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Dissecting the Thunder's points in transition in Lakers' 87-79 Game 1 victory over Oklahoma City

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Following the Lakers' 87-79 Game 1 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers were left with many theories on why Oklahoma City manufactured 14 fast-break points with relative ease. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant simply believes the Lakers don't have the speed to match the Thunder. Lakers forward Pau Gasol thought the team, including himself, should've displayed better effort. And Lakers forward Ron Artest still searched for answers.

It should come as no surprise the speed Russell Westbrook burned the Lakers' defense, most notably Derek Fisher for 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting. It should also come as no surprise the Thunder's speed overwhelmed the aging Lakers.

Yet, the Lakers remained conflicted on how to best stop Oklahoma City in transition moving forward. After all, the Lakers nearly took care of everything else with a dominating post presence, led by Andrew Bynum and Gasol combining for 32 points. Meanwhile, Artest frustrated Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant to a seven of 24 performance. But the Thunder largely stayed in the game because of those 14 fast-break points. The verdict is out on whether the Thunder can properly adjust to the Lakers' post presence and Artest's defense. But the verdict is also still out on whether Bryant's shooting stroke will come back to full form soon, and whether the Lakers can limit the Thunder's speed. 

This much is clear. The Lakers lacked consensus on how to correct the problem. 

Said Bryant: "Have a little bit of a cushion. They’re really fast. They all run like deer. To get a step on us, I’m not catching Westbrook. You have to have a couple steps on them."

Said Gasol: "That’s something we need to control. Long shots and long rebounds that leads to run outs. Turnovers lead to runouts. They’re an up tempo high style team so we have to make sure we limit those and the more shots we make the better off we’ll be. At the same time we have to sprint back and realize where we are on the floor."

Said Artest: "As a team, we'll figure it out tomorrow, watch the tape and figure out tomorrow see if we can do a better job. [Westbrook's] a great player. But there has to be a way we can minimize something."

Phil Jackson's observations are more detailed and insightful, and the team likely has already gone over the film. But in case anyone dozed off or just forgot to take notes, below is a breakdown of the Cliffs notes version of what the Lakers did wrong on transition defense.

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First quarter, 6:46 - 6:35

Fisher drove through traffic into the lane, and forced a runner that hit off the front rim. Thunder OKC center Nenad Krstic easily grabbed the board after boxing out Bynum and then threw an outlet pass on the near side to Westbrook. Oklahoma City has a 3-on-2 break with Artest and Bryant the only ones getting back on D. Fisher showed effort in catching up, but his lack of speed showed, while Gasol and Bynum trudged back. Bryant and Artest denied Westbrook a drive to the basket by closing in the paint. But without their teammates back to help, no one was there to mark Durant on the near baseline or Thunder forward Jeff Green on the left block. Westbrook fired a pass to Green on the left block and he drove in for the easy score to close the Lakers' lead to 10-8.

Second quarter, 10:18 - 10:11

Artest drove from the nearside perimeter past Durant, but he quickly caught up and OKC reserve center Nick Collison doubled down low to help Durant deny Artest the baseline. Instead of immediately feeding Bynum inside, Artest picked up his dribble, pump faked and then passed the ball to Bynum. But Collison swiped the pass away. Thunder reserve guard Eric Maynor runs the break, as Lakers reserve guard Jordan Farmar picked him u p at the top of the key. Lakers forward Lamar Odom and Lakers guard Shannon Brown stayed in the paint, but had to worry about Durant on the near wing, Serge Ibaka inside and James Harden on the far perimeter. As Maynor approached the free-throw line, Brown stepped up to give Harden less space on the perimeter, but that left Ibaka open backdoor for the easy dunk, cutting the Lakers' lead to 29-19. Odom and Brown were dealt a bad hand, but it's more risky for Brown to leave someone open inside than to leave someone open on the perimeter. Artest and Bynum were also slow to get back with Artest appearing confused with his turnover and Bynum's lack of speed limiting him.

Second quarter, 1:40 - 1:25

With Bryant posting up on the far wing, he meets a double team from OKC guaed Thabo Sefolosha and Durant, leaving Artest wide open at the top of the key. The Thunder all sagged back in the paint, and Artest took the bait with 10 seconds on the shot clock. You can say Artest simply took an open look, but he hasn't been dropping them lately, leaving no coincidence that the Thunder all stayed in the paint. Since Artest's shot isn't falling, he could've taken one or two steps inside and settled for a jumper. But he attempted a three-pointer and the shot hit off the back rim. Gasol showed zero effort in getting to the glass and allowed Krstic to box him out and beat him to the board. The Lakers sans Gasol are back on D, but the Thunder still beat them on transition. After Fisher tried swiping the ball from Westbrook, he drove past him into the lane. Though Odom, Bryant and Artest all tried stopping him in the paint, Westbrook weaved through, converted on the finger roll and drew a foul on Artest. Westbrook didn't convert on the free throw, but his finger roll reduced the Lakers' lead to 45-35.

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Third quarter, 12:00 - 11:39

The Lakers didn't exactly open the second half with good offensive execution. Bryant drove the lane before Sefolosha denied him penetration. Instead Bryant posted up and settled for a fadeaway jumper despite the Lakers having 13 seconds on the shot clock to allow the offense to create better options. His shot hit off the rim and Krstic grabbed the rebound. Westbrook immediately pushed the ball up the floor and drives with relative ease through the lane with Fisher and Artest not giving much of a fight. Westbrook's layup reduced the Lakers' lead to 47-41.

Third quarter, 6:10 - 5:55

After Fisher fed Bynum an entry pass on the left block, Artest cut baseline, Fisher set a high screen on Sefolosha and Bryant curled around for the Bynum's dump pass. Bryant drove left, but Krstic and Sefolosha doubled up on Bryant. Bynum didn't appear open as however, as Green denied him the ability to post up. Bryant settled for a fadeaway jumper, which hit off the back rim. Krstic worked Gasol on the boards again before feeding the ball to Westbrook. In exactly five seconds, Westbrook took the ball from the timeline, drove the lane past Artest and Fisher and converted on the layup, cutting the Lakers' lead to 53-44.

Third quarter, 5:12 - 5:02

Bynum ran a high-screen-and-roll on Sefolosha for Bryant, who drove to the right block before Krstic approached Bryant on help. Bryant took the jumper on the right block, though Gasol remained open on the left. This really created a catch-22 situation for Bryant. He undoubtedly needs to shoot open shots to create a better rhythm after missing four of the last five games. But his ailing index finger also has shown these opportunities aren't always the best one. This sequence didn't reflect poor decision making in Bryant, but the play perfectly illustrated the dichotomy Bryant faces. Knowing Bryant's scoring nature and refusal to give up, he took the shot. It didn't go in, however, and Westbrook grabbed the board with no Lakers player under the basket. Westbrook drove the length of the court, beat Fisher in the lane and Bryant in the paint for the running floater, cutting the Lakers' lead to 55-46.

Fourth quarter 1:06 - :55

Gasol set a high screen on Green for Bryant before rolling inside. With Krstic denying Gasol space inside, he cut out to the near wing and Bryant drove the lane. He met a double team from Collison and Green so Bryant kicked the ball out to Gasol, whose jumper fell short. Gasol should've posted up on Collison instead of flashing out on the wing because he likely would've had a good look inside. But with Gasol's missed jumper, Collison grabbed the rebound and passed the ball out to Westbrook to run the break. Fisher cut off Westbrook's penetration, but he timed perfectly a bounce pass to Durant, who dunked over Odom, to cut the lead to 84-77.

What it means

The described plays confirm Bryant's contention that the Lakers just don't have the speed to match the Thunder's quickness, and they need to take preventive measures in limiting Oklahoma City's points in transition. There were a few plays the Lakers didn't all get back on defense, but the lapses mostly point to the team's decision making on offense. It may be tough to stomach that no matter what the Lakers do on transition defense, OKC will simply dominate them. But the Lakers are perfectly capable of indirectly controlling the Thunder's strength in youth and speed by being more deliberate on offense by working the ball inside more. The Lakers just aren't a good shooting team so there is no good reason why they would work their offense outside-in, instead of inside-out. Gasol is correct the Lakers need to show more effort on the glass. Though the Lakers won the rebounding edge 41-36, the Thunder compensated for its height disadvantage by showing more effort on the boards.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Credit: Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook, who finished with 23 points, elevates above Lakers guards Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant for a shot in the lane on Sunday. Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Credit: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to disrupt the dribble of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, who begins a drive in the second half Sunday. Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook splits Lakers forwards Ron Artest, top, and Lamar Odom to score the first basket of the game Sunday afternoon. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

 
Comments () | Archives (15)

The comments to this entry are closed.

MM,
Doesn't Affalo play for Denver ??

Amit - Hey thanks for the catch. Yeah I meant Sefolosha

I'm not quite up on Lakerville changes, are we just supposed to repost our comments over and over again on new threads? Or is there like one thread people congregate?

Nah, Denver dumped Afflalo.

Well, always nice to get a W. Doesn't matter if it's close or grind it out, the W is all that counts.
OKC may play slightly better in game 2, first game jitters should be gone then. Lakers will need to play a little better to pull out the 2nd W.

Back to OKC is the big question. I expect by game 3 OKC will be comfortable and being back at home more of those shots will fall for them and the fans will really be revved up for OK's first playoff game at home. If the Lakers play games 3 & 4 like they did game 1 they will be back in LA tied 2-2 and then I think we see a 7 game series.

They did enough to get the W, but this is not last years Lakers.
I think we will only see a few flashes of the old Kobe until next year provided he takes the summer off.
Darn it.

If Drew turns into mini Shaq during the playoffs, that changes everything.
Don't laugh, it could happen.
Drew and Gasol may need to carry this team now and that may be enough for this round.

I'm not quite up on Lakerville changes, are we just supposed to repost our comments over and over again on new threads? Or is there like one thread people congregate?

Posted by: Faith | April 19, 2010 at 12:37 PM

_____

LOL.

Yes Faith, you should be reposting all your comments over and over.

Weird... Sometimes when I visit the LA Times pages my Avira antivirus starts screaming. Today it's happened twice when surfing in here at the blog. Is this a zombie virus making us all accept our Lakers' effortless play? Well, at least we got one really nice quarter in this 1st playoff game. But this kinda messes up my prediction with focus in game 1 and going to sleep in game 2. We already did both in gm1... I'm still sticking with my Lakers in 6 prediction.

MM,
Do we really have to put up with this waste of space that keeps knocking everything and everyone in this blog? He's not even pretending to talk about basketball anymore.

JR

Mark Medina,
You are the best! Keep up the great work here on the blog! No amount of new threads is enough when accompanied by your awesome commentary.
In the morning, I read Mark commentary. at lunch I read the Mamba 24 Roll Call!
At night, I say Jon K's pre-playoff prayer!
Love is strong is our Faker Blog Community.
What do we Blog For? Prayers!
RollCall Today, Roll Call Tomorrow, Mark Medina Forever!!!
"Thanks for the love"....so sweet.
Posted by: Eric Wright | April 19, 2010 at 02:06 PM


Mark,

Why do you even post this trash. I understand freedom of speech and all, but this is just too much. That post had nothing accept mockery of you and Jon.
You are allowed to do something about this ya know. First a warning, next time you tell them you wont put through any more of the posts period.

I dont mind reading posts that have some criticism of the Lakers play, but this crap with DFish and Eric Wright have gone on long enough.

Frankly, I am about ready to dump this blog and go on over to the "other" one.

I know it's no big deal if one poster (me) leaves, but I really hope others will speak up if they feel this way then should they leave too.

Enough is enough.

Art - FL Lakers Fan - Yeah you are right. I'm not going to tolerate it any more either. I tried to be accommodate but Eric Wright and D Fish have gone over the line many times. Everything needs to stay on the basketball court. I posted the last comment by Eric Wright because it was something on me and perhaps was just his dissatisfaction with my coverage more than anything else. But I'm going to not be lenient as I have been.

I value your presence here on the blog and would love to keep you here, if possible

MM

Mark,

Thank you thank you thank you.

I am very tolerant of others too Mark, but there comes a time when you just need to say thats it.

You are the leader Mark, and it is ok for you to have certain standards to abide by. And if you do take a bit of a tougher stance, I will bet everyone here will support you too.

Art-FL Lakers Fan
I've outlined the Times standards numerous times so it's not like we don't have standards. But we also reserve the right to disallow or ban readers at our own discretion as well.

MM

MM: thank you.
I was waiting for this to happen.
In Montgomery Burns's voice (but with a smile and a cheerful feeling) :
*excellent*
;)

Zaira - Thanks for the love, but I'm not sure what you're thanking me for.

MM


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