It is hard to believe how much the “top seed” Los Angeles Lakers can miss playing in Staples Center. I understand the Oklahoma City Thunder can play extremely well at home, but I never realized how badly they can beat the Lakers, especially during an NBA Playoff game.
The Lakers entered Game 2 with momentum and looked to essentially lock up the series by going up 3-0. The first half was won by the Lakers 50-43; that defensive urgency was present and the effort was paying off. The Thunder were shooting only 32%, but as usual, the Lakers slipped and the Thunder capitalized. The game was eventually lost 101-96 and defense was our Achilles’ heel.
Some said the Thunder crowd was a factor in the game, however, no NBA champion should let a crowd affect their play. The two losses this series have come from the defensive let down by the Lakers. “We have to play with better effort. We have to play better as a unit.” Ron on the Lakers in Game 2. “We needed to get some stops as a unit and we didn’t. They had some good momentum going. They just woke up. They were asleep for a minute, but they woke up. They just took advantage.”
The Lakers will learn from their mistakes, right? They will step up their defense in game 4, right? Wrong. Unlike the previous three games the Thunder jumped on the Lakers from the opening tip, reminiscent to the game on March 26, where the Thunder pounded on the Lakers and never gave up a lead. The Lakers continued their struggles and were trailing 55-42 at the half.
The Thunder were just out hustling the Lakers and faced no defensive pressure from any player in a Purple & Gold uniform. The Thunder waltzed their way to the finish line and tied the series up with a 110-89 victory.
Not only did Durant scored 22 points and sit out the entire fourth quarter, the other Thunder players stepped up and led them to victory. James Harden was scoreless in the first two games but dropped a total of 33 points in both games 3 and 4. The Thunder bench out performed the Laker bench in both games at Oklahoma Ciry; they scored 69 points as the Lakers’ reserves scored only 49.
The two losses can be blamed on the Lakers defense or even their lack of effort and hustle. The Thunder “wanted” the victory; they dived on the floor for loose balls and did all the little things in order to tie the series. “There’s not much to say about this game. They took it to us tonight.” Phil Jackson on the game. “They beat us to the ball. They ran the court…We started off the second half as bad as you could start off with Kobe (Bryant) fouling and getting them two points on the foul. And then Fish (Derek Fisher) missing two down there at the other end and it just tumbled from there. It was a pretty good meltdown.”
If the Lakers want to win the series, they cannot rely on their talent alone; winning a game requires hustle and a determination to succeed. It is quite extraordinary that the Lakers will return to Staples Center tied 2-2; it is hard to believe that the Lakers are losing their swagger and the Thunder have a chance to win the series.
Judging from the two games in the Ford Center, the Lakers will have to fight in order to win the series. It is clear that the Lakers cannot “flip the switch” when needed, they must play aggressive basketball from the opening tip.
The story outside Staples was not a good one, the next time they play in Oklahoma, lets pray the Lakers will be up 3-2 and the Haunted Hotel will not cast anymore spells.
Follow Ramneet Singh on Twitter @RamneetKB24.