First-Round Fever: Game 2

First-Round Fever: Game 2

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ROUND 1, GAME 2: (8) Thunder vs. (1) Lakers: LAL Lead Series 1-0

The defending champs gear up for Game 2 against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Staples Center.

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The Lakers came out of the gates swinging in Game 1 with a dominating 1st quarter. But near the end of the first half and the rest of the game, the Thunder made the game close.

All-in-all, the Lakers’ overall flustering defense and rebounding was the key to their victory. Maintaining control of the game will be key in tonight’s game.

With Game 2 tonight, the Lakers will be looking to sustain the effort garnered in the 1st quarter.

Los Angeles won 87-79 on Sunday, forcing Kevin Durant, this season’s scoring champ (30.1) to 24 points on 7-24 shooting. The Lakers used Ron Artest much of the game to contain Durant.

They also gave him issues with Bryant as well. Two memorable defensive efforts by Bryant were his steal in the 1st quarter of Durant leading to an easy dunk. Also stopping a would-be easy fastbreak dunk by Durant with an emphatic block.

But Russell Westbrook was able to breakdown L.A.’s defense in the open floor, adding 23 points on 9-15 shooting as well as 8 assists. And was essentially the only reason Oklahoma City was able to keep the game close.

What may be deceiving is that Westbrook got most of his points near the end of the 1st half, helping the Thunder go on a huge run to shorten a 17-point deficit.

As the 2nd half began, the Lakers seemed to direct more attention to Westbrook, causing him to defer to other players that weren’t able to create shots. He finished 3-6 in the 2nd half.

Bryant, still noticeably a step off due to his injuries and lack of consistent play in the last month, was only 6-19 for 23 points. He also missed five free-throws to go 7-12 on the line.

But the true key for the Lakers was their frontcourt dominance.

Andrew Bynum, who missed much of April with a strained Achilles, was 6-10 with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in his first game back. Pau Gasol was also great, with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.

The Thunder didn’t have an answer for the Twin Towers. And if the Lakers stick with this gameplan, the series will be much easier for the defending champs.

KEYS FOR THE GAME:

Containing the Rising Star

The Lakers should be and are expecting a much better game from the young star Kevin Durant in Game 2. They did a great job defensively on him, but some of it may have been a case of the 1st playoff jitters. Ron had an excellent effort against Durant and will look to continue that.

Twin Tower Dominance

The Twin Towers are the key for the Lakers in this series. Bryant doesn’t have to look dominate. Oklahoma may be a young and athletic team, but essentially, their frontcourt is too small to compete successfully against the two 7-footers.

Stopping the athletic Westbrook

Oklahoma City gets on a roll win their 2nd best player, Westbrook is able to score as well as he’s distributing the ball in the game. It is¬†imperative that L.A. makes him differ to players other than himself and Durant. This will need a collective effort from Derek Fisher as well as the bench guards.

Maintaining the Offense

The Lakers were able to make their presence felt in the 1st quarter and half of the 2nd, leading 38-21 at a point. However, they finished the game with 41 percent shooting. Shot selection by both Artest and Bryant will be key, as well as the lift in Bryant’s legs in latter stretches of the game.

PROJECTED STARTERS:

LAKERS:

(C) A. Bynum

(PF) P. Gasol

(SF) R. Artest

(SG) K. Bryant

(PG) D. Fisher

X-Factor: Lamar Odom and bench play.

THUNDER:

(C) N. Kristic

(PF) J. Green

(SF) K. Durant

(SG) S. Sefolosha

(PG) R. Westbrook

X-Factor: Russell Westrbook