It wasn’t pretty, but most importantly the Lakers won the first game of the series. The best way to look at the first game is ‘one down and 15 more to go’.
NBA basketball can be a game of scoring runs; every team is going to make a few and as an opponent you have to answer said runs. The NBA Playoffs are about match ups and constant adjustments.
Regardless of being on the winning or the losing end, both teams have to make adjustments. The Oklahoma City Thunder will have to make the most adjustments, but make no mistakes, the Lakers also have adjustments to make. The positives were seeing the Lakers use their size and length to their advantage as well as their defense. The most glaring adjustment that needs to be made will be as follows; transition defense, taking care of the basketball, and points in the painted area.
Ron Artest did what he was brought to the Los Angeles Lakers to do, play tough defense and lock up alpha dog players. Artest forced Kevin Durant into a bad shooting night, although I believe that Kevin Durant will figure it out and his shooting will improve. Nevertheless, Russell Westbrook stepped up and kept the Thunder close. The Lakers have to match up and get back in transition to stop the Thunder from getting easy baskets.
The Thunder play good defense and count heavily on the scoring of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Lakers have to make it a point to limit the impact of other players not known for having a scoring impact.
Kobe Bryant isn’t healthy and had another sub-par shooting performance due to the multiple injuries he is fighting through. He’s has heard all of the talk about him being an unknown factor. I’m sure his sick and tired of hearing about it and will have a bounce back performance to silence any doubters. The Lakers have to continue to play with a high energy level, a sense of urgency and continue to be aggressive.
The Lakers need to continue to establish both in the painted area and get the ball to Bynum and Gasol often. Both players are highly effective and Bynum showed that he will be a major factor that the Lakers Nation knew he could be. I want to see Bynum and Gasol attack the basket on every possession and finish strong. Both players will post double-doubles in game two.
It is imperative that the Lakers play solid defense against the screen and roll action plays, Artest needs to continue to make life difficult for Kevin Durant, protect the painted area, challenge every shot and get back in transition.
The Lakers have to play Russell Westbrook the same way that they will defend the other top point guards in the Conference. First things first, stop the ball, re-direct Westbrook, trap him to get the ball out of his hands, and force someone else to run their offense. The task to slow him down has to be a team effort and not just fall on the shoulders of Derick Fisher.
A win will take a team effort with everyone contributing. The Lakers need to continue to turn the screws tighter on defense and literally choke the life out of this team and win this series as soon as possible.
Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: TNT
- Oklahoma City: TNT
- Los Angeles: AM570 KLAC (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Oklahoma City: 640 AM & 98.1 FM (Matt Pinto)
- Ron Artest (Left Heel Bruise/Sprained Left Thumb)
- Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture, Right Index Finger)
- Andrew Bynum (Left Achilles Strain)
- Sasha Vujacic (Severely Sprained Left Ankle) Out
- Luke Walton (Pinched Nerve, Back)
- Jordan Farmar (Strained Hamstring)
- D.J. Mbenga ( Eye Surgery) Out
- Nenad Kristic ( Bruised Knee) Listed as Day-to-Day