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Thunder at Lakers, Game 5: Pregame Primer

Thunder at Lakers, Game 5: Pregame Primer


LA Lakers (2-2, 2-0 home) vs. Okla. City Thunder (2-2, 0-2 road)

TV: TNT (Cox 31, HD 730)
Stream: Click here
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 97.1 FM Tulsa)
Time: 9:30 CDT

Series: Series tied at 2-2

View from the enemy: Forum Blue and Gold

Ready for a gross understatement, accompanied by a scary stat? This game is absolutely critical. In the NBA’s history, the team that wins Game 5 with a series tied 2-2 wins the series 83 percent of the time. And Phil Jackson is 15-0 in these situation. Aren’t we feeling good now?

But you know what? I’m not afraid. I don’t necessarily think Oklahoma City will win tonight, but I don’t think it’s impossible. The Thunder completely had LA’s number the two games. And that was puntuacted by Game 4. The Thunder have settled in and have begun to figure out playoff basketball a bit. Remember, we’re a Kevin Durant 3-pointer away from being up 3-1.

Of course winning in Staples tonight will be extremely difficult. Everyone knows the foul shooting differential that was widened in OKC. I’m sure the whistle will tilt toward the Lakers tonight and that’s to be expected. But in the two games at the Ford Center, the officiating didn’t necessarily lean towards the Thunder out of favortism, but mainly because OKC forced their hand. LA shot jumpers. The Thunder flew at the rim like a flock of crazed seagulls.

So how can OKC get it done tonight? Three things:

1. Take the Ford Center to LA. This is easier said than done but the team we saw in Games 3 and 4 was nothing like the stunned team in Games 1 and 2. Despite playing the Lakers close in Game 2, we didn’t see that Thunder team we all love until there was about two minutes left in the first half. The Thunder have made the Lakers look old and slow by getting out in transition and constantly attacking the paint. A stat: OKC is outscoring the Lakers 72-17 in transition in this series. The Thunder need to play loose, play fast and play like they’ve got nothing to lose. It’s what they did in Loud City and that’s got to make the flight to LA.

2. The bench has to keep producing. Again, a major difference in the wins and losses. This is punctuated by James Harden who went from not scoring to averaging 15 a game at home. I think he’s found a groove and he’s actually be a good road player all season. Serge Ibaka was the only bench player to even breathe in Los Angeles in Games 1 and 2, so Eric Maynor, Harden and Nick Collison must show up.

3. R-E-R-E-B-R-E-B-O-U-N-D. In the two losses, the Lakers have dominated the glass. In the two wins, OKC has dominated the glass. See a pattern here? When OKC rebounds, it can run. It’s hard to get out on a break if you don’t grab a defensive rebound after a miss. It’s also tough to run if the ball is getting knocked around and tipped and batted before you finally get it. KD and Westbrook have done an excellent job helping in this department.

Scott Brooks has made the necessary adjustments to get his team to this point. Now it’s just about playing loose and having fun. Forget about the pressure of the moment. Worry about that tomorrow. Just get on the floor and play. OKC can win this thing, I’m convinced. Will they? Well, I’m not so sure about that.

Tip at 9:30 CDT. Go Together.