however, with Ibaka blocking two shots, only 3 of 11 going down (Kobe 1 for 4).

2:05 Another solid job of executing a high trap on screen/roll action forced the fourth OKC turnover (they had four all Game 1), and allowed Bynum to tie the game, then put LAL up two on the next trip, his offensive board resulting in two free throws (20-18).

0:00 Having trailed by seven after the first quarter on Monday, a 22-21 lead was a good sign for L.A. in this one, particularly because they appeared much more plugged in from a mental standpoint. Bynum’s 10 points led the way, while Kobe added six despite a miss in the final seconds that dropped him to 2 of 7.

10:00 The Lakers were literally called for five personal fouls in the first two minutes of the second quarter, maybe faster than I’ve ever seen a team get into the bonus. Barnes committed three of them, all on James Harden, who followed by drawing two on Jordan Hill while trying to get to the rim. Harden is especially good at drawing contact, but L.A. was obliging by reaching in, and as a result, OKC opened a 29-24 lead. This had to be frustrating for the Lakers, who were controlling the tempo just fine before digging themselves a hole with the barrage of fouls.

5:10 After falling behind by seven due mostly to that early foul trouble, the Lakers went on a 9-2 run capped by World Peace’s fading three-pointer over Durant (the first make in six three-point attempts) to tie the game at 33, and Bryant answered an Ibaka jumper on the next two trips. This continued to be a much better all-around effort from L.A., who came to play after that tough Game 1.

0:00 Consecutive hoops by Gasol and Bynum gave the Lakers a temporary lead, but a bad shot from World Peace and Bryant’s turnover resulted in easy Thunder points at the other end, enough to take a 48-45 lead into the second half. Nonetheless, LAL had much improved from a Game 1 that found them down 15 at the break, thanks mostly to smarter defense and more energy.

8:00 After going 7 for 7 to start the third quarter of Game 1, OKC came out missing all six of their attempts, mostly perimeter jumpers that L.A. was begging them to take.

5:48 The second Sefolosha three (a shot LAL will have to live with at times while helping on Durant), but Bryant and Bynum responded with consecutive makes to put the road team up 57-53. Meanwhile, Bynum’s pick and roll defense had been really good, forcing Westbrook to take some really tough shots that he wasn’t hitting (5 for 15).

0:00 What a defensive quarter for Mike Brown, his assistants that helped design the game plan and his Lakers, who held the Thunder to only 12 points on 4 of 15 shooting two nights after OKC scored 39 points in the third period to take a 30-point lead into the fourth quarter.

9:00 The two teams tried to see who could take worse shots in the first three minutes of the fourth, until Harden’s three tied us up at 63, the first make in nine total shots (LAL 0 for 5). That had LAL calling time out, with Bryant and Bynum returning for the final nine minutes, looking to steal a road win to tie the series before heading back to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.

4:55 With every possession now so critical, LAL could ill afford Bynum’s dropped in hook to come out after Durant’s three on the other end chopped their lead in half to 71-68. Blake had nailed a triple and Kobe two tough perimeter jumpers to push the lead to as many as six, but the Thunder continued to hang around.

2:08 Bynum quickly atoned by scoring the next two buckets, the first a lay in off Gasol’s pretty feed and then a baseline hook that gave the Lakers their biggest lead, at 75-68, the first bit of separation all night. OKC had two minutes to try and find something, when they’d made only 7 of 27 second half shots (26%), L.A. seemingly in control.

0:18.0 And boy, did the Thunder find something quickly, much to L.A.’s shock. The Thunder scored eight consecutive points, Harden twice getting to the rim for buckets and Durant hitting a go ahead baseline leaner with 18 seconds left to suddenly put them up one. LAL had turned the ball over twice, and seen Kobe miss consecutive jumpers, Harden getting a piece of the first one. After controlling the whole second half by taking care of the ball, controlling tempo and hitting key shots, the Lakers did the opposite in crunch time. However, they had one final possession to re-claim the game, with 18 seconds on the clock, but the time was trimmed to 5.7 seconds when Sefolosha took OKC’s foul to give, Bryant trying to create space after running some time off.

0:03.9 What a gut punch. “The Lakers lost” didn’t seem to be something anyone would be writing. L.A. ran a nice play to get Blake a wide open three from the corner opposite OKC’s bench, but his shot rimmed out. L.A. didn’t foul Durant until 0.3 seconds remained, and though a lane violation on the second attempt allowed a full court heave from World Peace – in front of LAL’s bench – trying to find Bynum at the rim to tie, the pass went awry. The shocking result: a 2-0 Thunder series lead, when a split and claiming of home court advantage was so well within reach, the Lakers blowing a fantastic chance they’d given themselves of taking control of the series. That, and they have to play a home back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, trying to find a way to bounce back mentally from a crushing defeat.

Lakers Look to Adjustments for Game 2

Having suffered a blow out loss to a Thundering Oklahoma City team in Game 1, Kobe Bryant turned philosophical:

“My experience is telling me to stay patient and just think the game through,” he said after scoring 20 points on 7 of 18 field goals.

The Lakers trailed by 15 points at halftime and 30 after a third quarter in which the Thunder made its first seven and 12 of 15 shots (before two late misses), leaving Bryant to rest on the bench watching the final period.

At Tuesday’s practice, Bryant said the team was “Just looking forward to our next opportunity. You just gotta keep your poise. We’re a team that doesn’t get down when we get blown out – we’ve been blown out a bunch of times this season.”

His way to respond starts with studying video tape, both by himself and with the team, trying to determine just what tweaks and changes to make, including noticing what the Thunder did differently with nine days to prepare for Game 1:

“They made a couple adjustments offensively in terms of how they got in their screen/roll coverage, how they got our bigs work up the floor,” Bryant explained. “And also in bringing pressure defensively up the floor. They made post and wing passes very difficult, and that was a big factor.”

That screen/roll coverage has been a bugaboo for the Lakers not just of late, but dating back to the Kobe/Shaq days.

“Historically, for whatever reason, we haven’t been a very good screen roll pick and roll team.”

If pressed, Kobe might provide that reason: that it’s simply tough to play great pick and roll D when you have dominant centers like Shaquille O’Neal and Andrew Bynum, who by nature want to stay near and protect the rim. This because having such a presence also discourages post ups, often leaving the pick and roll as the best option for opposing offenses, which over the course of a game often ultimately works at least periodically.

That doesn’t mean the Lakers can’t do a good job defending screen/rolls, and coach Mike Brown explained what L.A. specifically needs to do better in that area.

“The one thing we have to do is give multiple efforts, because they do a great job of spreading out to the ball screens and creating separation at the beginning of the action,” Brown offered. “We really have to affect the ball at the point of the screen as opposed to waiting on the ball to come to us at the free throw line, and the guard that’s (on) the ball has to do a better job of negotiating the screener’s pick.”

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden are all very capable screen/roll players, and where they hurt L.A. the most on Monday was with open mid range jump shots. Westbrook alone hit 7 of his 10 field goals on pull-up jumpers primarily out of screen/roll sets, a relatively new element to his game that wasn’t there even last season, when the book on him was to go under screens and let him shoot.

“He’s really worked on his game, so we have to address that and not give him those pot shots,” said Bryant. “It’s not a weakness any more, it’s a strength.”

The dual solution, at least on paper, is for the guards to better bull their way through the initial screen (“negotiating the screener’s pick, as Brown mentioned) and the bigs to simply get out faster to discourage the open shot without giving up an easy driving lane.

Easier said than done, of course, but we’ll see on Wednesday if L.A.’s planned adjustment makes a difference.

LAL – OKC: Game 1 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 119-90 Game 1 loss to Oklahoma City to open the second round of the playoffs:

Percent of field goals OKC opened the third quarter hitting, 12 of 15 makes plus 13 of 14 free throws, blowing the game wide open, the lead pushing to 30 points in the process.

Points in the paint for OKC, despite 119 total points, revealing how many jump shots the Thunder drained in the contest. Mike Brown cited a lack of pick and roll defensive execution following the game, opening Westbrook and Durant up for open jump shots when the bigs didn’t come all the way out to contest shots. “We have to do a better job of executing our pick and roll coverage the way we had talked about … if we don’t and they’re able to turn the corner like they did tonight, it’s going to be a tough night for us.”

Combined free throws hit by Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden, two more than their usual game average (in a quarter’s less work, no less).

Rebounds for Andrew Bynum in his 31 minutes, plus 20 points on 7 of 12 FG’s for the lone double-double in the game. Kobe Bryant also managed 20 points on 7 of 18 field goals with 5 of 7 free throws in three quarters of work before sitting the final period with L.A. down 30.

First half turnovers for the Lakers, leading to 16 OKC points, compared to just one Thunder turnover on the other end. That was the biggest difference in an otherwise mostly competitive first half, in which L.A. trailed by seven until

Jump shots hit by Westbrook, who terrorized L.A. all night, finishing with 27 points, nine assists and seven boards in three quarters of work (28 minutes). Only three of his field goals came in the paint, just one at the rim, as L.A. went under on pick and rolls. We’ll see what adjustment is made into Game 2.

Thunder turnovers, which head coach Scott Brooks said was the fewest they’ve committed all season, compared to 15 for the Lakers, which resulted in 22 OKC points.