Thunder-Lakers: Five ways the L.A. Lakers could attack the Thunder in Game 2

CAN THE LAKERS GUARD THE THUNDER? — The question that hung heavy in the air Monday during a postgame press conference is the most compelling question Wednesday.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 15, 2012

As long as the mid-range jumpers are falling for OKC, there is little the Lakers can do to counter the Thunder's pick-and-roll game.

2. Take care of the ball.

The Thunder turns turnovers into points as well as any team. The Thunder scored 22 points off 15 Lakers turnovers. OKC also got 13 fast-break points, including eight in the decisive third quarter. There's no way the Lakers, or any other team, can guard the Thunder if OKC is consistently getting out in transition. The key to successfully defending the Thunder starts with limiting transition opportunities. The Lakers did not do that in Game 1, and it was because of their turnovers.

3. Defend without fouling.

The Lakers put the Thunder on the free-throw line 29 times in Game 1. That's three more times than what Oklahoma City averaged during the regular season, and four more times than what it's averaged in the playoffs. Teams can't defend the charity stripe. OKC made 24 of 29 free throws Monday, with Durant, Westbrook and Harden each getting to the line at least six times. The Thunder's success at the foul line in Game 1 mirrored the team's regular season success, when it shot a league-leading 80.6 percent. If the Lakers continue to foul, they're basically bailing out the Thunder.

4. Hide Steve Blake.

The longer he's on Harden, the shorter this series will be. For some strange reason, Brown figured it'd be a good idea late in first quarter to stick Blake on Harden. And Harden immediately began abusing the smaller point guard with the pick-and-roll. With Bryant covering the Thunder's point guards, the Lakers might have to try the bigger, stronger Devin Ebanks or Matt Barnes against Harden. Brown did this in the third quarter, going with Barnes, but by then it was much too late. Harden is the biggest X-factor in this series for the Thunder, and putting Blake on him is like dangling a piece of meat in front of a lion.

5. Go big.

The Lakers are already big. But with Ramon Sessions turning into a liability on both ends, the Lakers might have to sit their prized point guard acquisition and play Bryant as the lead guard. The downside is it adds even more pressure an already cumbersome load for Bryant to bear. But if the Lakers have Bryant as the lead guard, they can trot out a bigger, stronger defender such as Ebanks or Barnes to be another defender when the Thunder has Harden, Westbrook and Durant on the court.

It's not the best option. But the Lakers don't have many other directions to turn. And after just one game, time is running out.



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