May 16, 2012; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) reacts to a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half in game two of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Man, this one stings. I haven't felt a loss this much since the Lakers blew that 24-point lead against the Celtics in Game 4 of the 2008 Finals. Last night's loss wasn't crucial as that loss four years ago, but the feeling (at least for me) is the same. Why? That loss was a soul crusher. Anything that could have gone wrong on the way to losing, did. Just like last night, when what should have been a lead that a championship contending team should be able to hold. Seven points, two minutes, and the Lakers playing defense against the Thunder as well as they probably could. Coulda shoulda woulda....and now we're banking on home court to save the series. The Thunder seem too good to blow chances against, just like the C's in '08.
When the Lakers lost on their home floor in 2008, you knew it meant the series. Instead of being tied 2-2 with another game at home, they put their backs against the wall by falling down 3-1, and we all know what happened after that. The Celtics were just too good, and it was a wrap two games later. What now?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are good enough to be champions, and they're young, brash, and full of confidence. I have to feel their self-belief just shot up up drastically by winning a game they had no business winning. A game the Lakers had no business losing. The Lakers had the perfect opportunity to swing the series in their favor, and completely change the outlook on what will have to be a long series if they're going to win it. Now, Los Angeles is faced with two must wins on back-to-back nights against the one team that is best suited to play back-to-back games.
Still, hope shouldn't be lost. The Lakers should at least walk away from this game knowing they can beat the Thunder, or knowing that they should have beaten the Thunder. Did the Thunder win the game, or did the Lakers gift them a win. Or does that matter? A loss is a loss. No matter what, the Lakers figured some things out defensively, and we have to assume that Kobe can't be that bad down the stretch again. But now the Thunder know they can win any game. OKC was clearly frustrated, but it was them, the supposedly young team that kept their composure, while the team with championship history and veteran leadership is the one that wilted under the pressure. Let's just hope that the Lakers don't take this loss as badly as we are today. They can beat the Thunder, but they can't afford to burn possessions and they definitely can't afford to burn wins.
- Now, let's get this out of the way. That loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant. If we're going to praise him to the nth degree when he leads the Lakers to wins or nails clutch shots, then we have to hold him accountable for one of the worst losses I can remember. Terrible shot, terrible shot, turnover, turnover, anger.
- I really hate to see Kobe get so mad when things don't go how he wants them. What did he expect? No way he should be that upset with not getting the ball in that situation. He had just earned tons of praise for being a leader, in part by allowing his teammates the the chance to shine in Game 7 versus the Denver Nuggets. If he wants to keep on being that leader, then he should be throwing his hands up in anger for allowing James Harden to blow by him twice, and for giving Kevin Durant free buckets, or rushing terrible shots when Bynum was working his ass off for deep positioning and the Lakers have the lead in a crucial game.
- Take the good with the bad Kobe, and tell your teammates "my bad" and that you'll make sure that won't ever happen again.
Whatever scowl that was on Bryant's face when Metta World Peace inbounded the ball to Blake in the corner for the Lakers' last shot had melted away by his postgame news conference. Sure, he was ticked off that World Peace didn't follow the play and go to the first option of Bryant or the second option of Andrew Bynum, but what good would it do to throw World Peace and Blake under the bus? How would that help the Lakers achieve their goal of winning four of the next five games in order to make it to the conference finals?
- I secretly fear that Kobe loses his teammates a little more each time with what seems like tunnel vision when it comes to admitting fault.
- Up until that crunch time failure, Kobe was actually having a decent game. He settled for some shots, and hit some Kobe-shots, but for a little bit, he stopped settling and worked to take the ball to the basket, and it led to fouls on Harden and Sefolosha, which led to making things easier on both ends of the floor. Next thing you know, the Lakers opened up their lead that would eventually vanish.
- Metta World Peace did nothing wrong by passing it to Steve Blake. Absolutely nothing wrong. First, Steve Blake was wide open, and there was only 5 seconds or so left. The Lakers were out of timeouts, and they just burned their last one to come up with another inbounding play, because there was nothing there on their first try. Steve Blake was the original inbounder and he took the timeout instead of getting a 5-second count.
- The reason Blake had to call a timeout was because they Thunder had the Lakers bottled up. There was no one to pass to. Then they covered the next one well too. Was Ron supposed to just wait forever for Kobe to get open when it seemed like absolutely nada was forthcoming? Remember there was no timeouts to rectify the situation again, and then Steve Blake was wide-the-fuck open. The same Steve Blake who, up until that shot, had been pretty clutch for the past week. He was the guy who nailed a three to put the Lakers up 5 points at the 7:50 mark in the 4th.
- Remember this?
SSR Roundtable Predictions:
As it appeared to be the case throughout the season, the Lakers season could very well depend on the skinny white guy on the Lakers' bench who, as of late, has been doing a pretty spot on impersonation of Derek Fisher. Blake's going to get roasted on defense, he's going to turn the ball over making simple entry passes, and he'll probably suck pretty bad for most of the series, but when those big shots present themselves, will Steve Blake continue his Fish 2.0 impersonation? The open shots are going to be there. Kobe's going to demand attention, as will Pau and Bynum. If MWP plays how's he's been then he deserve his proper attention as well. Steve Blake will get the chances to knock down some open shots like he did in Game 7 against the Nuggets. If so, he just might decide the series. Assuming the Lakers care, or unless the Thunder are really that good that it doesn't matter.
- I wrote that. So far, Blake's 0-1, and I'll stop calling him Fish 2.0 until he gets a win back for the Lakers. Also, that second crucial turnover was his fault, not Kobe's. He had no business attempting that pass with Russell Westbrook closing, and putting Kobe in a position to have to make a play on the pass with so little room, and so little time. Blake is a point guard for goodness sake, and I dunno, should be able to dribble the ball through tough spots when necessary. Instead he let the pressure affect his decision, and a ball went through Kobe's hands.
- Sorry to toot my own horn. What can I say? I'm vain.
- Speaking of Derek Fisher...Why does Mike Brown insist on matching up Blake with Fish? Was Mike Brown asleep in the time he coached Fish? Does he realize the reason the Lakers decided to make a switch at point guard? I know Ramon Sessions is struggling, and call me crazy, but giving Ramon a chance to gain some momentum by burning the one guy in the NBA that lesser point guards make reputations on might be something Coach Brown should consider. Steve Blake couldn't drive past a snail, and all we got was Fish being hidden with Blake on the floor. If there was a time that Sessions should be playing with the second unit instead of the starters, this would be that time.
- The Lakers wasted 13 seconds from :18 to :05 with not one good look een beginning to materialize before the Thunder used their last foul. I'd love for someone to tell me what Mike Brown and Kobe had drawn up there? There was plenty of time to use an actual play. Maybe some inside-out action? Pick and roll? SOMETHING?
- After that? Full timeout, 20-Second timeout, 20-Second timeout, then the pass to Steve Blake because Kobe was covered. Great time management. Sarcasm.
- Russell Westbrook smothered Ramon. Thabo did a great job on Kobe.
- If the refs are going to continue to let the game be physical, that works in the Lakers favor. Up until that final two minutes, the Lakers were successfully defending and frustrating the Thunder.
- Is Bynum hurting again? It's taking him far too long to recoil for what should be easy dunks. A few times, he should have had easy buckets that just ended up being fouls because Bynum can't dunk on immediate receipt of a pass. Also, he double clutched on a quite a few shots when he didn't need to. Part of that is because he's not getting the lift he wants, and it's allowing his defender to recover and make a play on the ball. Especially against Serge Ibaka.
- I'm glad the Ibaka thinks that swatting the ball out of bounds is a great block. Yes, it gets the crowd excited, and maybe his team too, but a block kept in play is better than a block knocked into the second row. The point is to prevent possessions, not make SportsCenter. Dude's an awesome athlete, but he's also a better timing JaVale McGee at times.
- Pau should have his way with Ibaka when he's patient. Ibaka seels out for the block too much. Getting Serge in foul trouble should be crucial to the Lakers' strategy. As well as Harden, and Thabo Sefolosha.
@GotEm_Coach Pau Gasol needs to be the Olajuwon to Ibaka's Shaq. Get clever. Ball fakes. Head fakes. Make him move.
- I can live with Ibaka taking 15-18 ft. jumpers. If he makes them, give him credit, but it's a shot the Lakers should want the Thunder to end up with. Keep making OKC settle for that shot. Same thing for Nick Collison.
- Bynum worked hard for positioning in the post last night, and once he figured out that he should be faster hedging screens and contesting Westbrook better, the Lakers D started to clamp down and take the game over. The Lakers wasted a great game from him. Bynum scored at the 2:08 mark to put the Lakers up 7, then never saw another shot...
- They also wasted an off-night from Westbrook (5-17, 15 pts, 4 assists), and a quiet night from James Harden (3-8, 13 pts, 5 turnovers).
- Kevin Durant also took his share of rushed, bad shots.
- The Lakers shot 38.5% from the field. That is quite terrible and they still should have won the game. The Thunder are awfully fast on their rotations and noting on offense came easy. One one hand, we could be happy that the Lakers can win an ugly game like that, but on the other hand, what are the chances that they can play that bad offensively and be in position to win again?
- I know the Lakers can beat this team, but I'm increasingly worried about what kind of focus this team will have from game to game. No doubt the Thunder's confidence grows with every win, and they have that look in their eyes. That youthful ambition that says "We're next. We're now, and we're taking what we want." They aren't invincible yet, and the Lakers found a chink in their armor, but then pulled the sword out and stuck it in themselves. Stick it back in OKC please.
- The NBA is the best Game of Thrones.
- Let's keep the faith.
- Follow me on Twitter: @wondahbap