The Lakers’ 111-87 Game 5 rout of the good guys has turned us all into diagnosticians. What can the Thunder do to beat the Lakers, both in Game 6 tonight and in the future, when possible Thunder glory no doubt still will go through Los Angeles?
Bench Nenad Krstic. Sign Chris Bosh. Drink pickle juice at halftime. Draft more players from the Congo. Ideas are long in supply. But here’s what the Thunder should do differently to take down the Lakers, either tonight or in some season to come. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The Thunder shouldn’t change a thing. Don’t tinker with the lineup tonight, which Scott Brooks says he won’t do. Don’t overhaul the roster after this magic carpet ride ends, which Sam Presti repeatedly has said he won’t do. ’Twould be to no avail. What plagues the Thunder — the skill and dominance of 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum — is unfixable. It’s not just the Thunder that has no personnel answer to the twin towers. Every team in the league is overmatched. "There’s a reason they’re defending champions,” coach Scott Brooks said. You can’t duplicate what is unduplicateable. The NBA isn’t Kinko’s. Bill Russell is 76 years old. Wilt Chamberlain is dead. The open market is void of skilled 7-footers. The closed market, too, outside of Dwight Howard. The Thunder has only two tonics for the Lakers tonight, the same elixirs that won Games 3 and 4 in the Ford Center. Foot speed and effort. "We gotta play harder,” Brooks said. Game 5 was "the only time in the series we didn’t put in a 48-minute effort. We didn’t play hard enough to win.” The Thunder countered Gasol and Bynum in Games 3 and 4 (and Game 2, even in defeat) with fanatical effort. Pushed Gasol and Bynum as far from the basket as possible. Fronted them often, daring the Lakers to lob the ball over heads. Back-side defensive help from wing players who had to bust a gut to return to the perimeter when the Lakers instead swung the ball. Swarm like army ants when the behemoths did snare the ball within basket range. Nothing else you can do.