This loss is going to take a bit of time to get over. I still have no words for the last two minutes of Game 2 when the Lakers managed to blow a seven point lead, and I’m a writer. Devastated, crushed, deflated are just a few words to describe how Laker fans are feeling today.
The aspect that was the most stunning after the Game 2 loss was that the Lakers played well, all in all. They simply failed in the clutch and backed themselves into a corner that is going to be very difficult to overcome.
After Game 1, I went over five areas that essentially lost the game for the Lakers. However, since 46 minutes were played well, with the last two minutes being horrible, I will discuss the good and the bad that the Lakers can take as they enter Game 3 in LA.
Let’s start with the bad.
Not Sharing the Ball- The Lakers only had 11 assists as a team in Game 2. Simply enough, they did not share the ball. The Lakers forced way too many shots and held onto the ball for too long, which drew double-teams from Oklahoma City. This caused the Lakers to become careless with the ball and commit costly turnovers, which we’ll talk about soon. The Lakers must move the ball to spread the floor and get men open for easy opportunities. All the Lakers need to do this for the remainder of the series, but Ramon Sessions needs to start setting the example.
The Disappearing Act of Sessions- The honeymoon with Ramon Sessions is definitely over, and has been for awhile now. He has completely disappeared during this series and has continued to decline since the playoffs began and a couple of weeks leading up to the post-season. In Game 2 Sessions posted horrible and disappointing stats, with two points, four rebounds and zero assists. Sessions has already announced his intention to become an unrestricted free-agent after the season. After the lack of playoff contribution he has displayed, Sessions will not be a Laker next year unless he puts up big games the remainder of the series. Truthfully, even if he does his future with L.A. is in distress.
Costly Turnovers- Despite playing much better defense last night against the Thunder, turnovers were still a major issue for the Lakers. They collected a total of 15 turnovers in Game 2, including two devastating turnovers by Kobe Bryant at the end of the game that sealed the win for the Thunder. However, the Lakers were able to force 13 turnovers last night, which is something they failed to do in Game 1. They were able to grab 17 points off of those turnovers, while the Thunder posted 15 points off of the Lakers’ 15 turnovers. However, turnovers were once again a main culprit of the Thunder winning the fast break battle, 18-5.
To end on a higher note, let’s end with the good from Game 2.
Rebounding- The Laker were able to win the rebound battle in Game 2, grabbing 41 boards compared to the Thunder’s 36. For the majority of the game, the Lakers were able to control the pace of the game and play to their tempo. This occurs because of being able to control the boards. The offensive boards, which the Lakers also won, were critical for second chance points that drains an opponent’s energy and momentum.
The Inside Game- The Lakers did a solid job of pounding the ball inside for the majority of Game 2. Andrew Bynum had a great game with 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Pau Gasol stepped it up in Game 2, but he needs to be big in every remaining game. Gasol added 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Off the bench Jordan Hill posted six points and six rebounds. The Lakers won the points in the paint battle, 46-34. However, the Lakers will need to continually improve their inside game in the remainder of the series. Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes especially need to step up with their contributions.
Aggression Works- Game 1 displayed a total lack of energy, urgency and intensity. After a long, challenging first round series against Denver, this was not a shock to most. However, this is the playoffs and there are no excuses. In Game 2, most analysts and fans hoped or expected for the Lakers to play with more aggression and passion. In fact, they did for the vast majority of the game. Mike Brown continually told his players in the huddle that the more physical team would win the game. In the last two minutes, they relaxed and went to sleep, while the Thunder fought the fight. However, the Lakers need to remain aggressive and physical since it works and it frustrates the Thunder. They just need to do this for all 48 minutes.
The Lakers have a difficult mission in front of them, especially coming into back-to-back games in Los Angeles. They were blown out in Game 1 and gave away Game 2 in the closing minutes. Championships are won largely around how a team responds to adversity. Game 3 will expose how they will respond to a enormous challenge.