May 14, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) handles the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the second half in game one of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Lakers-Thunder Game 2 Preview: Do Or Die Time

This isn’t a Game 7 but it might as well be. During the Kobe Bryant era, when the Los Angeles Lakers have gone down 0-2 in a playoff series they’ve went on to win just one of eight series. That lone series win came courtesy of the most miraculous shot of Derek Fisher’s storied Laker career. This time around I’m guessing some Steve Blake magic with 0.4 left won’t be enough.

Hard to say we didn’t see Game 1 coming. The Oklahoma City Thunder have given the Lakers problems all year long holding double digits leads in every one of their four meetings this season. L.A.’s only taste of victory against the Thunder required two OT’s and one ugly elbow.

Metta World Peace still has yet to make peace with James Harden for his moment of madness. That’s all part of the mind games Metta is playing with his opponent. Problem is they seem to have no effect on the NBA’s best sixth man.

But that is a running theme for the Lakers in their futile attempts to stop the Thunder.

In Game 1 OKC executed their offense with little to no resistance. Russell Westbrook played one of the best games of his career opting to establish his mid-range game instead of settling for threes or attacking the hoop with reckless abandon. That helped to get Kevin Durant plenty of easy looks which eventually led to Harden doing whatever he wanted.

For a moment forget about Durant and Westbrook. There is nothing the Lakers can do except hope those two have an off-night.

Now Harden on the other hand is the man that the Lakers must focus on. As it stands only one man has any chance of defending him and that’s World Peace. Steve Blake tried and failed miserably being not only out-quicked but also out-muscled. With Harden on his game the Thunder is a runaway train. Somebody has got to be unafraid to stand on those tracks.

Somebody has also got to give Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions a wakeup call. Neither of them was a factor at all in Game 1 and Sessions is slowly sliding into a slump at the wrong time.

Kobe Bryant badly needs Sessions to get back into his groove. Mamba finds it much easier to strike when he’s got a table setter like Sessions. More dribble-drive penetration from Sessions will also keep Thabo Sefolosha honest not allowing him to crowd Kobe like he did in Game 1.

Something else the Lakers can do to get this series on their terms is to force feed the rock to Andrew Bynum and get Gasol to get back in the paint. Drew came out with the intensity necessary for the situation but his presence alone isn’t enough. Gasol has got to commit to doing the dirty work too.

Tonight is truly the season for the Lakers. Not all is lost if they lose but history certainly is not on their side so this is definitely a do or die situation. Anything short of a champion’s effort will reignite all of the talk we’ve been hearing for the past few weeks and will once again question the future of the franchise. A win on the other hand will resurrect title talk and elevate the hopes of hanging another banner.

Tags: 2012 Nba Playoffs Andrew Bynum Derek Fisher James Harden Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant Metta World Peace Oklahoma City Thunder Pau Gasol Ramon Sessions Russell Westbrook Steve Blake Thabo Sefolosha

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