Game 1 in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs for the Los Angeles Lakers was a heartbreaking loss. The Lakers started off strong, especially in the paint, eventually building a 16 point lead. Then came the collapse in the second half, allowing the Mavericks to dwindle down the Lakers’ lead, and eventually gaining the necessary lead to steal Game 1. Some in the basketball community are already second guessing the Lakers’ ability to win this series against Dallas. Now is not the time for panic. It is a time for correction. There are things that worked in Game 1 and things that need to be fixed by the team that will assure a win in Game 2 at the Staples Center tonight.
Kobe had yet another productive game with 36 points on Monday night. Lamar Odom stepped up off the bench with a double-double, scoring 15 points and earning 12 rebounds. The Lakers won the rebounding battle against the Mavericks, with the Lakers earning a total of 44 rebounds and Dallas posting 40 rebounds. In the first half, the Lakers’ “Bigs” were passing well and creating strategic passes to each other which resulted in easy baskets close to the rim. Also in the first half, the Lakers were dominating the Mavericks in the paint.
What Didn’t Work:
Pau seemed to have trouble defending Dirk Nowitzki outside of the paint, as he is used to defending opponents on the block. Nowitzki had a great game, scoring 28 points and posting 14 rebounds. The Lakers’ bench was outplayed by the Mavericks’ bench, especially with Jason Terry’s offense. Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum were a vanishing act in Game 1. Artest and Bynum were the two most consistent players in the New Orleans series, but failed to show up Monday night. Artest went 1 for 8 on field goals, resulting in 2 points. Bynum went 3 for 8 on field goals for 8 points, but more importantly only grabbed 5 rebounds.
A Possible Solution:
The Lakers play with their highest efficiency when they are balanced. The Lakers have the best chance of winning when Kobe scores 20-25, Bynum and Gasol combine for 25-30, Fisher and Artest combine for 15-20, Odom puts up 10-15, and the remainder of the bench contributes 30-35 points. The team’s rebound total should be 40-50, with Gasol, Bynum, and Odom responsible for the majority of that total. Points in the paint are key and is a strength for the Lakers. Defense, especially from Artest and Bynum, needs to be consistent with the offense. Nowitzki will get his points, but the Lakers should try to limit his scoring to under 25 points. Once again, the key is balance.
The Lakers are equipped with the knowledge and experience that is needed in order to make the necessary corrections to give them the best chance to win. It is no mistake that Phil Jackson has eleven championship rings. It is no mistake that Kobe Bryant is considered the best player in the league. Laker fans need to remember the loss in Game 1 of the first round against New Orleans, and how the Lakers came back to win the series. Game 2 will act as a marker for how the Lakers choose to respond and foreshadow what this series may become.
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