NBA2K10 simulation predicts Lakers win first-round in five against Oklahoma City
I can present you a litany of statistics proving why the Lakers sorely miss center Andrew Bynum over the last 11 games because of a strained left Achilles' tendon. But here's the most vivid illustration of all. When I ran a simulation on NBA2K10, the video game predicted the Oklahoma City Thunder would beat the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in seven games if Bynum didn't return to the lineup.
This revelation is even more unsettling for Lakers fans because the Thunder achieved this feat in virtual reality after losing the first three games. But don't break out your pitchforks and end civilization as we know it just yet.
The game had put Bynum on the injured list, a feature that was automatically updated to reflect the current NBA season since Bynum doesn't plan to play the remaining two games, including Tuesday night's contest against Sacramento. After putting Bynum on the active roster, I ran the simulation again. And the result will sit much better with Lakers fans. The Lakers won the series in five games, splitting the first two at home before securing the series for good the rest of the way.
So in the midst of the Lakers' current struggles, fans can at least take comfort that the Lakers are safe for at least one round. They can also take comfort in the fact that the simulation didn't hinge on my performance. Case in point, I challenged L.A. Times business reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles, with me playing as the Lakers and Nathan playing as the Phoenix Suns. The result? I lost 98-94 with Steve Nash earning player of the game honors (22 points), while Kobe Bryant finished with 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Below are the highlights of each game.
Game 1: Lakers' 106-90 victory
Lakers top performer: Bryant (35 points on 14 of 23 shooting, five assists and five steals)
Thunder top performer: Jeff Green (29 points on nine of 18 shooting)
How the game was won: Despite committing 17 turnovers, the Lakers assuaged many different concerns entering the postseason. They proved they can turn on the switch once the playoffs start. Bryant proved his rest benefited him (there's a reason beyond his cover appearance on why he thought NBA2K10 was pretty realistic). And those worries about how the chemistry would unfold in the playoffs became unfounded as early as in the first game. The Lakers quickly set the tone, outscoring the young and inexperienced Thunder, 31-21, in the first quarter and 20-13 in the second quarter. The Lakers also featured plenty of balance. Forward Ron Artest found his shooting stroke, scoring 21 points on seven of 13 shooting, including a three-of-four clip from three-point range. The Lakers' front line complemented Artest's shooting stroke with an inside presence featuring Lamar Odom (17 points), Pau Gasol (14 points) and Andrew Bynum (17 points).
Game 2: Thunder 109-101 victory
Lakers top performer: Bryant (31 points on 13 of 23 shooting)
Thunder top performer: Kevin Durant (31 points on 11 of 26 shooting)
How the game was won: The Lakers apparently thought from their first game that this would be an easy series. The Thunder took advantage of that complacency, jumping out to a 67-43 halftime lead thanks to a strong second quarter that featured Oklahoma City outscoring the Lakers 37-17. The Lakers made a valiant fourth-quarter comeback, outscoring the Thunder 35-15, but the effort came a little too late. The Lakers lacked much production beyond efforts from Bryant (31 points), Odom (25 points) and Gasol (10 points). Interestingly, Bynum scored only six points but played only 17 minutes. And the bench continued to be unreliable, shooting only three of 12 from the field, including a one-of-eight clip from Jordan Farmar. The Thunder beat the Lakers on the glass, 47-32, and the Lakers allowed Oklahoma City to shoot seven of 16 from the perimeter. Apparently, Lakers reserve Shannon Brown was in Phil Jackson's doghouse, playing only two minutes while Sasha Vujacic had a 15-minute run.
Game 3: Lakers' 112-78 victory
Lakers top performer: Bryant (31 points on 12 of 22 shooting)
Thunder top performer: Durant (24 points on seven of 19 shooting)
How the game was won: It appears the Lakers' embarrassing 91-75 road loss to Oklahoma City was a distant memory. The Lakers regained home-court advantage by showcasing a balanced offense and a disciplined defense. Five players scored in double figures for the Lakers, including Bryant (31 points), Gasol (18 points, nine rebounds), Derek Fisher (18 points on six of seven shooting from the three-point range), Farmar (16 points on seven of 13 shooting and a three-of-six clip from downtown) and Bynum (15 points, nine rebounds). While shooting 10 of 19 from the three-point range, the Lakers held the Thunder to a two-of-nine clip from downtown. Although the Lakers never trailed in this game, they put the game away for good in the second-half. They outscored Oklahoma City 34-24 in the third quarter and held the Thunder to nine fourth-quarter points.
Game 4: Lakers' 106-97 win
Lakers top performer: Bryant (43 points on 16 of 30 shooting, seven rebounds and nine assists)
Thunder top performer: Durant (27 points on 11 of 22 shooting)
How the game was won: Jackson has a pretty simple criterion when it comes to Bryant's shot selection. Jackson believes Bryant is warranted to shoot as much as he wants so long as he's hovering at around 50%. This was one of those games where the Lakers just enjoyed the Black Mamba show, with Bryant scoring 43 of the team's 106 points and shooting 30 of the team's 80 shots. But, hey, the effort came on a 16-of-30 clip. Meanwhile, Gasol put up a dependable 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Artest shot more than was deserved (14 points on five of 14 shooting). The Lakers and Thunder went tit-for-tat in the first half, but the Lakers broke the game open afterward with a 30-22 third-quarter effort.
Game 5: Lakers' 119-94 victory
Lakers top performer: Bryant (43 points on 15 of 31 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists)
Thunder top performer: Durant (23 points on nine of 17 shooting).
How the game was won: Let the Mamba show continue. Bryant scored 43 points for the second consecutive game in the series, but this effort was a tad different. He had a supporting cast to back up his theatrics, including Artest (21 points on nine of 18 shooting), Farmar (14 points), Gasol (13 points, 15 rebounds) and Odom (10 points, 11 rebounds). Just like in Game 4, this contest was pretty close in the first half. But the Lakers pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Thunder 39-24. Oh, and for those keeping score on how Durant matches up with Bryant. Not only do the Lakers eliminate the inexperienced Thunder in the playoffs, Bryant outscored Durant in the series, 183-123.
Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images.