I'm not reading Behind the Box Score today. All it wll say is this loss is on Kobe and if anyone else gets the blame on the Lakers side I will be surprised. Funnily enough I will agree that kobe does deserve a lot of blame for why this game was so poor down the stretch offensively and therefore translated to fast break points for them and made it harder on our defense which was stifling them. It was the first time pretty much all series for the Thunder to get to their style of play and everyone be involved, not just Westbrook. but what led to that point before we even get there.
1. The Lakers inability to keep getting it inside. Some put all of this blame on Kobe, but you can't do that. Establishing yourself inside is really important. There's no reason Bynum or Pau should be getting pushed around inside. I can count on one hand the number of inside shots from the low post that Pau has made. The majority of them have been pnr or the 15-ft jump shot and a couple putbacks. Bynum on the other hand completely stops posting if he doesn't get the ball. And I agree with him, but the solution isn't to come to the top of the key for a handoff because he doesn't have the handles to drive into the lane, a la Gasol or Odom. Even the best C's can be pushed off the block if they don't continue to fight to establish the post. There are times when I watch Kobe or Fish sit there for literally 6 seconds trying to pass it in which given it takes a couple seconds to get up the floor we spend over half of the time on offense at times trying to get it in. Problem is that they're not establishing themselves or getting their footing. So they swing it and they can either lob, which is a bad play I don't care how many times it works cuz as in game 2 it essentially stops working once we do it a couple times, or swing it again to wait for a repost on the other side. This isn't the triangle, just trying to get it inside, so Triangle nuts I'm not talking about the triangle. Where the triangle comes into play is that the next play after getting it inside doesn't work as we see all the time is pnr on the wing. This leads to our penetration into the paint and then the kick out for the open shot. This is why we shoot so many 3s. I've said it once and I will say it again, the Thunder are playing the best undersized D the Lakers have faced all season. They're doing what we do to other teams. Dare them to beat us from 3, which usually leads to lower 3-pt % cuz they shoot more but now its not exactly in our favor. Unfortunately, our best 3-pt shootes are not hitting. By no means am I condoning the fast 3s that we put up, I'm making a case for the 3s that come after we try to pass it in and then we penetrate and pass it out, which are usually mostly wide open.
2. Lakers rebounding. There is no excuse that the Thunder should EVER outrebound us by double figures. EVER. If you think differently then you're a Pau and Bynum homer. See what I did there, I just insulted you for having the opinion to know that it wasn't all our bigs fault we got outrebounded by so much. Much of this yesterday had to do with the lack of o. rebs due to the number of threes we were shooting, which led to more long rebs and basically eliminating our advantage down low. We were outrebounded offensively and defensively. Kevin Durant had the same number of rebs than Odom, Bynum, and Artest combined. I believe he had like 10 at the end of the first half. These rebs led to them having so many more fast breaks and putting the speed on that we know can give us trouble. It wasn't cuz durant had a monster game, by all means 8-24 is just as bad as kobe's night, only difference being where the shots started falling for the two. Durant shouldn't outrebound our 2,3,and 4 best forwards/C. It shouldn't happen. EVER. This picked up the speed and that is what we feared the thunder would do most of all.
3. Shot selection. I'm not mad when we shoot 3s after one inside-out because the way the Thunder have packed it in we need to start hitting something. We have to make them guard other players. In the first half, Kobe answered every run the Thunder took with a 3. Not good 3s, but he made them just the same. All I saw in the comments board was KOBEEEEEE, YES!!!!!, and everyone praised him for taking these shots to stifle their runs and silence the crowd. Everyone was getting in on it. Fish was hitting, Ron was hitting. And then the well ran dry. Kobe took the same shots he did in the first half but this time they missed, artest ran dry, fish made his only second half 3 and odom made one. This is more or less the same problem with getting it inside. The Lakers not getting any calls inside as we try to fight for position and as we penetrate and drive causes them to stop doing them. Kobe did the same thing last game, with lower numbers of shots. The shot selection was the same, except there was higher volume as to the lack of fts. But when we do get it inside, I am soooooooooo tired of watching gasol or bynum go so slow with their decision. Pau at one point in the fourth had a clear cut advantage with a smaller defender on him and, instead of making the quick fake and turn in the direction he wanted to go which would have been baseline to pull an up and under, he held it until they started to double tried to make the move and then turned it over. By the way, shot selection isn't on Phil as he's repeatedly said the lakers shoot too many 3s. The players are taking it upon themselves to shoot them we know the 3-bal isn't a huge part of the PHIL-osophy
4. Dependence. We are so dependent on Kobe's game at this point in the fourth that it is ridiculous. If Kobe is off in the fourth we are screwed just as was the case earlier this year when we got in close game situations and we had no idea what we were going to run. It only makes common sense to move out of the way if Kobe's on fire. When he's off as was the case yday, keep posting. Run the pnr. Do not clear out for him unless its clear he's taking it instead of just chucking at the last second of the shot clock. I echo C.A. hear in that we live by the Kobe and we die by the Kobe. As our only real perimeter threat people literally only guard him and then pack it inside and they've been doing it all year. So the whole give your body up for fouls thing, is literally what Kobe would have to do. I for one would love to see him play for another year instead of rehab all summer just to play half the season great again before it all starts taking a toll. Its called being smart with your body and throwing it into the lane only calls for a shorter career not an extended one, especially after we're paying him 80+ million over the next couple years.
5. The Thunder are a great defensive team. They really are. I shouldn't have to explain that to people. Offensive execution meeting great defensive execution can cause stalemates, and victories if the defensive effort is greater than the offensive execution. The Thunder have executed their gameplan to perfection. They're bodying up our bigs down low, borderline foul rough, and our bigs are responding by fighting them, but lobs to them are not the answer when they can't get in front. Not to mention that their athleticism around the rim has all but mitigated our guards from penetration. Until we start making them guard us on the wing they will continue to pack it in and push our bigs off the block and making pau catch it 15 ft from the basket and drive in instead of actually playing in the post.
Overall, we lost this game by 4. Even with ft disparity. Even with kobe having a horrible 4th quarter, shooting wise. Even after being outrebounded by double digits. Even after they got to play their style of play. We hit even a fraction of our open shots and we don't even have this conversation.
Now that that is out of the way, we must address Mr. Bryant's decision to chuck away in the fourth. I won't say much else about it cuz C.A. said it all. Some nights we win from the exact same thing Kobe is doing. Last night he realized that he didn't have it and switched it up. After he changed we still weren't rebounding or defending well and letting them get in the lane at will. Kobe had his first 8 ast game of the series and that wouldn't be the case if we hit even more open jumpers the other two games. There was 5 min left after the timeout after kobe and bynum came up empty on 4 different possessions and we got down 8. We've come back and won games after that with less time left. Lets not act like this is anything new. We've done it with Pau being inefficient down the stretch. Without Bynum on the floor. With everyone absent but Kobe. With everyone there but Kobe. There was too much time left to effectively blame the loss on that series of possessions, especially since prior to that we had proceeded to lose the lead and fall behind by 2 with the bench on the floor, so kobe was effectively doing what he did in the first half. Only this time the results reversed. I can't get mad at it. It frustrates me, but I celebrated the threes when he made them and they were bad shots, so I can't fault him for trying to do it again. The biggest part of this is that he realized it wasn't going and switched. Lord knows it could've been worse and we've seen it as such. We've seen him chuck long jumper after long jumper with much less time left and completely shoot us out of the game. Fact of the matter is we were never out of the game after that. We still could've won and if you don't think we could've I'd like to ask you how much time do you need to come back from down 8 cuz 5 min of good defense, rebounding, and effort can erase that lead and extend your own. Unfortunately we got little of those three things on the defensive side and our offense had to try to make up for our defense for the first time this series. That stretch of bad D and missed shots bridging the 3rd and 4th killed us, but I expect another great and exciting and heart-wrenching game tomorrow.
Also, for those talking about lack of execution and that Kobe stalls the offense when he does it and thats why he's not as good as other players in this league. Look at their late game shots and plays. No one except maybe the Suns doesn't do iso down the stretch. Even the Spurs iso and pnr with ginobili. Everyone stalls their offense for a period of time to see if their superstar is going to carry them down the stretch. The Mavs do it for Dirk. Lebron calls his plays. Wade does it. Melo does it. Pierce does it. The results are no different for those guys. If they don't have it they go back to playing team ball. A lot of them still try to force it and cost a game or so. Lebron just last night had an offensive foul and a to in the last minute of last night's game trying to finish the comeback on the bulls. Missed fts as well. Nobody's calling for him to stop driving or dribbling cuz just the game before he stepped on the bulls' throats with jumper after jumper and 3s. Same with Melo, some Nuggets fans hate Melo for the isos and things but most realize that he's executed well down the stretch more often then not. Same with Pierce and Allen. Same with Ginobili. Same with Nash. Everyone has that bad stretch at the end of a game that costs a game or so. I'm not about to just be like you know what Kobe don't do what was just working for you earlier this game. Sometimes you have to try, this time it didn't work but considering the early part of the game, he was just as likely to continue making some 3s instead of missing all of his 6 second half threes. It was bad execution but so are all isos lets not act like we don't see this from every other team and the results aren't that much more different.