Looks Like Another Perfect Day

April 25, 2010 1:58 AM

Lakers and Thunder Heading in Opposite Directions

KD on Lakers.jpgIn Game 1 the Lakers won by 8 points. In Game 2 they won by 3 points. In Game 3 they lost by 5 points. And last night, in Game 4 they lost by 21 points. Notice a bit of a trend? The Lakers are getting decidedly worse as the Thunder are playing better and gaining confidence.

This game was never even close. The Lakers didn't have a lead after the Thunder scored less than 5 minutes into the game to make it 8-7. The Lakers could never even get within single digits after the first quarter and couldn't get within 15 points after halfway through the third. There was really only one positive on the Lakers side. Let's just get that out of the way.

Lamar Odom finally got aggressive. As Phil Jackson said, he was "MIA" through the first three games. He was settling for jumpers and never looking to get into the lane. In Game 4 he did what he does best. He drove to the lane and drew a lot of contact. Not many calls went his way but he still shot 6 for 12 with 9 of those attempts coming within 5 feet of the rim.

Now that that is out of the way - let's talk about this massacre. There are three stats that show how the Thunder beat the Lakers.

1. Free Throw Disparity. Free throw attempts by the Thunder have gone up in each game. They had 24 in Game 1, 33 in Game 2, 34 in Game 3, and an unbelievable 48 in Game 4. The Lakers on the other hand, shot just 28. What's worse is the Thunder made 42 while the Lakers could only knock down 17. That makes for a plus 25 advantage from the line for Oklahoma City. And I have to stress that this wasn't due to officiating. Sure, the Lakers deserved a few more calls (especially on Odom's drives) but the Thunder are just the more aggressive team. They're much more athletic than Los Angeles and they're taking advantage of that by blowing by defenders and getting to the rim. And fouling them to stop the bucket does little good since they shot nearly 90 percent from the line.

2. Fast Break Points. The Lakers had managed to slow down the Thunder in the first three games. But in each successive game they've been able to break out a little more each time. The floodgates finally broke and they exploded for 24 fast break points as opposed to just 2 for the Lakers. That's a lot of easy baskets whereas the Lakers have to work for every single one of their points. Aside from the statistical advantage, those fast break buckets are energizers. The crowd in Oklahoma City was unbelievable - especially when someone like Durant or Westbrook puts down a monster dunk in transition.

3. Second Chance Points. This mainly comes down to hustle. Any time the ball came loose, the Thunder were there. Any time there was a long rebound the Thunder got it. It was as if the Lakers were in slow motion. As a result of their hustle, the Thunder had a 12-6 advantage in second chance points in the first half. The gap was narrowed in the second half but the damage had been done. The one big advantage the Lakers are supposed to have is their size. They're supposed to be dominating the boards and getting the second chance points. Instead, the Thunder out-rebounded them 50-43.

You'll hear a lot about how an eight-seed has only beaten a one-seed 3 out of 52 series. You'll hear that Phil Jackson is 44-0 after winning Game 1. But none of that matters now. Those stats don't really mean anything with the way the Thunder and Lakers are playing. Aside from the first quarters in Games 1 and 2 the Thunder have thoroughly outplayed the defending champions and there haven't really been signs that the Lakers are going to turn it around. They will have two days off and the series continues Tuesday in Los Angeles.

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