LA-Thunder game 3: We draw blood.
Posted by: SPQR on May 19, 2012 - 03:20 AM
Going into the third game of the LA –Thunder series, it was imperative we draw blood and draw it in the amounts that would spell victory. No team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a best of seven series so this game was literally win or die.|
And win we did, coming through with a 99-96 nail biter that kept your season and playoff hopes alive. After a blowout loss in game one and that monumental heartbreaker in game two, it was nice to see them walking off the court with blood on their faces for a change.
The game was decided on the free throw line, where LA marched to the charity stripe an amazing 42 times, making an even more incredible 41 shots. Also heavily involved in the Lakers victory was limiting the Thunders offense to below 40 percent shooting. This was a testament to the type of defense played by the Lakers against so profligate an offensive team. Even the assist total, never our métier was in our favor by a 20-13 margin.
In watching the three games so far, there is some good and some bad. One thing we knew coming in that was reinforced in the first lopsided game is that we cannot play at the Thunders pace and compete, let alone win. That first game showed what a younger, more athletic, faster team will do to us if we let them bend us to their will.
One the good side, in the last two games, the Lakers have indeed slowed the pace down and been able to get a defensive grip, at least enough to take the Thunder out of that frenetic pace they would prefer.
One game played at their pace, two at ours. Score a plus for us.
One the other side of this same coin, while we know we can’t beat them at our game, it is also become apparent that they can it at our pace and go toe to toe with us. The beat us in the second game and almost pulled it off again tonight. After the game, their coach was asked about the pace of the game. His response: “We can play it that way. We are a very good defensive team. We can win either way.”And two close, low scoring games what the teams split show he is right.
This predicates two things: We must play these games at our pace, never theirs, and if we do play at our pace, it gives us a chance to win, but will not guarantee it. Which does point out the difficulty of winning this series. Because even if we play all the games our way, it does not mean we will win all of them. That being said, if we play them all our way, it does give us a chance to win them all, something that can’t happen at the Thunder’s preferred pace. And they know it.
The other pattern that is developing that is a bit alarming is that they are making Kobe shoot a lot of shots to get his points. That cost us dearly in the first two games and almost did again in this last game. If this is going to be the model for the rest of the series, then one suspects before it is played out, it will again cost the Lakers another game or even two along the way.
So as I look to tonight’s fast turnaround game, what will I look for to give me hope we can come back and battle on even terms in this series?
First off, don’t expect the team to get to the line 42 times. That won’t happen. So the Lakers will need to manufacture offense from the offense itself, and not rely on that many trips to the foul line.
But even more important will be this: We have played the game at our pace for two consecutive games. There is no doubt the Thunder will try to speed things up a bit. And one suspects tonight they will make a concerted effort to do it. Can we keep this slow pace up? Can we enforce it for the rest of the series? We will have to in order to entertain any chance. So watch and see if we can pull the trick off again. If we can, a pattern is being laid. One that won’t guarantee we win, but one that will give us a chance to.
And lastly, our two top scorers, Kobe and Drew have to become more effective in shooting percentage. Most especially Kobe since it is apparent he is going to take the lion’s share of the shots. If the Thunder keep holding him to 9 of 25 shooting nights, it then becomes a game of Russian roulette where eventually we will pull the trigger on a full chamber and the Thunder will get that third win. This game of roulette needs to stop, and soon, because if it catches up to us again, that’s all she wrote.
We finally drew blood. Finally got in a punch to the head. For the first time, made them feel the bitter sting of losing. Give them pause, make them think about making adjustments. But after three games, we have one only once, that by 3 points. It tells you just how close these wins will be for us. They can play our game and keep it close, even win. So even though we know what we have to do, the questions are, can we follow the formula three more times and even if we do, can we do it just a bit better than they can?
So watch those crucial patterns. Can we slow it down, grind it out for another game? And can Kobe and the team find ways to get him up to a better shooting percentage? If the answer tonight to both those questions is yes, perhaps we will draw blood yet once more and head back to Oklahoma…..and try do it all over again.