What? No, I’m not crying. I’m. Not. Crying. It’s just been raining on my face.
The Lakers didn’t stand a chance against OKC in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semis, and it was really, really disgusting. Aside from a short 10-6 lead to start the game, L.A. was never ahead, while OKC launched a barrage of unstoppable offense despite a not-too-shabby offensive start for the Lakers.
And you want to know what hurts most? This Laker team actually tried.
Some might say otherwise, but, to these eyes, there was none of that pitiful, lazy play that emerged during the Nuggets series, which then resulted in blowouts. Andrew Bynum was engaged as hell, fighting for offensive rebounds and pounding the rock in the paint (he finished with 20 points off of 12 shots and 14 rebounds) while rotating and defending as much as he could. Pau Gasol? He was pretty damn aggressive early on — although he totally faded out as soon as L.A. went down by about 20 — and was a nice spark offensively in the first quarter.
Metta World Peace, met with a flurry of boos, kept L.A. afloat early on with a couple of quick threes and was pretty damn tenacious on defense, but we’re sure that he, too, became discouraged as the lead became damn near insurmountable.
That’s not to say L.A. had a good game; however, I am saying that what they did wrong was caused entirely by a too-talented Oklahoma City Thunder team.
Because L.A. had 15 turnovers for the game, and while that’s not a ton, almost all of them were forced by the Thunder, with the exception of three to four sloppy passes. Kobe Bryant, who was aggressively only marginally (super odd, and we’ll get to that later), was constantly stripped by Thabo Sefalosha’s suffocating defense, while the guards in general were nearly negated because of those long-ass OKC wings and points.
And then our defense. Dear Lord, our poor, poor defense.
The interior game of the Thunder was just as we suspected: Predicated on aggressive dribble penetration and constant kick-outs, which left to easy perimeter passing and too-slow defensive rotations on the part of the Lakers. That happened constantly, and we expected that.
But the real hero for OKC (or “villain” since we are all Laker fans here), was Russell Westbrook, who played within himself and completely annihilated L.A. Westbrook had no problems getting past our perimeter defenders (who does?), and took a step forward, leading to a wide-open midrange jump shot that he has drained all season and, true to form, all game long. The dude finished with 27 points in 27 minutes with seven rebounds, nine assists and two steals.
The OKC offense was too crisp, too smart, and too fast for the Lakers. Efforts be damned, because they were there. OKC gave up just four turnovers all game and shot at a 53 percent clip off of friggin’ jump shots.
And that’s what this team does. That’s why they’re favorites to come out of the West, and that’s why we’ll be lucky to squeeze one game out of this series.
I’m not a basketball coach, but I can’t imagine the kind of adjustments that need to be made for L.A. to pull off the next game, let alone the series. We have options (bring back Phil Jackson, sign Deron Williams illegally, get Metta World Peace to elbow someone in the back of the head), but none are viable or even ethical.
This is pretty much it, and it’s as good as L.A. is going to get. No piss-poor effort here. Just a piss-poor — at least by comparison — basketball team.