LA Lakers v OKC Thunder: Game 3 Preview

May 18, 2012


That’s the only word that can aptly describe the Lakers loss to Oklahoma City in Game 2.

LA did everything they didn’t do in Game 1, slowing the tempo, forcing Oklahoma City to play half court offense, and forcing Russell Westbrook to shoot under 30% from the field. They also limited OKC to a total of 75 points, after giving up 119 in Game 1. Finally, the Lakers controlled the glass and dominated the paint.

And they still lost.

The Lakers played a near-perfect game for 46 minutes, leading by seven with 2:08 left in the fourth quarter.

And they gave it away. Literally.

Kobe was responsible for two consecutive turnovers inside the final two minutes, both of which led directly to Thunder points. He also airballed a terrible fade-away heave, and then bricked a desperation three-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

No Laker fan would ever admit it, but Kobe and the Lakers choked.

One wonders what can possibly be going through Mike Brown’s head going into Game 3. Already burdened with the indomitable task of filling Phil Jackson’s shoes, he coached a perfect game in the most important game of the season. His players simply let him down.

Now the task has become almost insurmountable for LA: Beat the Thunder four times in five games.

Four times in seven games was enough of a challenge, but four times in five games? Barring any unforeseen injuries for OKC, it isn’t a stretch to say that it’s going to take a miracle for LA to win the series at this point.

It might take a miracle simply to win Game 4, thanks to the way the NBA has scheduled this series. As if it wasn’t rough enough giving the veteran Lakers only one day of rest after finishing their last series, the purple and gold will have to play Games 3 and 4 on back to back nights.

Against a much younger team like OKC, Game 4 may be determined merely by energy more than anything pertaining to basketball. Especially given the fact that the Lakers will have to put everything they’ve got into game 3 just to stay alive in the series.

That doesn't bode well for Kobe, who has more mileage on his legs than anyone else in the league and looked noticeably worn down near the end of the first two games in OKC.

But for now, the task for LA is to simply find a way to win Game 3.

If there’s anything positive that can be taken from Game 2’s loss, it’s that as well as they played, the Lakers weren’t perfect.  They had 12 turnovers, which led to 14 costly fast break points for the Thunder. If there’s one thing they can’t do against OKC, it’s give away easy baskets.

Meanwhile, Kobe shot 9 of 25 from the field and struggled for every shot he took. LA is going to have to find a way to get Kobe the ball in better positions to score on Friday night.

Defensively, the Lakers have to match the intensity and focus they had in Game 2. They’ll have to be acutely aware of tempo and keep it a half court game. If they can do that, they have a chance at getting back into this series.

Anyway you look at it, the odds are stacked against the purple and gold. The only solution for them now is to think positive.  The Thunder did what they were supposed to do – protect home court. Now it’s time for Kobe and company to return the favor.

This weekend, the Lakers come home.

Hopefully, not for good.

By Max Rucker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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