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Thunder Offense Comes Alive, Lakers Drop Game Three

The Oklahoma City Thunder can score on the Los Angeles Lakers. That wasn't at all certain before tonight's contest, a 101 to 96 Thunder victory in Game Three of the first-round series, but OKC now has a strong offensive effort it can point to as evidence that it can indeed lay a glove on the Laker D. It helps to have 34 free-throw attempts, apparently, but it can be done.

About those free-throw attempts, and in particular the ginormous gulf separating the Thunder's FTA total and that of the Lakers, who shot only 12. It's hard to win when your opponent is shooting from the line so much more often than you are. The disparity tonight resulted from the Lakers' playing offense on the perimeter far too much, their not being quite as quick or smart on defense as they were in Games One and Two, the Thunder's relentless efforts to attack the rim, and officials swayed by the noisy home crowd. How to allocate causation among those factors, I leave to the conscience of each individual reader. I'll just say that the Lakers could've worked harder to reduce the discrepancy in foul shots, and kudos to the OKC locals for repping strong on their home court. I wish Staples could get that loud once in a while.

The Thunder's offensive performance, the first time in seven games against the Lakers that they've exceeded 1.10 points per possession, wasn't all about the foul shots. They finally had a decent game hitting threes, with James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha dropping several bombs. I don't think the looks they were getting were any more open than in Games One and Two. The same shots just started falling for them. It's one of the oddities of the NBA's home-road dichotomy: shots that rim off when you're away from home will drop in your own building.

Crucially, the Thunder got their turnovers under control for the first time all year against the Lakers. In Games One and Two, they turned the rock over on 18% of their possessions. Tonight that number dropped to 10%. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who do most of the ball-handling for OKC, were much more steady with the pumpkin, and the Lakers just weren't as good at intruding on the passing lanes. Also, the Thunder reclaimed an advantage on the boards, both offensive and defensive. We covered yesterday how important this was for the Lakers in the first two games. Tonight OKC generated more second-chance points (12 to 9) thanks to offensive glasswork from Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.

The Lakers' offense wasn't, on the whole, horrible. Just its normal, very non-explosive self. After starting ablaze in the first quarter and petering out in the second and third, it finally went to ash in the fourth. That was when a series of possessions resulted in the dea th of ball movement and many, many low-probability Kobe Bryant jumpshots. There's plenty of blame to go around here. Kobe was too anxious to hit the dramatic shot, to the detriment of the inside game. The big men could've done more, through better positioning and flashing to the rim more quickly, to counter the severe fronting strategy being adopted by Scott Brooks, and they could've delivered better results on the offensive glass.

What's so frustrating is that the Lakers wasted a really solid night from Derek Fisher. He made four of his five three-point attempts (LOLWUT?!) and poured in 17 total. When the Lakers get a night like that from Fish - which happens only about once every seven weeks - they should be unbeatable. But Kobe's shot is off, he didn't get to the line, Ron Artest still can't make a three, and Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown missed on a few open looks. Likewise wasted was high-efficiency shooting from Bynum and Pau Gasol.

So the Lakers lead the series 2 to 1 heading into Game Four on Saturday. It's starting to feel like each game between these two teams will line up in a straightforward narrative. Westbrook is going to be awesome and get 25 points, Durant is going to put up 25-30 but burn a ton of possessions getting there, and whether the Thunder can score enough to squeeze past the Lakers' 1.05 PPP will depend on how much the OKC supporting cast pulls through, either with made threes or rebounding. I don't think that's terribly promising business model for OKC, but for now, it's been good enough to get them to a Game Five.











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In happier news, Doc Funk has his Game Three captions posted. They're genius as always.

Follow Dex on Twitter here.

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