Thunder Lakers

Is Game 3 must-win for the Lakers? Yes, yes it is.

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One last time we can thank the lockout for the joys of a condensed schedule — the Lakers and Thunder are going to play the rare playoff back-to-back the next two nights.

Which clearly favors the younger legs and better athletes of the Thunder. It’s going to be a lot harder for the Lakers to control the tempo and limit the Thunders transition points in Game 4.

With the Lakers already down 0-2, that makes Game 3 basically a must win.

Los Angeles feels it should have won Game 2, up 7 with two minutes left, but a Kobe Bryant turnover that led to a Kevin Durant dunk, a Steve Blake turnover, a Durant three and… it snowballed.

Thing is, the Lakers need to basically have the same game again and this time just close it out.

The Lakers did a great job dictating the tempo of Game 2. Big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol did a great job being aggressive on the pick-and-roll cutting off Russell Westbrook’s path to the basket. The result was an isolation heavy, disjointed Thunder offense. The second best offense in the NBA regular season (by points per possession) was held to 77 points.

Look for OKC to counter by just trying to get out and run, and to have better counters on their pick-and-roll. And I just have a feeling the answer will be more James Harden, their best playmaker.

Oklahoma City is the better team. History says that teams that start a series winning the first two win nearly 95 percent of the time. But expect a desperate Lakers team on Friday night. This is still a team with rings, a team with pride that believes they still can win it. Win it all. They are not going to roll over.

And they know this is must win.

Bynum thinks Lakers will win title if they focus on defense

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There is very little Lakers fans can take away from Los Angeles’ seven-game series win over Denver that should make them think they have much of a shot against Oklahoma City.

Everything Denver did to the Lakers in transition OKC can do as well and with better athletes.

But Andrew Bynum thinks there is a chance. Here is what he told Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

Bynum vowed to stay focused on defense first, seeing at least four blocks each game from him as a key to advancing now and later….

“We’ll win this championship,” Bynum said, “if we commit to defense.”

First off, instead of “we” Bynum needed to say “I.” While the Lakers as a whole had some off defensive games against Denver that started with Bynum, particularly in transition defense where Denver big men — we’re looking at you, Kenneth Faried — just ran down the court faster than Bynum and got good looks because of it. We’ll get into the games where Bynum didn’t bother with defensive rotations in the half court another time (he was hit and miss in the series and Ty Lawson was the beneficiary).

The Lakers problem is that while OKC is right there with Denver in transition (the Nuggets shot 63 percent in transition last season, the Thunder 60.7 percent, according to MySynergySports.com) the Thunder are far better in the half court if the Lakers do slow it down. Oh, and the Thunder are a better defensive team, also. Los Angeles cannot take a game off and still win this series.

But Bynum is right in the sense that if the Lakers don’t focus and play better defense they don’t stand any chance in this series. He can worry about winning a ring after that.