Okla. City Thunder (0-1, 0-1 road) at LA Lakers (1-0, 1-0 home)
Series: Lakers lead 1-0
View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold
Game 1 didn’t go so great. But as we covered, Oklahoma City was in the game regardless. It happened because of stellar defense and also a little luck – the Lakers missed some shots. The Thunder hung tight behind a big game from Russell Westbrook and despite 24 from Kevin Durant, he was far from himself. So how are they going to do it tonight? I’ve got three adjustments.
1. Defend the post. I think OKC needs to double Andrew Bynum on the catch. Nenad Krstic isn’t going to handle him and really the only guy with a prayer one-on-one is Serge Ibaka. I doubt Scott Brooks will start Ibaka, so early on, Krstic will need help. If you’ve got to live with Derek Fisher getting open looks from outside, so be it. Stop the Lakers inside and force them to shoot jumpers.
2. Involve Durant everywhere. The Thunder has to have a second and third scoring option step up. HAS to. So if that’s Durant drawing attention for James Harden, Jeff Greeen or Westbrook to get good looks, that works. Or if that means forcing the ball to Durant early for scoring opportunities, that’s good. OKC got here behind Durant. LA knows this. They are trying to bracket him everywhere. The only way KD is going to shake free is if someone else can draw some attention. And the way that will happen is by Durant being a decoy or facilitating himself. Another way would be to force LA to switch. Basically just get Artest away from Durant. Pull KD out to the top of the key and run him off a screen. Make the Lakers switch on ball screens, getting KD a mismatch on a lesser defender.
3. Run. OKC is dynamic in the open floor. The Lakers prefer not to run. The pace of the last game was an incredibly slow 82.0. The Thunder ran on occasion, but it needs to happen more. When you run, you don’t let Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol park their butts in the post. You might catch LA in a switch and get Fisher on Durant or something. Running creates chaos and when the Thunder offense goes dry, getting out in transition might be the best medicine. It’s got to be controlled to a degree or you might set yourself up for an 8-0 run in the wrong way in a matter of minutes.
I don’t care what people think, but this series isn’t over if OKC loses tonight. The goal was to steal one in LA, but coming home down 2-0 just means Game 3 is a must-win. As it stands now, the Thunder can still be right where they want if they can win tonight. They’ll have homecourt advantage and honestly be in terrific shape. A loss would feel like the end of the world, because that’s just kind of how the playoffs are. Everyone will start talking sweep and about whatever else. But the reality, is they’ll still play at least two more games.
But again, winning tonight would be yooge. You want to come back 1-1 and after Game 1, I think we all think that opportunity is there.
Tip at 9:30 CDT. Go Game 2.