A Look Ahead: Two Back-to-back Challenges Await the Lakers
Two Sundays ago the Lakers lost a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at home, the sixth seed in the playoff standings in the west. Then on Thursday night the Lakers hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder, tied for the best record in the league at 40-12 with the Chicago Bulls, and despite a great first quarter and a half time lead, the Lakers could not find their rhythm in the second half and lost 102-93.
The Lakers enjoyed a 12 point lead at the end of the first quarter and sustained that lead for most of the second quarter, but gave up a run at the end of the half that allowed the Thunder to cut the lead to five. Despite the heart warming video montage and touching welcome back from the Lakers fans to Derek Fisher, it was Fisher who provided the spark off the bench for the Thunder. He scored all of his seven points in the second and his play seemed to wake up the Thunder. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum came ready to play from the tip, combining for 48 points, but it was not enough, as the defense could not stop the Thunder in the second half. Russell Westbrook showed the Lakers why he is an All-Star scoring 36 points in 42 minutes. Most impressive about his play, he had only one turnover for the game.
This was the second meeting between the Lakers and the Thunder, and in both meetings, the Lakers played a great first half but were unable to maintain their play in the second half. They have to start playing this team for a full 48 minutes with the same intensity level throughout the game.
The week was not all bad as they beat the Golden State Warriors twice, and the New Orleans Hornets. In the first meeting against the Warriors, the Lakers played their typical road game by jumping out to a comfortable lead and giving it up late. The Lakers gave away the lead with under a minute to play, but Kobe Bryant did what he does best, close out games. He scored back-to-back shots over the outstretched arms of the defenders from the left corner. The first shot tied the game while the second one regained the lead.
The 104-101 victory over the Warriors was not the biggest concern for the Lakers leaving the Bay area, but it was the attitude and benching of Andrew Bynum. Bynum took an ill-advised 3-point shot with 16 seconds left of the shot clock. The combination of the shot and lack of focus and energy had Bynum watching the end of the game from the bench. There is no reason for him to shoot a 3-point shot if it is not to beat the shot/game clock. His demeanor was unacceptable as he was laughing on the bench and stating in a post-game interview that he will keep shooting 3-pointers. He is only 24-years old, but he needs to quickly mature.
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