Kobe Bryant joins Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Dwight Howard as members of the 2011-12 All-NBA First Team.
But what other award did Kobe win recently? Find out on today’s Kobe Minute!
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Be sure to subscribe to the VOTN YouTube Channel for your chance to win prizes weekly! Voice of the Nation hosts, David Brickley, Jason Riley and Kevin Figgers discuss the Lakers top story-lines of the 2011-12 NBA Season.
Question of the Show: Can the Lakers win this series against OKC? (Comment Below)
At least they didn’t get swept? At least they “only” lost by 16 points? At least no one got ejected? It’s all that came to mind on this night, but all the silver linings located in all the clouds in the sky will not remedy the end of a shortened, rollercoaster of a season that was, again, not punctuated by a podium presentation or a parade through Downtown Los Angeles.
Maybe it was obvious in the Game 2 or Game 4 losses, or maybe in the three games that it took to eliminate the Denver Nuggets in the first round. Maybe it was obvious in the ups and downs of the regular season that had observers excited and in awe after a string of wins, and then shooting criticisms at the next series of losses. One thing was for sure – this was not the same hungry, driven Laker team who won the most recent back-to-back championships. This was a team trying to hold on to what was left after a new coaching staff and a new set of teammates were put together at the beginning of the season and asked to do something great, and perhaps impossible, like make a championship run.
ALMOST winning Game 2 and ALMOST winning Game 4 of this series left a mark that could not be erased in this final chance to keep their playoff run alive. They’d already been given too many chances in this post-season and tonight was the last straw. They didn’t go quietly, however. They were down by just five points after the first quarter, and then produced a 61%, 30-point second quarter. In the first 36 minutes of the game, the Thunder led by no more than seven points, there were 16 lead changes and eight ties. But in the final quarter, OKC decided to finally finish their opponents off, leading by as much as 18 points.
Unlike the last time they bid farewell in the post-season two years ago, it was the Thunder giving the Lakers the concession handshakes and hugs, instead of the other way around. Kobe Bryant, being the competitor that he is, may have lost to this younger bunch, but he carries a great deal of respect for the new era of players in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
“This is their moment,” Metta World Peace said of the OKC Thunder. “We had ours.”
Western Conference Semifinals – Game Five
It is May 21, 2012 and the (3) Los Angeles Lakers have returned to Chesapeake Energy Arena in the state capital and largest city in the state of Oklahoma to battle the (2) Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers suffered another tough ‘come-from-ahead’ loss in game four and several people have started the blame game.
After game two, the target of blame or Laker fans angst was Steve Blake, now that blame has shifted to Pau Gasol. Despite the fact that there is a lot of blame to go around; however, to be quite honest, the Lakers deficiencies that we are witnessing now have been there all season.
The Lakers have displayed an inability to get balanced scoring, consistent scoring off the bench, knock down perimeter shots as well as not being able to hold a lead. The real problem stems from the changes that the Lakers made as well as attempted to make before the start of this short truncated season.
The failed Chris Paul trade; managements’ decision to hire Mike Brown over Brian Shaw, ditching the triangle offense, the loss of Lamar Odom & Shannon Brown, and coach Mike Brown not developing the younger players. In Coach Brown’s defense, it is highly questionable if he had enough time to develop said young players. In addition to the fact that whoever followed a legend like Phil Jackson was destined to struggle.
The Lakers have a huge hill to climb, teams up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series go on to win 96.2% of the time (200-8 all-time). In the Kobe Bryant era, the Lakers are 0-4 when down 3-1 (1997 Jazz, 2004 Pistons, 2007 Suns and 2008 Celtics).
It is evident that Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are no longer on the same page. The reasons for the issues or lack of cohesiveness are due to the above-mentioned changes. Kobe has played in the triangle offense for most of his career, when Gasol arrived February 1, 2008, his high basketball I.Q. and skill level allowed for the two to gel quickly and play at a high level.
Are you freakin’ kidding us, Lakers?
They got blown out in Game 1 at OKC – fine. The Thunder had 9 days of rest and the Lakers had one. The Lakers had control of most of Game 2, and as hard as that loss was to accept, at least it showed that they could not only keep up with OKC, they could challenge them too. Game 3 was a great game because the Lakers won it as a team, playing with the same effort from tip-off to the final buzzer. And then there was Game 4. Talk about relapse.
Just as they did in Game 3, the Lakers came out swinging and led by as much as 11 points in the first half, and went into halftime with a 10-point lead. Kobe Bryant had 16 points and Andrew Bynum had 14. Neither James Harden nor Thabo Sefalosha could keep up with Bryant, and with so much of his energy expended on Kobe Watch, Harden’s offensive game seemed to suffer, slowing down at least one of OKC’s big three.
The Lakers looked active; not showing any signs that playing on the second night of a back-to-back was an issue. They, in fact, looked like the more energetic of the two teams despite the Thunder being the younger bunch. The Lakers forced OKC to work harder on both ends of the court in the first half, challenging them on the defensive end, with both Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant, even Ramon Sessions, penetrating to the hoop. The Lakers challenged them on the offensive end by preventing too many run-outs and working the glass to avoid second chance points.
…and then came the second half. OKC hadn’t completed any scoring runs in the game until late in the fourth quarter when they needed it most. They defended the Lakers into shooting just 36% in the second half, outscoring them 57-44, outrebounding them, taking over in the paint, and basically did everything the Lakers did to them in the first half. OKC had a 32-point fourth quarter that pulled them over the hump and into a commanding 3-1 lead heading back home.
Western Conference Semifinals – Game Four
It is May 19, 2012 and the (3) Los Angeles Lakers are set for a pivotal game against the (2) Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers secured a much-needed 99-96 victory over the Thunder on Friday. L.A. earned the win at the free throw line converting 41-of-42 free throws. Kobe Bryant was perfect from the charity stripe going 18-of-18 and set a new Lakers playoff record.
Some members of the national media were not overly impressed. Granted the Thunder are still the favorites in this series, but it seems that several have forgotten that in the 2010 series against the Thunder, OKC as +69 in free throw attempts at home. If Steve Blake’s corner three-point shot hits home this series would have an entirely different feel to it.
The Lakers do not have time to celebrate their huge win. Another blunder of NBA scheduling in this short truncated season the Lakers have to play a back-to-back playoff game tonight. This is a battle of youth versus experience; a team that wants to get out in transition against one that wants to slow the pace and play half-court basketball.
The Lakers do have experience on their side, seeing as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have played 30 playoff games. Metta World Peace has played 80, Pau Gasol 99 and Kobe Bryant has logged 218. The Lakers started this series appearing old, tired and slow although L.A. has changed this series into one that they appear comfortable playing in.
The Lakers have to fight through the mental and physical fatigue that awaits them. L.A.’s defense has been solid, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Defensively, the Lakers have to continue to vary the way that their defending the pick-and-roll play.
Of course the Lakers jumped to an early 12-point lead. Of course they eventually lost it to an OKC run. Of course Kobe Bryant had a huge game. Of course the game came down to the last second. And of course Russell Westbrook and Metta World Peace got tangled up on the floor fighting over the ball and were issues double technicals. How could we expect any more or less than this after the season that the Lakers have had? They sure like to keep it interesting, don’t they?
After they gave away Game 2 to the Thunder due to a series of late-game foibles, the Lakers opened up tonight’s game with a seemingly greater sense of purpose. Halfway through the first quarter, they jumped to a 16-4 lead, and unlike the first two games, the ball movement was much more noticeable and, of course, much more helpful to the mission. After the first 12 minutes, the Lakers had handed out eight assists, with each of the starters passing out at least one dime. They also held OKC to just 15 points on 30% shooting.
As expected, however, the Thunder came rolling back in the second quarter, going off on an 18-9 run that gave them the lead. Except for the 12-point Laker lead in the first quarter, no lead rose above OKC’s seven-point advantage in the second half. It was a close game, with 10 lead changes and 10 ties; seven of those lead changes and eight of those ties all taking place in the final quarter.
The real sixth man that helped the Lakers in this game, was their near-perfect free throw shooting. Their final eight points all came from the charity stripe. When a game is this close, regardless of the free throw quantity, the ones attempted late in the game mean a whole great deal and the Lakers were able to convert and finish the night in their favor.
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.
Western Conference Semifinals – Game Two
It is May 16, 2012 and the (3) Los Angeles Lakers are set to make the necessary adjustments and get back into the series against the (2) OKC Thunder. The Lakers looked old and tired and in need of a collective B12 shot against the young, rested and well-coached OKC Thunder team en route to a 119-90 blow out. The Lakers, a tired and weary team from a long grueling seven-game series with the Nuggets and were simply outplayed.
The Thunder had a nine-day layoff after quickly dispatching the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in four games. Before the game, the question of rest versus rust arose, after the game it was clear that OKC was ‘lying in wait’ for L.A.
Russell Westbrook, the 23-year old former Leuzinger High Olympian & UCLA Bruin is a blur, dangerous on the perimeter; this All-Star’s game has matured. Defensively, the Lakers are in need of multiple efforts on the pick-and-roll play and the guards have to fight over the screen or trap the pick and roll.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and OKC’s hot shooting and bench scoring were too much for the Lakers in game one. It is easy to say that the Lakers have to control the impact of the trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden, but much a harder task to accomplish.
The Lakers have to put the game one debacle behind them and correct their mistakes. L.A.’s defense on the pick-and-roll play has to improve dramatically. It is imperative that the Lakers play with more energy, control the tempo, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, get back in transition, contest shots and control the boards.