May 21, 2012, 6:34 PM EDT
Two years ago, when they won the title in 2010, the Lakers were the team that came back and won games like the one they lost Saturday. Back then it was the Lakers closing on a 25-7 run and getting the defensive stops. It was Kobe Bryant hitting the big shots. It was their opponents buckling under pressure and making bad passes or taking bad shots. Meanwhile Lakers role players stepped up and made plays.
Now, the script is flipped. The Thunder are the better team and in this series they have been the more poised at the end of games. The Thunder athletes are “gambling” according to the Lakers, but when it works we call that “making plays.” The Lakers were not. In Game 4 Kobe was 2-10 in the fourth quarter and took the offense out of rhythm too much, Pau Gasol made a horrific pass and the Lakers never adjusted to Andrew Bynum being fronted in the post.
The Lakers seem to be eroding, much as we saw against Dallas last year when the Lakers were swept out of the second round of the playoffs. Chemistry issues between Kobe and Pau Gasol are flaring up. Based on history, you expect that if the Thunder can get up by about 10 at some point in Game 5 they can run away with it.
Still, the Lakers could win Game 5. This series has been close. They know the formula — slow down the game and don’t let the Thunder get easy transition points. Los Angeles needs to not let Westbrook penetrate off the pick-and-roll and force the Thunder to their second options. Help on Kevin Durant but be smart about it.
And the Lakers need to use Gasol wisely on offense. Mike Brown has not really handled him well all season. As Andrew Bynum emerged and thanks to the Lakers lack of outside shooting Gasol became a floor-spacing facilitator not a guy who got his numbered called. Bynum got the rock on the block, Kobe just took touches wherever he wanted, and Gasol was left to fend for himself. Which never really works as he is passive in that situation by nature.
The Lakers need to run sets for him, get him going early, force the Thunder to adjust then take advantage of the mismatches. Gasol and Bynum need to own the glass. They need to be big forces on defense.
But after the last two series, do you really see the Lakers doing that for 48 minutes on the road? Exactly.
May 4, 2015, 9:53 AM EDT
San Antonio players went out in Los Angeles after losing to Clippers
One NBA MVP voter switched from James Harden to Stephen Curry after hearing Warriors’ phone campaign
May 4, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Curry will win the award. How much credit does he owe Golden State’s P.R. staff?
May 4, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
It all starts with the answer to this question: How healthy is Chris Paul?
May 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The drop off from Chris Paul to Austin Rivers should scare Clippers fans.
May 4, 2015, 12:10 AM EDT
Wall looked like one of the best point guards and leaders in the game Monday.
May 3, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Nobody wanted to talk about the future in the wake of an emotional loss.
May 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
The Grizzlies have some work to do defensively to slow Curry.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
Harden comes in second in the voting.
May 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
He was loudly booed by the Oracle Arena crowd.
May 3, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT
Memphis, minus Mike Conley, looks completely overmatched (as expected)
May 3, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Divisions and seeding have been a source of controversy recently.
May 3, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
It was a tale of two halves, and the Wizards took the key one.
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Most major media members picked the Spurs.
May 3, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT
Beal looked to be in significant pain.
Doc Rivers on whether Chris Paul will play in Game 1 vs. Rockets: ‘If I had to guess, I would say no’
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Paul battled through a hamstring injury during his incredible Game 7 performance.
May 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Wizards could make things difficult on the top-seeded Hawks.
May 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Cavaliers could be OK against the Bulls (even without Kevin Love), Warriors remain favorites and more lessons from the first round
May 3, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Thibs may not want to go to Orlando if he becomes a free agent as a coach.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Clippers got a free look at the final play.
May 3, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
Tell me again how he can’t win the big one.
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