Los Angeles Lakers: Nick Collison

Lakers vs. Thunder, Game 3: What to watch

May, 18, 2012
By The Kamenetzky Brothers

There is a popular saying that a series doesn't really begin until the home team loses. History, however, says that when the home team holds serve in the first two games, the series is over. Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, teams up 2-0 have won 94.2 percent of any series. Even the Lakers, among the most successful franchises in sports history, have only won 10.5 percent (2-of-19) after falling into this hole. The last successful bucking of the odds required a miracle shot from Derek Fisher (ironically now playing for the squad looking to eliminate the Lakers). That's what ultimately made the inability to close out Game 2 even more painful. A split in Oklahoma wouldn't have put the Lakers in the driver's seat, but an upset at least would have felt somewhat feasible. Instead, a battle uphill from the outset has taken on the feel of K2.

For more thoughts on Game 3, we conducted an instant-message exchange with Royce Young from the True Hoop network's Daily Thunder blog. Below is the transcript.

Andy Kamenetzky: As much as Game 2 was about the Lakers' failure to execute down the stretch, it was also reflective of the Thunder not giving up and remaining opportunistic. How characteristic is that of their nature?

Royce Young: Very. Game 2 Wednesday was extremely similar to Game 1 against Dallas in which OKC came back from a seven-point deficit with a few minutes remaining, capped by a Kevin Durant game winner. The Thunder have made a habit out of those types of wins. They feel like as long as they have time on the clock, they're alive. Which they should, because at any moment Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden can go on a burst and get them back in a game.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Failure to execute late in the game proved costly for the Lakers.

From the other side, is it like the Lakers to let a lead slip like that?

AK: Unfortunately, yes. Not necessarily at the end of a game, because the Lakers were 10-4 this season in games decided by three points or fewer. But a loss of focus is always a threat to plague them at any moment. All season, this team has suffered inopportune and self-induced lapses. Sometimes, they've resulted in losses. Other times, wins became more complicated than necessary. But either way, the Lakers are a team of bad habits, which makes slippage in the last two minutes not necessarily stunning.

But full disclosure, I was jaw-dropped by this. I just kept staring at the TV with this far-gone look on my face, like Private Pyle during his last scenes in "Full Metal Jacket."

RY: Allow me to be honest, as well: I had given up on the Thunder after Bynum's hook shot went down to make it seven. I just didn't see a way back, not with the way they were executing offensively.

AK: Speaking of execution, you've mentioned before the Thunder's periodic tendencies to go iso-happy and bog the entire offense. Wednesday night felt like one of those nights. Do you agree, and if so, to your eye, what caused it?

RY: I'm not entirely sure the Thunder played all that differently than they did in Game 1, but two things stifled the offense: The pace favored the Lakers, and the shots didn't fall with great regularity. Durant had attempted only eight shots entering the fourth quarter, instead choosing to kick out off his drives. The Lakers adjusted well on Westbrook and forced him into a poor shooting night. And the bailout guy, Harden, wasn't able to get going. That's where that ugly, ugly offense can come from. It's a strange thing, since they're so wildly talented on that end. But sometimes, it just doesn't work. But the Lakers deserve a lot of credit for that.

Brian Kamenetzky: I thought the Lakers' adjustments in the pick-and-roll, with the aggressive trapping and activity from the bigs, frustrated OKC. Coverages were more proactive and consistent, a big change from Game 1. Combine that with the work they did limiting the Thunder's transition opportunities, and it seemed like OKC was frustrated.

(Read full post)

Lakers vs. Thunder: The first of five very important games

March, 28, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The Lakers' 2012 season can essentially be divided into two parts: "Pre-Ramon Sessions," when everyone wondered whether the CP3-less Lakers were capable of surviving more than a round or two in the playoffs without a notable upgrade at the point. (For that matter, not everyone was entirely convinced the front office was committed to a long playoff run to begin with.) Then "post-Ramon Sessions," when the Lakers featured a lead guard capable of penetrating, distributing and potentially allowing the Big Three to operate with maximum efficiency. In turn, the Lakers are now evaluated through the prism of legitimate contention. Is this a team good enough to reach the Western Conference Finals? The NBA Finals? To raise the O'Brien for the third time in four seasons?

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Can Sessions help ground this man?

Thursday marks the first of five regular season games capable of providing, if not the definitive answer, strong clues.

The Lakers will then play the Spurs three times between April 11-20, then face OKC again on April 22. Days later, the playoffs begin. In between there will be notable opponents, such as the Clippers (4/4), a perhaps healthier Nuggets (4/13), and the Mavericks (4/15). But no games stand to be as potentially instructive as those against Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The Lakers have yet to play the Spurs and got waxed by 15 in their one February meeting against the Thunder. However, that was also before the playoff roster was constructed, so to some degree, that result can be dismissed to some degree.

Moving forward, only so much rationalizing can be offered in the face of losses. Conversely, wins could provide tangible optimism about the prospects moving forward. And either way, we'll have some clarification in regards to some specific questions. As for those Thursday against the Thunder:

- How Sessions affects a game matched against Russell Westbrook, a player of equal speed and better, more proven talent. It's a larger issue than simply whether Sessions can check Westbrook. Obviously, Sessions' ability to stay in front of the former Bruin matters, and this represents a major test for a player not known for his defense. But Sessions can also play a role in alleviating turnovers that allow Westbrook -- not to Kevin Durant, James Harden, etc. -- to be deadly in transition. And in the meantime, with the ball in his hands, perhaps Sessions can turn those same tables on Westbrook, whose own defensive effectiveness can wane.

And if things go poorly, this game could also serve as a stark reminder Sessions, as well as he's played, is a career backup who's never been given this much responsibility on a team with such lofty goals.

(Read full post)



Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0