Thursday, April 22, 2010

Western Conference Round 1: Lakers vs. Thunder, Game 3 Recap

The Lakers started the game with a 10-0 bulldozer. They were running on all cylinders, playing some of the cleanest ball I've seen in a long, long time. And then, like they always do, they let a great lead just blow away in the mind. One of TNT's slogans is "we know drama." Nuh-uh. Nobody knows drama like the Lakers and the city they claim. Like a movie, we show our force from the start, show signs of weakness to give our enemies an incentive to pounce in the last twenty minutes of the flick (I mean game), only to be saved by a last-minute hallelujah play by King Kobe (sit down, James). We're Hollywood - we know drama. Tonight coulda been one of those nights. But it wasn't.

Truth be told, I hate those kinds of nights. I hate having to depend on Kobe in crunch time. It inflates our egos when he saves the day and totally dejects us when he doesn't (it happens). If the Lakers hadn't been redeemed by Kobe's Jerry West-esque clutch plays this season, we may not have even been the top seed in the west. Speaking of West, Kobe became the all-time leading postseason scorer in Lakers history tonight. But it wasn't enough to get the W. The Lakers need to work on 2 things for Saturday's game (game 4): 1) bang the ball into the paint, and 2) find a way to stop Westbrook. Point number one: the Lakers have got the best set of twin towers since David Robinson was dominating the front court with a young Tim Duncan. They must take full advantage of that, especially against this team. Point number two: Defense. I've gotta give props to Artest for the work he's doing. Keep it up, Ron Ron. But Durant isn't the only Thunder to keep an eye on. Focus on Westbrook. This kid's got game. Russell Westbrook is one of those underrated point guards who, like Rajon Rondo, George Hill and Aaron Brooks, will kick you in the ass if you don't give them the attention -- and defense -- they deserve. Derek Fisher did a great job in scoring tonight, but I don't feel that he's suited to match up with Westbrook. Shannon Brown certainly isn't better than Fisher per se. But he's got the young legs and agility to shut down the 21-year old Westbrook. Or so I can only hope.

At the beginning of this series, I said the Lakers would win it in 6. Tonight proved that I'm just one more loss away from that prediction. Still, if the Lakers can just move their perimeter play into the paint and focus their attention on clamping down the Thunder's fast break tendencies, we can pull this off in 5. The quest for #17 goes on...