Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lakers Must Set Tone in Game 2

Kobe doesn't like that foul call! (via ESPN)
The Lakers didn't play for 48 minutes in game one against the Thunder. After the first quarter, the Lakers got further and further from striking distance. Early in the second half the Thunder came out throwing their knockout punch. How can the Lakers compete throughout the entirety of game two?

The Lakers must force OKC to miss more jumpers, use those misses to get into their sets and consistently provide an offensive response. The problem in game one was not really the Lakers defense. The Thunder came out firing on all cylinders and it's highly unlikely they'll hit the same shots with as much accuracy.

If the Thunder do come out and shoot the way they did in game one, this series is over. There's no way the Lakers can compete with a Thunder team where everyone's on fire from the outside. The Lakers have less firepower and are an older team.

The focus for the Lakers in game two is to attempt to copy the Thunder's game one offensive performance. Get everyone going, from the starters to the bench, and hit shots from inside and out. The advantage the Lakers have over the Thunder is the Lakers have guys who can make their own offense in the post. The only difference the Lakers want from a great game out of themselves is consistent interior scoring.

Once the inside game is rolling for the Lakers, it'll be that much easier for the Lakers shooters to get open. While the Lakers weren't too far off the Thunder's red hot shooting in game one, they've got to be better and hope for worse from the Thunder.

Defensively, the Lakers don't have much to fine-tune. Putting Kobe Bryant on Russell Westbrook from the outset could work. The issue of course then is will Kobe have enough energy on offense. Knowing Kobe, he'll step up to the challenge and perform despite the increased work load. The Lakers coaching staff and fans can't be happy that their star player will need to bring even more to the table. It comes with being the type of competitor Kobe is, but Mike Brown must be extra aware of the stress Kobe puts on his body. Kobe played about 32 minutes in game one (less than usual as it was a blowout), it may be smart to keep his minutes around there if Kobe's taking Westbrook.

The only other defensive adjustment that seems logical is how the Lakers defend the pick and roll. Mike Brown and his staff may want to increase the amount of pressure jump shooters see as they come off of picks. Increased defensive intensity on the Thunder's jumpers will make it that much harder for them to drain shot after shot.

The Lakers lost game one by 29, but it wasn't because the Lakers came out super flat. The Thunder wanted to show they're a powerhouse and still ready to strike despite a long rest. In game two, the Lakers will come out engaged and the Thunder won't hit near as many jumpers. A split for the Lakers in OKC would be huge. The stakes are high, this will be a closer contest, expect the Lakers to understand what's at stake.