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Lakers Collapse In Final Two Minutes (5.16.12)
In the NBA playoffs, a loss like this will surely haunt you.
If you were betting on this game, and the bookie told you, "Oklahoma City will only score 77 points," you definitely would have put all of your money on the Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers only scored 75 points. Kobe Bryant may have had his worst two minute stretch of basketball, ever. Kobe hasn't flamed out this badly since he was a rookie firing up air balls against the Jazz in the conference semifinals. With a seven point lead, and just over two minutes remaining, the Lakers suffered an epic meltdown and lost by two points. With the chance to head back to LA tied up at 1-1, the Lakers blew the game and now face a 2-0 hole.
Giving away a game in the playoffs is always debilitating. Just ask Memphis. They gave away game one in the first round when Nick Young went berserk with the three ball. Memphis dug out of a 3-1 hole and forced a game seven on their home court, but they couldn't seal the deal and they lost. They know that losing game one cost them the series.
The Lakers came two minutes away from stealing home court and making this series a lot more uncomfortable for OKC. Now they have to dig out of a 2-0 hole and try to tie the series up with back to back games on Friday and Saturday. This is not promising. The Lakers will have to put everything they have into game three. Losing game three will put them in a grave box. By expending so much energy in a must win, the Lakers will surely be drained the next day when they play game four. The chances of the Lakers heading back to OKC tied up at 2-2 are much slimmer now.
However, maybe this game wasn't all doom and gloom. The Lakers may have figured out how to play OKC. The defense was drastically improved. The Lakers were great against the pick and roll. The bigs, Drew, Pau, and Hill, did an excellent job of hedging hard on the picks and forcing the guards to give the ball to far less offensive talents, namely Perkins and Ibaka. When the guards would decide to force the jumper, Pau and Drew were right there to contest the shot. The Lakers did an excellent job containing Russell Westbrook. Westbrook killed the Lakers with the pick and roll in game one, but in this game he only shot 2-6 from the midrange, and he finished the game 5-17, 1-3 from deep, for 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Harden was no better, he went 0-1 from the midrange off of the pick and roll, however he did take over late and make 2-3 layups in the final two minutes, one coming off of a pick and roll. Then there was Durant. He only went 1-3 off of the pick and roll midrange jumper. The Lakers rotated well, hedged hard, and forced those three to give up the ball. This led to bricks from Ibaka and Perkins. Ibaka went 4-11 for 8 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 blocks. His defensive impact was impressive, but offensively, he was a liability. Perkins did no better. He went 1-5 for 2 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 turnover. Notice how the Thunder bigs had very little boards. Kevin Durant led the team with 7. By forcing the bigs to pop on the pick and roll, the Lakers forced the Thunder into numerous one and done situations. The Thunder only had 6 offensive rebounds for the entire game, compared to 11 from LA.
Overall, the Lakers did everything they needed to do to win the game. They stymied the high octane Thunder. They fed the post. Kobe hit clutch jumpers in the fourth. Then the final two minutes came and the game was stolen away. I considered OKC's performance in game one an aberration due to their hot shooting. In game two, they shot just 42% from the field, and just 35% from deep, far lower than game one's 53% and 41% from deep. I believe that these game two numbers are more of the norm. However, LA followed with their own aberration on offense, shooting just 38.5% from the field, and just 2-15 from deep for 13.3%. LA's inability to hit a 3, coupled with their epic collapse, cost them a win. On the final play of the game, Steve Blake missed a wide open 3 from the near corner. The Lakers could not have asked for a better shot. Blake missed it. The game should have never came down to that shot, but they did get a wide open look for the win. Then there was Kobe's uncharacteristic play down the stretch. Kobe hit two huge shots early in the fourth, but in the final three minutes Kobe went 0-3 for 0 points, with one of those shots actually getting blocked. In this stretch he also had 1 turnover that led to a Thunder dunk. Then a pass from Blake flew right through his hands and out of bounds the following possession. Kobe's mistakes could have been avenged with a last second shot, but the Thunder made sure he couldn't catch the inbound pass for the final shot. When the Lakers watch the game tape, they will love everything about it until the final two minutes.
Kobe started the game with a missed layup. He curled into the lane, attacked the rim hard, and went up for the finger roll. However, he was too far under the basket, and the ball hit the underside of the front iron. Miscues like this usually don't happen with Kobe. I guess it was a sign of things to come. Two minutes later, Metta passed up an open 3 at the near top 3. Instead, Metta hit Kobe at the near mid wing with 4 seconds on the shot clock. Thabo Sefolosha disrupted Kobe by tapping the ball away, and by the time Kobe regathered the ball in the near corner, the buzzer went off for a violation.
Despite his offensive troubles, Kobe had a great defensive first quarter. Kobe picked up three steals in the quarter, his first following the shot clock violation. Westbrook ran a pick and roll with Durant at the far top 3. Westbrook attacked left to the far wing and swung it to KD who popped to the near top key. Kobe rotated, left Sefolosha at the near side 3, and surprised KD for a steal. Kobe pushed up the floor and finished with a basket as Durant goaltended his layup. The next play, Westbrook brought the ball up as Durant ran off a Perkins down screen to the far wing. Westbrook hit KD at the far wing, but Bynum hedged KD hard, leaving Perkins wide open. Pau rotated to cover Perkins at the far mid block, leaving Ibaka open. Bynum recovered into the lane as Metta recovered and matched up with Durant. Ibaka flashed to the free throw line, and KD hit him. Kobe rotated over, left Sefolosha at the near side 3, and contested Ibaka's jumper, brick.
A minute later, the Lakers suffered another shot clock violation. Kobe attacked the rim, but Ibaka did a great job of rotating and swatting the finger roll. Sessions recovered the ball with 1 on the shot clock, but he couldn't get up a shot in time. Three possessions later, Pau committed to the hedge on the pick and roll. Westbrook attacked right from the top, but Pau stuck with him and forced Westbrook to throw up an ugly running fade contested jumper, air ball. Bynum came down and finished a nice reverse. The next possession, Bynum hit a nice lefty turnaround bank shot. Then Pau hit a righty turnaround bank shot. Kobe followed consecutive steals. Kobe stole an errant Harden pass under the basket and setup Bynum for an easy layup at the rim. Kobe followed with a great rotation to steal the ball from the rolling Collison in the lane. Kobe noticed Collison slipping the pick from the top, so he left Harden and stole the ball from Collison's blind side. Bynum followed with a trip to the line and sank his free throws.
Kobe followed with a fading 8ft jumper in the lane, and the Lakers closed the quarter up 22-21. Kobe went 2-7 for 6 points, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Bynum went 3-6 for 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 block. Pau went 1-2 for 2 points and 3 rebounds. Westbrook went 2-7 for 7 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. Durant went 2-2 for 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers. The Lakers did an excellent job bottling up Westbrook and Durant. All eight of the Lakers made field goals came in the lane.
Three minutes into the second, TNT showed a clip of Mike Brown during an official timeout. Brown stated in the huddle, "Hey, the most physical team wins, the most physical team wins on both ends of the floor." A minute later, Pau and Harden got into a scuffle battling for the board following a free throw. The refs assigned a double foul, but Pau actually got away with a cheap shot as he ran into the back of Harden on the way down the floor and gave him a nice subtle shove. Hill followed with an offensive rebound and dunk. Then KD got to the far wing and used a Perkins pick to attack middle. Bynum hedged hard and forced KD to hit Perkins at the far mid corner. Perkins took a dribble into the lane and threw up an ugly hook that didn't hit the rim. Metta fired up a 3 to tie the game at 33. The Lakers once again forced the Thunder to hit a big on the pop, but this time Ibaka sank the 17ft jumper from the near mid wing.
Kobe followed with a beautiful lefty finger roll. Bynum stood at the near block, took two dribbles, and turned baseline for the turnaround jumper. Perkins did an excellent job of bodying him up, thus thwarting Bynum's momentum on the turnaround. With Perkins hindering Bynum, Ibaka rotated from the weak side and spiked the ball away. Kobe recovered it at the near elbow, took a dribble into the lane, and then stepped back to the near mid block. Kobe pumped, froze the defense, and stepped through to finish a lefty finger roll at the rim. Kobe then set up Jordan Hill for an open jumper at the near mid wing as he took the double and kicked it. Hill sank the open jumper. Kobe followed that up with an impressive jumper. Kobe was at the near top, he looked to use a Pau pick to go middle, but he couldn't because the Thunder overplayed the middle. Kobe dribbled out to the near wing, attacked baseline, and beat the hedge as he turned the corner. Kobe got to the near block, backed down, shook baseline and turned middle to hit the 12ft fade from the near mid block.
Serge Ibaka picked up his fifth block of the game by swatting Bynum. Pau stood at the top of the key and hit the flashing Bynum at the near mid block. Bynum shook baseline and turned middle. Ibaka left Pau and swatted Bynum from behind. Sefolosha gathered the ball and hit the streaking Westbrook for a dunk in transition. Ibaka did a great job of blocking shots from the weak side, however, this block was just sneaky. Pau should have called out the double, but Bynum was probably too far into his move. Bynum's pet move is to take two dribbles and shoot the ball. Ibaka definitely knows this, and he rotated extremely well from the weak side to block numerous Bynum attempts. A minute later, Kobe turned the ball over as he lost his handle going behind the back. Ibaka finished with a dunk in transition. Then Bynum utilized an iso at the near block. He took two dribbles, turned baseline, and missed the turnaround jumper. Westbrook air balled a buzzer beater to end the half, and the Lakers finished the half down 45-48.
Kobe went 2-4 for 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. Bynum went 1-4 for 2 points and 2 rebounds, with both of his misses due to Ibaka blocks in the lane. Pau went 2-4 for 6 points and 1 rebound. Westbrook went 1-3 for 5 points, 1 rebound, and 2 assists. KD went 2-2 for 6 points and 1 assist. The Lakers really held Westbrook and Durant in check in the first half. Westbrook went 2-4 from the midrange in the half, and KD went 1-1. Although these are high percentages, the attempts are what matter. The Lakers did a great job of hedging hard and forcing these two to give up the ball.
To start the third quarter, Reggie Miller made a great analogy. If you recall game one, the Lakers were dominating the paint offensively. Reggie stated, "I think the Lakers are approaching this series like it's a boxing match. They know they're not gonna knock out the Thunder. But what they want to do is have body blows. And how do you get body blows? By inside touches. They want to wear down the Thunder big. And if the Lakers continue to go to Pau and Andrew Bynum down low and wear down the Thunder big, it could be the series all tied up at one."
Reggie was spot on. The Lakers scored seven of their eight baskets in the paint in the third quarter. Bynum started with a three second violation, but he made up for it by blocking a Westbrook jumper at the near elbow following a pick and roll. Bynum hedged, disregarded Perkins, and contained Westbrook well enough to swat him. The next possession, Bynum hedged hard on another pick, forced KD to give it up to the popping Perkins at the free throw line, and Perkins bricked it. Then Kobe set up Pau for an easy dunk. Kobe stood at the near corner, blew by his man baseline, elevated under the board, and dumped it to Pau for a nice dunk. KD missed a contested jumper, but Bynum couldn't make him pay as he missed a turnaround fade in the lane. The Thunder ran another pick and roll, with Westbrook at the near mid wing. Bynum hedged hard and left Ibaka. Westbrook had to swing it, and Ibaka bricked the open jumper from the far top key. Bynum followed with an easy look in the lane after MWP set him up. Pau followed with a strong take to the rim from the top of the key. Pau drove left, got into the lane, and finished a running 3ft floater.