There’s nothing really left to say but win or go home. After blowing a lead in Game 4, the Lakers have found themselves in a must-win situation on the road. Throughout this series, the Thunder have established themselves as the stronger team and made things difficult for the Lakers. The entire Lakers locker room seems frustrated. Hopefully they’ll show that they’re not ready to hang up their sneakers yet and come up with a momentum swinging win in enemy territory.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Stay Loose in the 4th Quarter – The Lakers have been executing their game plan against the Thunder for about three quarters of each game. However when the fourth quarter rolls around, Westbrook and Durant have dominated, while Kobe and company have struggled. The past three games were decided by three points or fewer. Over this same stretch the Thunder are outscoring the Lakers 75-62 in the fourth quarter. It’s not so much that the Thunder are outplaying the Lakers in the fourth, it’s that the Lakers are shooting themselves in the foot. It seems that the Lakers tighten up in the fourth and overthink things. Perhaps they should take a different approach and remain loose during the fourth. They should look to keep playing within the game and not try to over-execute.
Force Ibaka and Perkins Score – If Westbrook and Durant are able to score 25-plus each, the Lakers will likely lose. The Lakers bigs should continue to come out and double on the pick and roll and force Ibaka and Perkins to knock down the open jumper. I must concede that Ibaka has done a decent job of knocking down wide open looks, but I doubt he could score more than fifteen points over the course of the game. It’s highly improbable that Ibaka and Perkins could outscore the Lakers. On the other hand, Westbrook and Durant are just too dangerous to be guarded with single coverage.
Fight till the End – The last thing any Laker fan would want to see is the Lakers give up and go out whimpering (i.e. 2011, Game 4 of the Dallas series). Nothing should be kept in reserve. I’d like to see the entire team leave everything on the floor. Tonight is an elimination game, so let’s hope that the Lakers give it their all.
Game 5, Semi-Finals, Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder
6:30 PM PST, May 21, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Game 1: Los Angeles 90 at Oklahoma City 119
Game 2: Los Angeles 75 at Oklahoma city 77
Game 3: Oklahoma City 96 at Los Angeles 99
Game 4: Oklahoma City 103 at Los Angeles 100
Game 5: Tonight
*Game 6: May 23, vs Oklahoma City – TBD – ESPN
*Game 7: May 27, at Oklahoma City – TBD – TNT
Thunder Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Thabo Sefolosha
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Serge Ibaka
C: Kendrick Perkins
Key Reserves: G James Harden, G Derek Fisher, F Nick Collison