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Category: Oklahoma City Thunder

Thunder would beat Lakers in playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder

Why the Thunder is a threat to the Lakers: The Lakers showed in their 100-85 loss Thursday to Oklahoma City why they would have no chance against the Thunder in the playoffs. Regardless of how the Lakers tried to control the tempo, it didn't work. The Thunder went on a 9-0 third-quarter run even though the Lakers remained methodical on offense and minimized Oklahoma City's transition game. The Thunder also scored 21 fast-break points. All in all, they showcased their depth, while the Lakers scrambled to find oxygen masks.

Why the Lakers are a threat to the Thunder: Blame part of the Lakers' struggles against the Thunder to their back-to-back the previous night against Dallas. In the playoffs, the Lakers would have more days to rest their aging bones and to make adjustments. James Harden's trash talk would prompt Kobe Bryant to light him up the next game. Metta World Peace would have more chances to figure out how to temper Kevin Durant's scoring. Andrew Bynum wouldn't do as much of a disappearing act. Also, come April, the Lakers offense will look much prettier than it appears right now.

VERDICT: Two years ago, the Lakers survived a six-game first-round series against the Thunder because of their experience. That's not a factor anymore. Oklahoma City is now battle-tested, having reached last year's Western Conference finals. Meanwhile, the Lakers have become older and slower. Unless they upgrade their roster, they likely could only push a playoff series to five games. 

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) and guard James Harden slap hands after scoring against the Lakers and power forward Troy Murphy in the first half Thursday night in Oklahoma City. Credit: Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press / February 23, 2012

Western Conference Scouting Report: Oklahoma City Thunder

6a00d8341c506253ef014e6089be25970c-800wiThis is the first part of a series breaking down the Lakers' potentially troublesome Western Conference opponents. This analysis is based on the team's current roster and doesn't equate how a new collective-bargaining agreement would alter it.

Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

Lakers' record versus OKC last season: 2-1

How Thunder fared last season: Lost in five games to Dallas Mavericks in Western Conference Finals.

Why OKC is a threat to the Lakers: The Thunder's development has taken a linear progression. First, the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka gave the Lakers fits in a six-game first-round series in 2010. Then they acquired championship experience and toughness in Kendrick Perkins and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. 

There are plenty of reasons to think the Thunder will improve besides its young talent level. Durant and Westbrook will have stronger chemistry after Westbrook took a large volume of shots in last post-season at Durant's expense. Ibaka's conditioning will remain sharp after playing for Spain in the FIBA European Championships. So will James Harden's, who spent much of his summer playing in the Drew League. 

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Oklahoma City and Lakers have similar problems with Mavericks

Photo: Dallas center Dirk Nowitzki, left, fights for position with Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka during the fourth quarter of the Mavericks' 121-112 victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday. Credit: Jerome Miron / U.S. Presswire / May 17, 2011. No matter who guarded him, how closely his opponent contested the shot or how off-balance his jumpers became, nothing stopped Dirk Nowitzki from scoring.

No matter who guarded him, how hard his opponent tried to shut off the driving lane and how quickly the defense switched, nothing stopped J.J. Barea from driving to the rack.

And no matter who guarded him, how his opponent closed out on the perimeter and how long his shots from three-point range became, nothing stopped Jason Terry from firing from downtown as if he had the NBA Jam's "fireball."

It sounds like I'm simply rehashing the Lakers' problems when they fell in a four-game sweep to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Yes and no. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom surely felt overwhelmed and frustrated with Nowitzki's penchant to hit off-balance jumpers. No one put a stop to Barea's quickness other than Bynum's late cheap shot in Game 4 that earned him an ejection. And the Lakers' defense rarely closed out on Terry from three-point range. But the Thunder experienced the same problems in its 121-112 Game 1 loss Tuesday to the Dallas Mavericks as the Lakers did in all four games against the Mavs.

Nowitzki's 48-point effort features a playoff-record 24 consecutive free throws, making 10 of his first 11 shots and pulled off his acrobatic shooting despite six different players guarding him. Barea breezed past defenders with ease with a quick crossover and first step en route to 21 points. And the Mavericks' nine of 23 mark from three-point range may have paled in comparison to the 20 treys they made in Game 4, but it's clear that a 10-day layoff did nothing to quell their sharp shooting. 

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Lakers shouldn't see early playoff adversities as lessons

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Considering each run to a championship a journey, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has compared that process to a school year.

The season proves just as long. There are plenty of ups and downs. And there are plenty of teachable moments.

"It's a process that for me I've had great fortune in looking at seasons as something of a long haul where it's going to be an eight-month or seven-and-a-half month project," Jackson said before the 2010-2011 season started. "But in reality, you still have to give import to this opening game or this next game next week or this preseason game."

It's a tough balancing act between ensuring that team members strategically pace themselves without mailing in performances, and ensuring that they play sharp basketball without burning out. The most telling example is the San Antonio Spurs, who looked mostly sharp throughout the season en route to a Western Conference-leading 61-21 record, only to lose a six-game first-round playoff series to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher once argued that the team needs challenges and adversities because that allows for "true growth." That's fair enough, but save those lessons for the regular season.

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Caught in the Web: Reactions to Lakers' 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City

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Game stories

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan breaks down the Lakers' late-game turnovers in their 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday.

--The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding notes that Kobe Bryant avoided his teammates following the Lakers' loss to the Thunder. 

--The Riverside Press-Enterprise's David Lassen faults the Lakers' defense. 

--The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry mentions how this is the first time the Thunder won at Staples Center. 

--The Daily News' Elliott Teaford praises the Lakers' effort but notes that the loss significantly affects the team's playoff seeding. 

Notebooks

--The Times' Broderick Turner talks to Thunder center Kendrick Perkins about his critical remarks concerning Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson and Bryant.

--The Riverside Press-Enterprise's Lassen explains why Jackson is unsatisfied with Shannon Brown's play. 

--The Daily News' Teaford highlights Jackson's concerns about the Lakers' sense of urgency entering the Thunder game.

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Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher discuss 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson

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Lakers suddenly anxious after 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder

Lakers11_510 Before he could see any of his teammates, Kobe Bryant immediately darted into the trainer's room.

Bryant usually goes through this ritual at some point following a game, receiving extensive treatment and icing on his assorted injuries, most notably his surgically repaired right knee and arthritic right index finger. But not this soon. The Lakers' 120-106 loss Sunday to the Oklahoma City Thunder agitated him so much he wanted to avoid any contact with teammates.

Whether it's a deliberate message or a way to temper his emotions, the Lakers didn't exactly hear what the co-captain had to say about the team's season-high fifth consecutive loss or even his three turnovers in the final three minutes overshadowing his 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting, a statistic he attributed to Oklahoma City's defense. But it's a sign nonetheless that the Lakers' losses are more than just blips.

"I didn't want to redecorate the walls in here so I made the effort to go in the training room and keep to myself," Bryant said 62 minutes after the game ended and then responded sarcastically to whether he was mad. "No, not at all."

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L.A. Times' Mark Medina discusses Lakers' 120-106 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Lakers Chat: Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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Below is the audio of Phil Jackson's pregame interview.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson on Thunder

Click below the jump to join the chat!

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Lakers vs Oklahoma City: Lakers in a funk, lose fifth straight game

Lakers2_600 Thunder 120, Lakers 106 (final)

For the most part, the Lakers played hard against the Thunder.

For the most part, the Lakers played with a sense of urgency against the Thunder.

And still it did no good.

The Lakers lost their fifth consecutive game, a season high. They have two regular-sesaon games left, more than enough time for them to match their longest losing streak since 2007, when they lost seven straight from March 2-15.

It seems clear that the Lakers are now in a funk, a team going in the wrong direction, a team looking nothing like the club that went 17-1 after the All-Star break.

It means that the Lakers are losing hold of the second-best record in the Western Conference, which would guarantee them home-court advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The Lakers and Dallas Mavericks now are tied at 55-25, with the Thunder one game back, but L.A. holds the tiebreaker over both clubs after winning each season series, 2-1.

Kobe Bryant scored 31 points for the Lakers, but it wasn't enough.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 31 points and Russell Westbrook added 26 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

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Lakers-Thunder box score

Lakers-Thunder photos

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