Literally – the Lakers gave away this game. With 2:08 min left in the fourth quarter, the visitors holding a 7-point lead, and the Thunder having only scored eight points in 10 minutes, the Lakers just fell apart. Instead of the playing the lockdown defense they had played in the first 45:52, and running the offense through the paint, they spent the remainder of a game that was in their control by loosening their grip before it was time.
They led by a point after the first quarter, were down just three points at the half, led by three going into the fourth and, until those last two minutes, had their biggest lead with seven. They controlled the pace of tonight’s game, controlled OKC’s Big Three in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and they even put the Thunder’s main defenders in Thabo Sefalosha, Serge Ibaka and James Harden in to some early foul trouble. OKC’s jumpers weren’t falling like they did in Game 1 and they turned the ball over nine more times than they did in Monday’s contest. They weren’t exactly faltering in this game, but they were struggling enough due to the Lakers’ efforts but the Lakers just didn’t take advantage of it.
After they created that 7-point lead, OKC took a timeout and just like that, outscored the Lakers 9-0 and now head to L.A. up 2-0.
HIGH POINTS that ended up LOW POINTS
The list of high points was a lengthy one…until that late-game collapse. Now, none of it seems to matter.
That Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol came out and produced a 34-point and 20-rebound game doesn’t make much of a difference since their advantage apparently wasn’t good enough to use to close out the game.
Kobe Bryant’s 20 points, four assists and four steals is marred by that turnover that gave Kevin Durant an uncontested dunk; the missed fadeaway that gave James Harden another layup; and the missed three that resulted in Durant’s floater and OKC taking over the lead. Bryant could’ve made more plays for the bigs in the end. He should’ve taken better care of the ball. Bryant just didn’t play up to his Mr. 4th Quarter title tonight.
The Lakers’ defense was a high point too. Kenny Smith said before the game that it’s not only the Lakers’ experience and size that should help them in this series. He said everything also needed their full commitment, citing the defense of the Thunder pick-’n’-roll as a paint point that needed their attention. OKC too easily attacked the inside with little to no resistance from the Lakers in Game 1, but tonight they were held to just 34 points in the paint, 14 points less than Monday’s game. The Lakers also kept OKC off the offensive glass (just 6) and allowed only four second chance points. They held OKC to just 12 points on 27% shooting in the third quarter and kept Russell Westbrook from going off like he did in Game 1, allowing only 15 points on 5-17 from the field. Even Kevin Durant’s game was slightly muted than usual, thanks to the efforts of Metta World Peace. He had 17 points but had only attempted 13 shots…until those two minutes where he scored five of OKC’s 9-0 run to end the game. James Harden only had nine points in the game until, again, those last two minutes where he accounted for four of that late run by the Thunder.
The Lakers showed a lot more energy and focus in this game as well and showed that OKC, when challenged properly, can be handed a loss. Unfortunately, they didn’t carry through with that focus until the end of the game and they lost a chance to take over the homecourt advantage.
MORE LOW POINTS
One of these days, hopefully in the next two games at the very least, the Lakers’ point guards can get going because so far, they’ve done a lot of nothing. Steve Blake’s Game 7 heroics were nice…in Game 7…in the last series. That last three he missed tonight didn’t cost the Lakers the game since they shouldn’t have put themselves in that position in the first place, but there are other things he isn’t doing…like playing the point. The same goes for Ramon Sessions. It’s ironic that they’ve been placed against the former point guard who the Lakers felt they weren’t getting enough from, because here are the younger Sessions and Blake, providing even less than what Derek Fisher was able to produce in the playoffs. The ball movement has been missing from this Laker team in this series, and the point guards have to play a more active role in reawakening that strength in this team.
Late-game collapses were the Lakers’ badge of dishonor this past regular season. They lost big leads to bad teams and, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the postseason has solved that issue. Yes, this game showed that the Lakers can keep up with the Thunder, but by allowing OKC to come back from a deficit so late in the game, only strengthens their will to take this series. Just ask the Clippers.