The Lakers opened up their defense of the NBA Championship today versus the Thunder, the youngest team in the playoffs. Will the experience and know how of the Champs prevail over the youth and athleticism of the Thunder? Let’s find out…
First Quarter LAL 27 – OKC 13
From the tip you could feel the intensity of this Lakers squad. It was refreshing to see the Lakers go hard for an entire 12 EARLY minutes. One thing that stood out was our insistence on forcing the ball into the post, and I have to say I LOVED IT. Every single player was looking to get the ball down low, even Ron Ron, who hurls up threes like they are going out of style. Kobe’s offensive game was definitely in “facilitator” mode, looking for Pau and Bynum on lobs, post entries and pick N’ rolls. Bynum and Kobe were active individually as well, with a nice variety of post moves and rebounds. Defensively, the Lakers were in control from the tip and aside from a few fast break points they really had the Thunder under control. Durant was being hassled by Artest on almost every possession, and a bad foul call prevented him from having a near perfect defensive quarter. Overall, the quarter was a perfect start to the 2010 playoffs, and exactly what us fans have been waiting for.
Second Quarter LAL 20 – OKC 26
With a successful first quarter in the books the Lakers looked to build on their lead. The inside presence of Pau and Bynum helped accomplish that. Both of our big men took it inside for dunks and layups that pushed the lead to 17. What was really astonishing was the way the Lakers controlled the inside after 13 games without the two big men playing together in the lineup. Bynum in particular had a nice block on a Westbrook layup that I’m sure will be in the highlights. Unfortunately, the dream world couldn’t last long as the Thunder started to chip away at the lead. Westbrook was able to find his touch hitting some ridiculous layups with contact and getting to the line. His penetration was the reason the thunder were able to get the lead into single digits, because Durant hasn’t been able to get his game going due to Ron just harassing him on every possession. The quarter started off great but quickly went downhill mostly because of the Lakers defensive breakdowns and a lack of outside shooting.
Third Quarter LAL 17 – OKC 17
The Lakers have slowed down their pace, and their shooting has definitely fell off as well. It’s the defense that has pulled the Lakers to the lead at the end of the third and especially the defense of Artest on Durant. For three quarters Durant has been hounded on every single possession and it’s the reason the Lakers are up right now. Westbrook on the other hand has absolutely destroyed our perimeter defense and is making every shot around the basket. If we can’t figure something out soon, this could be a problem in the coming games. Our bench was somewhat nonexistent this quarter aside from a Shannon Brown jumper. I know it’s a “playoffs” rotation, but when they have time they need to play well. The end of the quarter was a perfect example of not closing out and resembled the end of the second.
Fourth Quarter LAL 23 – OKC 23
With the Lakers having an 8-point lead to start the fourth the bench was tasked with holding the Thunder off. Early on the defensive intensity picked up and Bynum went back to controlling the paint. Lamar was active on the boards and pushed the ball up the court that got our offense started quickly. Once the bench started running the triangle, Farmar was able to find some open shots and knocked them down. This is the way we expect the bench to play when LO and a starter are coupled with our playmakers on the bench. Once the starters returned the defensive intensity skyrocketed and the Lakers were continually producing stops on defense. With Kobe able to lurk on defense the entire game, the Thunder just could not get anything going in the half court offensively. I really feel that their only chance is to just give Westbrook the ball and let him handle offensively. Kobe hit a few big shots to keep the Thunder at bay, but I struggle to see why Bynum wasn’t involved more in the second half. I understand he’s been out, but he absolutely beasted on the low block throughout and deserved the chance to close out the game. Regardless, the Lakers were able to close out a “grind it out” type game as Kobe said and go up 1-0 on the Thunder. This game set the tone for the series and what the Thunder should expect to see from the Lakers.