Blog Entry

Speed kills the Lakers again

Posted on: March 27, 2010 12:18 am
Edited on: March 27, 2010 12:21 am
OKLAHOMA CITY – With a signature win for a franchise on the rise, the Oklahoma City Thunder forced the defending champs to look into the future and cringe. 

The Lakers won’t know for a couple more weeks who they’ll be facing in the first round when they begin their title defense. If it’s the Thunder, who ran them out of the gym Friday night in a 91-75 rout, things could get a little uncomfortable. 

“It’s disappointing we didn’t respond to the challenge,” said Kobe Bryant, who had 11 points and nine turnovers before sitting the entire fourth quarter with fellow starters Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher. “That being said, when the playoffs start, it’s a different situation.” 

Probably so. But the Lakers were reminded Friday night of a weakness that was exposed in the conference semifinals last spring against the Rockets: Quick teams and quick guards cause them problems. 

A year ago, Ron Artest was playing for the Rockets and Aaron Brooks was forcing Lakers coach Phil Jackson to protect Derek Fisher in that matchup by putting quicker guards Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar on Brooks for long stretches. 

“The death knell was ringing for us last year in the Houston series when Brooks was lighting us up, and we actually had to make a change a little bit in our rotation,” Jackson said. “In fact, Derek helped us out by getting suspended a game, otherwise I would’ve stuck with him. But we started playing a little different, with speed on speed in that situation. Before you know it, Fish is right back in the lineup and contributing the rest of the playoffs, and I anticipate that’s going to be his role.” 

But on Friday night, it was Russell Westbrook playing the role of Aaron Brooks, and Jackson was never able to find an answer for his speed. Westbrook had 23 points and six assists on 10-for-13 shooting with only two turnovers – despite leaving the court briefly in the second quarter with what appeared to be a badly turned ankle that caused him to miss only three minutes. 

“I tried everybody but Sasha [Vujacic] in the backcourt on him,” Jackson said. “We tried to match him and see what we could get done. And he got in a zone there in that lane, and that’s his strength.” 

Kevin Durant, who had 28 points, called Westbrook “one of the toughest players I have ever played with. … He won the game for us. He was incredible.” Oklahoma City snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Lakers -- a streak that dates to the franchise's final days in Seattle.

These are problems the Lakers could very well have to contend with again in a month or so. The Thunder (44-27), currently in the sixth playoff spot, are only 1 1-2 games ahead of eighth-place Portland. San Antonio and Phoenix are in that mix, too. But until now, the Thunder were the biggest unknown – a team the Lakers hadn’t played since November, when L.A. handled them easily. 

This time, Oklahoma City built as much as a 33-point lead against a Lakers team that offered little resistance. What was billed as a marquee matchup of Kobe vs. Durant wound up being a layup drill with D.J. Mbenga getting posterized by Jeff Green and Durant on consecutive trips in the fourth quarter. 

“We know what San Antonio is; we know what they’re going to come out and do,” Jackson said. “We sort of have a dance that we do between us. This team is a young team with a lot energy, somebody we’re not aware of – we haven’t seen them in four months – and those things change up how you play.” 

Pau Gasol took issue with Jackson’s assessment that he played soft, but didn’t have much more to say. He discouraged the traveling analysts from reading too much into this one. 

“You don’t want to search too deeply into it,” Gasol said. “There’s nothing to search for.” 

Nor was Bryant in an inquisitive mood. Asked by a nemesis in the L.A. media if he got caught up in the competitive challenge of playing against Durant, Bryant shot him a puzzled look and said, “That’s a silly question.” 

Earlier, he was asked the same questions he’s asked every time the Lakers serve up a clunker like this: Do you have a feel for your team? Do you know what you have? 

“I will when the playoffs come around,” he said.
Big Brad
Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: March 28, 2010 11:35 pm
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Since: Feb 3, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2010 5:35 pm

Speed kills the Lakers again

I agree pretty much 100%. The Lakers have no answer for quick guards at all. Shannon Brown should be able to guard them but for some reason he can't. He hasn't been hitting his outside shot consistently either, so he along with the other two PGs, have been almost useless out there. I'm not sure what the Lakers can do about it since the deadline has passed, and the players they have now aren't gonna get better defensively over night. It's going to be a big problem come playoff time with all the good point guards out there, especially in the West.

This Laker team has more problems than just that though. Their bench is awful, even with an 8-man rotation it's not that good. I cringe every time I see the reserves come in. Another big problem for this team is outside shooting. Fisher just sucks, Farmar and Brown are too inconsistent, and while Artest can hit the open 3, he's not a sharpshooter by any means. That leaves Kobe as the only real perimiter threat on this team. The Lakers are going to have to hit some outside shots come playoff time. Teams are gonna double in the post early and often and force the Lakers to take outside shots. Last year in the playoffs, Ariza kept the defense honest by knocking a lot of them down.(40/84 for 48%) Someone is going to have to step it up this year if the Lakers are going to repeat.

Since: Nov 22, 2006
Posted on: March 27, 2010 3:57 pm

Speed kills the Lakers again

I've been watching this Lakers team the second have of the season and there's a lot to be worried about.  They'll be lucky to get into the second round of the playoffs.

Since: Jan 4, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2010 3:32 pm


Is our illustrious coach really that dense? Or maybe is it pure stubbornness or a fear to disappoint poor hard working Derek Fisher. I just don’t get it I know the Lakers have more problems then D fish but that is the big probelm. We all have stated at one time or another that he has no game anymore other then hitting 3 on occasion. Can he penetrate to create shots, play defense on opposing point guards, pass with that uncanny ability that good points guards have to find the open man with pinpoint accuracy, or make 3 point shots?  The answer is he can do 1 of the 4 basic things a good point guard’s needs to do. I would be happy with 2-3 out of the 4 but the Lakers are the NBA champs playing with the most ineffective Point guard in the NBA. What gives? We can't depend on Kobe Bryant covering up for Derek Fisher anymore not until he gets over the broken finger on his shooting had limiting his ability to palm the ball, control the ball and certainly affects his shot. Its amazing that anyone in the NBA could even take the floor with that thing on his hand much less play at his level. But make no mistake he can cover up for Fishers deficiencies anymore this yet especially with the improvement that other teams have make this year. They need to either start Farmar or Brown to get after the crown again otherwise we will be in deep trouble this year.

Since: Oct 15, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2010 10:13 am

Speed kills the Lakers again

I was at the game and this article could not be more accurate. The first 2 minutes of the contest was a microcosm of the entire game. The Lakers not only did not have an answer for Westbrook they were also sloppy. Kobe was more out of sync than I have seen him since he established himself in the league over a decade ago. I watched Kobe commit a desperate reach-in foul early in the contest, only to follow that up by dribbling off of his leg for a turnover. As a longtime SoCal resident, not so long ago, I am familiar with the Lakers and Kobe's career. This blowout has a great deal to do with youth and speed, but as Berger pointed out the crux of this blowout had much more to do with the fact that the Lakers have no answer for quick guards. The Thunder were able to make one and sometimes two passes in their half-court offense before the Lakers even had a chance to turn around.

Big Brad
Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2010 7:39 am
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Since: Oct 16, 2007
Posted on: March 27, 2010 7:30 am

All Due Respect Berger...

In general, I find your posts to be incredibly informative and well thought-out. But this was just lazy on your part. Just looking for an easy blog post that will generate some quick buzz. Contender X had Weakness Y exposed (YET AGAIN! GASP) so now this means we should all start wondering about them. I think Jackson's quote about knowing the dance with the Spurs but still learning about OKC says everything. Just a team playing well at home that the Lakers haven't really played. If they play in the playoffs this will be almost irrelevant. If anything, it actually helps LA because now they know what they need to fix against OKC. Everybody go back to bed, false alarm

Big Brad
Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: March 27, 2010 4:10 am
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Since: Mar 27, 2010
Posted on: March 27, 2010 2:40 am

Speed kills the Lakers again

Lakers vs. Thunder would be a great first round matchup.  The Lakers would more than likely win out, but remember this:  The teams have played 4 times this year.  A blow out in LA for the Lakers, A blow out in OKC for the Thunder.  A win in LA by the Lakers by 3 and a win in OKC by the Lakers in OT.  The Thunder a young, fast and getting very good.  Watch out BB World!

Since: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: March 27, 2010 2:13 am


Looks like the Lakers might be in trouble if they don't start taking their games seriously.  It will certainly be interesting to see who the lakers end up facing in the first round.  If they dispatch that team fairly quickly i would say its safe to assume they are just able to turn it on and off.  If theyhave some trouble in their early series I don't think it will bode well for the lakers in their later series.

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