The Los Angeles Lakers escaped with a 95-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday and took a 2-0 lead in the series, but the defending champs certainly left their fans worried about the upcoming trip to OKC. Here’s why:
- Durant has worked out the kinks. The Lakers played better on offense Tuesday, but allowed Kevin Durant to score 32 points (although Ron Artest did make it difficult for him). After a better offensive performance, Durant is ready to go off in his home gym with the home crowd. You have to think that in OKC Durant’s go-ahead three-pointer in the closing seconds would have fallen.
- Intimidation. The Thunder made things difficult on the interior, as they blocked an absurd 17 shots, including seven from Serge Ibaka alone. On one hand, that’s a good sign for the Lakers because it means they are taking it strong to the basket instead of settling for jumpers. On the other hand, it makes the Lakers’ big men and penetrators think twice before shooting the ball in the paint. That hesitation could cause them to miss shots inside or, more likely, stay out of the paint altogether.
- The Little Giants Syndrome. After playing a kind-of-close Game 1, the Thunder got a serious taste of winning on Tuesday. The attitude of “Hey, we can play with these guys!”, which may have just been bravado before, is now a reality. The fact that the Thunder had a chance to go ahead, and then tie the game in the final seconds gives them all sorts of confidence heading into Game 3 in OKC.
- The Lakers are the Lakers. We saw signs of it Tuesday, but they will be even more prominent in Game 3 on Thursday. The Lakers have trouble getting up for these games. They are comfortable with a 2-0 lead and no matter how many times Derek Fisher rallies the troops, the mindset of “Hey, we’ll just win it at home” has always been a part of the Laker culture. If that mentality is able to seep through, then the Lakers could be looking at a miserable road trip.
For all the reasons outlined above, the Lakers have to be worried about the next two games. If they’re not careful, they could be heading into Game 5 at Staples Center next Tuesday with the series tied, 2-2.
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