Going into Game 5, the Los Angeles Lakers have some serious issues. Now, I’m not one of the 43% of ESPN’s Sportsnation that thinks Oklahoma City is going to win this series in 6 or 7 games—I’m not crazy. But that doesn’t mean this is going to be an easy contest, not by any means.
In a practice session “presser,” Kobe Bryant scoffed at the notion that the Lakers backs were against the wall, as if to say, “I got this.” But the numbers suggest Kobe doesn’t have it. And even if he does, his teammates don’t seem to have it when he shows up, as evidenced by the Lakers mere 3-point victory in Game 2 when Kobe had his most prolific night of the series scoring 39 points while getting to the free throw line 15 times.
There are a few other numbers that should make the Lakers, and Lakers nation, feel a little more pressure.
#1. The Lakers are being run into the ground.
If I gave you 100 guesses, there is no way you would guess the disparity in transition points between the Lakers and the Thunder. By a margin of 72-14 in fast break points, the Thunder have virtually ran the Lakers out of the arena in the first four games of this series. Of course, the number is somewhat skewed because the Lakers have no intention of running against the Thunder, and instead they want to use their size in the paint. Of course, it’s hard to defend that point when you consider….
#2. The Lakers haven’t exactly dominated the paint.
Never mind the 17 blocks in Game 2, or the fact that the Thunder have won the rebounding battle twice in this series. Instead, let’s focus on the actual production in the paint, where the Lakers have an average rebounding differential of +4.5. That’s a nice advantage, but it certainly isn’t setting the world on fire. And it certainly isn’t acceptable when the Lakers have two 7-footers that are better than any two big men the Thunder can put on the court. The Lakers just can’t afford to lose, or draw even, in the battle down low. They have to dominate it, because out on the perimeter…
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#3. The Lakers are being dominated from the outside…
Outside of Kobe Bryant, who we will get in a second, the Lakers aren’t getting any offensive support from their perimeter players. Ron Artest is a virtual no-show on the offensive end, while I don’t even know if Lamar Odom has suited up for this series. And then there is Derek Fisher, who has made some shots from time to time, but he’s being so eaten up on the defensive end, that there’s nothing he can do on offense to negate how badly Russell Westbrook is abusing him on defense. Then there is the Lakers other perimeter guy…
#4. Kobe Bryant has been inconsistent.
You can call him old, hurt, delusional, lackluster, angry or whatever else you want to call Kobe “Bean” Bryant, but don’t call him consistent. Not in this series. Kobe has been anything but consistent, relegating him from 39-point Game 2 performance to a virtual after thought in Game 4. Kobe scored 21 points Game 1, but made less than third of his shots and missed 5 out of 12 free throws. In Game 3, after getting to the free throw line 15 times in Game 2, Kobe went to the line zero times and shot a relatively abysmal 10 of 29 from the floor. And then there was Game 4, in which Kobe still only went to the charity stripe two times, but in a game where he appeared to be shooting his best percentage of the series (50%), he only took 10 shots?
Once again, I’m all for the Lakers winning this series, and I expect them to. And honestly, if you look at my NBA Playoff Predictions, I had this series going six games, so I’m not surprised we’re at the point we’re at now. But the Lakers lackadaisical approach and their wholly transparent attempt to seem untethered by the situation at hand is something to be worried about. Even Kobe, who can turn it on at any time, has to acknowledge, that just like his superstar comrades Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, he can still lose and have a great game. Sure, Wade got a win in Game 4 when he went for nearly 50 points, but he had more help that game than in any other game in the series. So while I’m sure Kobe’s not worried about how he will fair in Game 5, he ought to be highly concerned about how his teammates come to play tonight.
[This article originally appeared on the SportsWatchers]