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Thunder vs. Lakers: Gluing the Pieces Together (2012 WCSF Game 4 Preview)

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Chances are 100% this play resulted in a foul.
Chances are 100% this play resulted in a foul.

Gamethread Tonight at 9:30, and we have a video pre-game show tonight at 8:30 on Spreecast! Come join in!

Records: The Los Angeles Lakers (#3) vs The Oklahoma City Thunder (#2)

Time: 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time

Place: The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

TV: Turner Network Television

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), KSPN 710 Los Angeles

Enemy Blog(s): Silver Screen and Roll, With Malice, Forum Blue and Gold

Previous Meetings: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 (Thunder Lead Series 2-1)

Last night's game wasn't the most pleasant thing to see in the world, we all know that. And I know for a fact thousands of Thunder fans are waking up right now with bad tastes in the mouths from all of the bad officiating that went on last night. But today is a new day, and there's lots of puzzles to solve if the Thunder are to win Game 4.

Puzzle 1: How much should Serge Ibaka shoot? It's the golden question. Scott Brooks apparently trusts his shot to the point where he's given him the green light to shoot one three per game and as many mid-range jumpers as he wants. But everybody's frustrated with the results. And I'm not talking about being frustrated in a regular season Derek Fisher way, where you know he can make that shot. It's frustrating because you really think that's just not a very high percentage look for him. This is the same guy who was regularly called for goaltending and three second violations a year ago, how can we trust him as a dead-eye shooter? Honestly, I'd like to see him continue to take limited shots (1-2 a game) just to mix things up, but there's other things we can look to as well. How about Perk's 8-10 foot jumper? I remember Nick Collison hitting a number of shots, why not look to him? I don't know what the solution to this puzzle is, but I fully expect Ibaka to keep jackin'. Let's just hope that they fall.

Puzzle 2: How much gall is too much gall for Russell "Roulette" Westbrook? As I've said before, it looks like Russell Westbrook is reverting to his 2011 self. He's daring his defender to challenge his on-ball mid-range shot, without looking to a defender to help him. He's shooting errant shots after running coast-to-coast in transition. He's throwing up terrible threes in the face of his defender. Worst of all, he's hardly attacking the rim, getting stuck in the "no-zone" between the restricted area and free throw line we've talked so much about. Westbrook seemed like he had made such strides from last year, but now it's looking like we might be getting the worst of both worlds. BUT, the big thing is that he's still semi-productive, because his skillset in my opinion, has improved that much from last year to this year. Anyway, here's hoping he simmers down.

Puzzle 3: How do you limit Kevin Durant's turnovers? He's had 9 turnovers in the past two games, and aside from one at the top of the key, all of them have been made while in the post or passing into the post. A couple of them were impromptu, but most of them came on set plays. It seems that everyone's just so used to KD making plays on his own that they forget he can get trapped, too. He's always completely surrounded, and we know that KD doesn't take bad shots unless he has to. (Or he gets too confident in his looong range shot. Whatever.) So when he looks to pass out of this post situation, it's always a disaster. Honestly, other players need to work on giving him a better way to get out of his traps. Have a guy on the perimeter willing to re-set. Move into mid-range. Whatever you do, don't stand still!

There's other issues too, like Fisher's blown layups, Sefoloshas offensive disappearance during the playoffs, keeping Fisher off of Kobe at all costs, trying to get Collison opportunities despite him being outmatched....the list goes on. But they all seem pretty self-explanatory in their solutions. So I'l just close this recap by saying that the Lakers are still a flawed team, and there's no way their non-Big 3 perform as well as they did last night. And no way that Kobe gets as many foul calls as he did. The Thunder will win the final two games of this series. Maybe not easily, but they will.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 100, Los Angeles Lakers 95