Tomorrow’s story today …
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Lakers said all the right things Tuesday after getting picked-and-rolled to pieces during their 29-point loss Monday to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Game 2 is Wednesday, and the Lakers said they must play with a greater understanding of the oldest play in the game if they hope to steal a victory and send the series to Staples Center with something resembling momentum.
Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Lakers haven’t rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series since storming back to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the 2004 conference semifinals. The last time they were down 2-0, the Dallas Mavericks swept them last May.
“We’re all pretty edgy, but still pretty loose at the same time,” Kobe Bryant said after Tuesday’s film session and workout. “We’re just looking forward to our next opportunity. We’re a team that doesn’t get down when we get blown out.
“We’ve been blown out a bunch of times.”
In fact, the Denver Nuggets smoked them by 17 points in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals last week only to see them regroup to win Game 7 and advance to the next round. The Thunder should not be confused with the Nuggets, however.
Oklahoma City picked apart the Lakers’ lackluster defense, exploiting their breakdowns and making them pay by sinking 44 of 83 shots (53 percent). Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant seemed to have acres of open space for their shots.
Westbrook scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting and added nine assists.
Durant had 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.
Bryant wouldn’t say whether he would guard Westbrook from the start of Wednesday’s game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, but his “no comment” was accompanied with a wide smile, which indicated that it was likely.
“We’ve got to address that and not give him those pot shots,” Bryant said of trying to keep Westbrook from breaking free on the pick-and-roll to shoot jump shots. “It’s something he’s worked on. It’s not a weakness anymore, it’s a strength.”
Bryant slowed Westbrook during the Lakers’ victory over the Thunder in the conference quarterfinals in 2010, and they used it as a springboard to a second consecutive NBA championship. Times have changed, though.
The Lakers were favorites then, but underdogs now.
Westbrook, a former UCLA standout, showed precisely why in Game 1, running the pick-and-roll to perfection.
“Historically, for whatever reason, we have not been a good defensive screen-and-roll team,” Bryant said. “We talked about that a little bit (Tuesday), things we have to do differently, things we have to do a little better. It’s not a one-on-one type of thing.”