Lakers-Thunder Game 2: Let’s try this again, Lakeshow

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So what do the Los Angeles Lakers need to do to improve in Game 2 vs. the Thunder?

A brief list:

1. Do not be terrible

2. Defend jumpshots better

3. Have Pau Gasol act like an NBA player

4. Work the ball inside to draw more contact and get to the line

5. Again, do not be terrible.

That pretty much covers it.

The Lakers were annihilated in Game 1 by a Thunder team that had an offensive rating above 130. That’s on par with the offensive efficiency of the Death Star. Thermonuclear weaponry does less damage. They need a complete and total change in Game 2 to survive. They need to challenge on the perimeter pick and roll more, attacking the ball handler and on the pull-up jumper. They need to rotate better to find the shooters. They left Kevin Durant open in the corner for three at one point, for crying out loud.

The ball has to go to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol more. Gasol can get his shot over Serge Ibaka when he wants it. He’s got to be aggressive and not just wilt away from the action. Kobe Byrant had an off game, but most of his looks were shots he makes at least at a 40 percent clip most nights. It’s unlikely he’ll have another night like that. Ramon Sessions was a hot mess, and needs to set the tone with aggressiveness. He need to push the ball, but has to do so without messing with the Lakers’ slow-it-down pace.

Have I mentioned they need to not play terribly?

For the Thunder, just do that. What you did in Game 1, just do more of that. Because that worked well. They need to hit shots it the big key. When their mid-range game is wet, there’s just no way to stop their offense. They have too many weapons. James Harden needs to have a more efficient night, and Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka need to do a better job on rebounding, but that may be unavoidable. Bynum and Gasol are just too big.

This is a big game. If the Lakers make a strong showing, it can give them momentum going back home to try and wrangle control of this series. A win, and no one will remember Game 1, all of a sudden the Lakers will be in position to steal this series by holding serve. But another blowout loss, another destruction at the hands of the Thunder?

That big red “Panic” button is going to start glowing red hot, screaming “PUSH ME!” to everyone in Hollywood.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.