Time: 8:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KSPN 710 Los Angeles
Previous Meetings: Game 1 (Thunder Lead Series 1-0)
I'm not trying to take anything away from what the Thunder's defense did during Game 1, but man, the offense was near perfect that night. 53% from the field, and 41% from beyond the arc. The only significant players to shoot under 50% were Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook. Those are some really impressive numbers, especially when you consider that the Thunder shot 29 free throws. But, the question is: Can they replicate that kind of offense tonight? Here's three things that contributed to Game 1's offensive success, and that they'll have to execute effectively if tonight is to be another win.
1. Shooting before the Laker defense is set.
This is a big one. We all know that the Thunder are a great transition team. But even when something comes off of a rebound in the post, the Thunder are still keen to run it up the floor. Westbrook is especially good at beating the defense up the floor for a quick pick and easy mid-range shot. I also saw a lot of quick threes taken, whether they be via a quick pass or a sly player just walking up to the line.
2. Taking advantage of defensive mismatches.
Generally, the Lakers always have a bigger, post-oriented lineup. So even though the Thunder like to match that lineup by giving minutes to Nazr Mohammed (which they didn't do last round), they still like to make the Lakers switch defenders and punish them for having a bigger player on a smaller, quicker guy. Also, the Lakers made a few errors of their own, like sticking Bryant on Westbrook. Westbrook hardly ever got to the basket, but Bryant generally wasn't very good at working through screens, giving Westbrook heaps of opportunities. Plus, when Sessions or Blake had to guard Harden, it was just a disaster waiting to happen.
3. Drawing away the Lakers' Bigs.
The Lakers are a team that will sometimes send a big player out to pressure a player on the drive. It seemed almost every time they did that, the Thunder got an easy score from one of their own bigs. The Thunder bigs are never going to back down Bynum or Gasol in the post and they don't stand too much of a chance of an offensive board, so it pays for them to hang out a little bit beyond the block and wait for a possible open shot or cut to the basket. I know alone it doesn't seem like they did much, but all 4 Thunder bigs combined for 62.5% shooting and 21 points last night.
On defense, things will be a bit more difficult. It's pretty clear that the Lakers were tired and flat-footed, but it mainly comes down to guarding Kobe well on the iso, not forgetting World Peace on the wing, and limiting the Lakers' offensive rebounds.
Tonight should be more competitive than the first game. I seriously doubt the Lakers will go down without a fight. But I don't think they have the tools to win Game 2. They won't win a game until they work out their defensive matchups and offensive stagnation. And they haven't come close to solving that yet, I think.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 97, Los Angeles Lakers 91