Not Time To Panic, Lakers Can Rebound After Game 1 Loss

Not Time To Panic, Lakers Can Rebound After Game 1 Loss

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May 27th, 1985

After eliminating the Denver Nuggets (4-1) in the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers rolled into the Boston Garden with a confidence few teams dared to display on the hallowed parquet floor.

That group, led by (PG) Magic Johnson, strode through Game 1 warm-ups with a quiet certainty. All such certainty and confidence was erased as the Celtics proceeded to trounce the Lakers (148-114) in what would become known as “The Memorial Day Massacre.”

The Lakers were beaten to every loose ball, lost every close call, and were jeered and taunted for every bit of 48 minutes, by what had to have been the most raucous crowd during the 1980’s.

Even with the demoralizing loss in Game 1, those Lakers were able to battle back and eventually win the series for the 1985 NBA Title.

 

May 14th, 2012

We all saw what took place. A quietly confident group, fresh on the heels of outlasting a pesky Denver Nuggets team, meandered right into a virtual buzz-saw in a rested Oklahoma City Thunder squad. Am I guaranteeing history will repeat itself, finding the Lakers as the ultimate successors? Of course not. There’s no guarantee the Lakers will be able to find a way to win a single game of this series. What I am saying is that all hope does not evaporate with that 119-90 loss on Monday night. It was one inspired performance, from a hungry (young) team coming off a sweep of the reigning champions (Mavericks). Not to mention, there was undoubtedly a feeling of “payback” following the drama that transpired during their last meeting with the Lakers.

Although I wanted to believe the Lakers had a shot in Game 1, conventional wisdom (placing aside loyalties) would have told us the Lakers expended a great deal of energy with that 7-game series with the Nuggets.

Oklahoma City not only had the confidence of exacting revenge on the Mavericks (whom beat them last year in the Western Conference Finals), but they also had nine days to watch film and make all the necessary adjustments to the Lakers’ game plan. Like a game of chess, coach Brown, it is now your move.

Throughout the year, Brown has been criticized for everything imaginable. Although a supporter, I was even critical of his for failing to make adequate adjustments to Denver’s up-tempo attack and Andre Miller altogether, in a timely fashion. In fact, had Metta World Peace not returned for Game 7, we may not be talking about whether the Lakers stand a chance in this series against the Thunder.

One could argue that World Peace’s absence left Brown essentially handcuffed in terms of actual options, but you’d think someone other than Steve Blake would have stood a better shot at defending such a crafty player in Miller. Either way, the Thunder are not going to afford Brown the luxury of a Game 7 to make such adjustments.

What adjustments can be made, you ask?

Kobe Bryant must guard Russell Westbrook from the opening tip until the final horn, and beyond, if need be. I need Bryant in a “Bobby Hurley-like” defensive position sliding along with Westbrook as soon as he’s making his entrance from the tunnel.

Prohibiting early offensive success for Westbrook can be the key to stopping the explosive young guard from ever getting started. Bryant needs to employ some of the same physical brand of defense the Thunder have been utilizing to beat him up all season. Far too often, the Lakers reverted to their passive and less assertive ways, resulting in the Thunder winning a majority of the “50-50” balls, and in turn reaping the benefit of the doubt on calls from the officials.

In no way am I saying the officiating was angled or geared towards the home team, rather I’m actually complimenting the Thunder for being the aggressors. Something, if the Lakers want to stand a chance in Game 2, Bryant and his teammates will have to reverse.

The Lakers should also look to do a majority of their scoring from 15 feet and in. No, I’m not saying you have to feed Gasol and Bynum with every pass, although the ball should be fed through the post at least once on every possession. I’m saying, on top of feeding the big men, World Peace and Bryant should also find room to operate out of the pinch-post and Sessions should be attacking the lane on a regular basis.

Settling for outside jumpers that result in long rebounds and fast transition for the opponent has been an issue for the Lakers all year, but it is never more dangerous than against a team like OKC. It is far more difficult to get out into transition when taking the ball out of the net or grabbing a rebound in traffic.

Essentially, the Lakers (as a unit) need to match and exceed the intensity of this tenacious Thunder team. Not an easy task, but not impossible. We’ve seen this team lock in, and play the type of team defense that can lead to titles. We’ve seen Bynum display acts of pure dominance, Bryant defy his virtual odometer and pile in 40-plus points, and we’ve seen the bench shoot “light’s out” and provide the spark this team needs to contend. Trouble is, we have yet to see all three of those occurrences happen at the same time with any substantial regularity.

We’re all going to learn a great deal about this Lakers roster with how they choose to respond in Game 2. With many folks already looking ahead at potential off-season moves, I (for one) am holding out faith in this core group still having enough pride left to at least put up that type of effort. If they’re able to execute their game plan, exact their will on the Thunder, we could be looking at an entirely different series heading back to Los Angeles.