As the Los Angeles Lakers prepare to meet Oklahoma City in Game Three tonight at Staples Center, one glaring statistic that jumps out and screams "surrender" is L.A.s pathetic three-point shooting in the playoffs.
It's a big reason—maybe the most important—why the Lakers may bow out in four or five games if they don't improve in a hurry.
Four players on the Lakers took a total of 15 three point shots in their 77-75 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday. They made just two, one by Metta World Peace and the other by Steve Blake.
Kobe Bryant was 0-6 and Blake just 1-5, including a miss at the buzzer that would have won the game for L.A.
Matt Barnes took just one long distance shot in Game Two and missed it. In nine playoff games, Barnes is shooting just 17 percent from beyond the arc, missing 25 of 30 shots from long distance. He looks shell shocked.
Point guard Ramon Sessions has fallen off a cliff with his play, including his three point shot. Sessions has missed 17 of 21 shots in nine games. He's taken none in this series. I believe the team has issued an APB (all points bulletin) because he seems to be missing in action.
The Lakers as a team are shooting 31 percent from three point land in the playoffs. Yet there are some silver linings in all of this doomsday talk.
The club hit on seven of 16 in Game One against the Thunder and Blake has had his moments, most notably the 19 points he scored off the bench in the Lakers' Game Seven elimination game of Denver last week. Fifteen of those points came on five of six shooting from beyond the arc.
What is the single most important factor for Lakers to beat OKC?
Blake has made 42 percent of his three point shots in nine playoff games, a decent stat which would be much higher had it not been for Wednesday's debacle. And MWP has made 7-18 in the three games he's participated in, that's good for 39 percent.
Not all of the team's problems are relegated to three point shooting. The Lakers need much more from Pau Gasol - his 12.7 ppg average for the playoffs is five points below his season percentage.
But collectively, it's the outside shooting that is making it so difficult for the bigs because the perimeter players are not keeping the Thunder defense honest.
Tonight is obviously the pivotal game in this series. Bounce back, win it and the Lakers suddenly have new life—well, at least for 24 hours while they rest up for a back to back playoff game on Saturday caused by the strike-shortened season.
In practice Thursday, Bryant mentioned the 2003-04 Lakers team beating the San Antonio Spurs in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals after facing a 0-2 deficit. He told Mark Medina of the L.A. Times:
"You just move forward and get ready for the next game. I've been here before and communicated that to the guys. We'll be ready to go."
Well said, but the bottom line is Oklahoma City has the better team and the Lakers now need to win four of five from a team that is 4-1 against them this season. To do that, Bryant, Sessions, Blake, Barnes, MWP and anyone else out on the perimeter with the ball in his hands who has a good look needs to make their three point shots.
If they do, the Lakers will live to play another day.
If they don't, they'll be making travel plans as early as next week.