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NBA Playoffs: Now we find out what the Lakers are really made of

Apr 26, 2010, 3:40 PM EDT

Kobe_Artest.jpgThe Lakers meandered through the second half of the season without a care in the world. At least they played like it.

So Los Angeles fans and media set up imaginary tests for them. The five game road trip was one. Late season matchups with the Thunder, the Magic, a couple with the Spurs all got that “test game” billing. There were others.

Those weren’t real tests. There were no consequences for failure. They were the pop quizzes of the NBA season, and the Lakers treated them as such.

Now game five Tuesday night — that is a real test. Lose and it’s may be a final exam.

Winner of game five wins the series 83 percent of the time. Los Angeles drops game five and the odds of winning two straight — one in Oklahoma City — against a good and growingly confident team are not good. Climbing Mount Everest in shorts might be easier.

Does anybody really have any idea what Lakers team will show up?

Not in terms of pure effort — backs against the wall, the Lakers always come out with energy. It’s a matter of execution and matchups. The Lakers know what they need to do, but for the last two games (three, really, despite the win) they have not been able to execute it. Credit Oklahoma City with some of that – they are a very good team. This is not the Lakers rolling over, they are getting knocked to the ground.

Still, the Lakers have a game plan. First, they have to slow the Thunder down. Kobe Bryant compared the two teams to deer and elephants, and the Lakers were not the nimble ones. Los Angeles can slow the pace down by not turning the ball over — they have been pretty good about that — and making shots. That second part has been the problem.

In game four, Los Angeles focused on getting the ball inside to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but didn’t get as many points out of that as they would hope. The reason is the Thunder can afford to collapse down on the Lakers close to the basket because LA is not making them pay with three pointers. Inside only works if there is an outside to balance it. Ying and Yang.

It was the little things in game four — a couple times the double came down on the Laker big, who tried to reach around the defender for a kick-out pass, but the shooter never moved to a good position to receive the pass. The result was a deflection out of bounds.

In game three the Lakers shot okay from the outside but stopped trying to get the ball inside and jacked up 31 threes. There is no balance. No inside at the same time as the outside.

So they just expect Kobe to bail them out. And that isn’t working. Again credit the Thunder, who have the athletes to defend him. Is there anything Kevin Durant can’t do?

Game five is going to be telling. These Thunder do not back down, not for anyone. Their confidence is growing. The Lakers have, when they have needed it, been able to summon another gear. But now they need one they haven’t reached all season. They need a level of execution that has not been seen.

It’s not going to be easy. But no real test is. However, passing tests like this is what champions do.

  1. BIGBRUCE11047 - Apr 27, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    When the two teams meet in Los Angeles, I think the real Lakers will show up and they will dominate the Thunder winning Game 5. With that win they will go on to win the series 4 games to 2. In the first four games, I think the Lakers have taken the Thunder’s team too lightly. Any team making the playoffs is a team to be reckoned with. It doesn’t matter if they are a No. 1 seed like the Lakers or a No. 8 seeded team like the Thunder. The bottom line is the first team to win four games advances to the next round. Go Lakers!!

  2. Yvette - Apr 27, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Several lines from the Queen song “We Are The Champions”.
    “And bad mistakes, I’ve made a few. I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face but I’ve come through. We are the Champions and we’ll keep on fighting till the end. No time for losers. It’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise.”
    Come on Lakers, it’s tough but you can do it. Fight like champions.

  3. SSSthunder - Apr 27, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    When the two teams meet tonight – it is the night of destiny.
    We all know who will show up. The same Lakers of 5 years, and the new and confident Oklahoma Thunder. Like a breathe of fresh air,
    they seem unstoppable. Perhpas, just perhaps, it is time for the Lakers to surrender their crown. I for one am cheering for the Thunder.

  4. SpankMonkey - Apr 27, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    I hope the prima donna show time fLakers get thier asses handed to them.

  5. ThunderUp - Apr 27, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Lakers will once again be Thunderstruck!

  6. MAC in OK - Apr 27, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    Go Thunder! ANyone who watched game 4 saw the younger faster Thunder taking the wind out of the old guys. The Lakers can NOT run with us. Come on, they were grabbing Thunder players everytime a fast break happened in the 2nd half of ther game. The old dudes were sucking air! Kobe didn’t even wait for the end of the game to leave the court! Spoiled, poor little Kobe. lol lol lol

  7. CalFan - Apr 27, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    Honestly, do you think the officials will allow the Lakers to lose this series? There’s a reason why the NBA took down all the YouTube videos of Laker/King game 6 of the 2001 Western Conference Finals.

  8. Dana - Apr 27, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Thunder are there to play good ole’ fashioned bball–no glitz, no showtime. Basketball seems secondary to the Laker egos—and that is why they will lose. Go Thunder!!!!

  9. Dave in OKC - Apr 27, 2010 at 3:16 PM

    Just like the Garth Brooks songs goes;
    The Thunder rolls
    And the lightnin’ strikes
    Another team grows cold
    On a sleepless night
    As the storm blows on
    Out of control
    Deep in their heart
    The Thunder rolls
    Go Thunder!!

  10. Dana - Apr 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    Durant and the Thunder show up to play good ole’ fashioned bball–no glitz, no show time. Basic fundamental basketball and the spirit of TEAM is secondary to the Laker egos. and that is why they will lose. Go Thunder!!!

  11. MMD - Apr 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    CallFan whatever your name is, you’re terribly mistaken about your old time thoughts concernig Laker/King episor. The Laker Organization is a hard rock that cannot be broken easily. I’m sure you are aware of that, except that you’re probably one of those who does not face reality. If you have the time go and see for yourself tonight what I’m talking about. We are going to retain the championship this season weather you believe it or not.
    Remember this, it is not a good hobit to be a HITTER!!

  12. MMD - Apr 27, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    GO LAKER! GO LAKER! I know you can do it. It’s been proven all the time for the pass twenty or more years. Shut-up the nonbelievers and jealous ones who do have a home team to cheer for. When the Blue and Gold march through the streets of LA few weeks from today’s date, they are going to bent their sad faces backward as it has always being. LAKER MEANS GREATNESS!!!!

  13. Dave in OKC - Apr 27, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    MMD, the L(F)akers were schooled in the fundamentals of basketball on Saturday by a young, new, no glamour group of men. No showboats, just a hard working “TEAM”.

  14. Mijestic - Apr 27, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Um… The Lakers are purple and gold. GO LAKERS!

  15. Joanne - Apr 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    My thoughts exactly!! Count on AT LEAST 10 or 15 points for LA, thanks to the officials! They WILL NOT ALLOW the Lakers to lose at home! It is sooo obvious!!!

  16. hoopgurl - Apr 27, 2010 at 7:04 PM


  17. Laker4Life - Apr 27, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Lakers will take it to them tonight no question about that… Don’t be hatin’ cuss you got a sh*tty team with ZERO championships………….

  18. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Apr 28, 2010 at 2:36 AM

    LMFAO!!! Who’s your Daddy now, Thunder fans? You just won 2 games against LA and all of a sudden you got some swagger like as if you guys won 15 championships? BAH! Your boys GOT OWNED BIG TIME in Game 5. Demolished. Obliterated. Learn your place in the NBA pecking order. No doubt the Thunder team is very much talented and they deserve to be in this year’s playoffs. Retain the core and prolly get an effective big man and the future is bright. But please, watch and learn from the Lakers how we prepare for another parade. Not this year OKC fans. You wish.

  19. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:01 AM

    Yup. And then there was silence in jokelahoma…

  20. Foul Dwimmerlaik - Apr 28, 2010 at 4:10 AM

    … a deafening silence if I may say so myself. Right, hoopgurl, Dave in OKC, Dana, Mac in OK (btw, who outran who in Game 5?) Thunderup, SpankMonkey? If there is a fake one, it ain’t the Lakers with its 15 trophies. What about you? What have you got?

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