Lakers vs Thunder: Strong Point Guard Play Key to Lakers Evening Series
Both players struggled at times in the regular season and, to this point in the playoffs, are drawing the ire of fans who harken back to the glory days of Derek Fisher running the point for the Kobes in recent years.
These fans would probably do a lot less harkening if they actually watched the ghost of Derek Fisher play right now, but I digress.
Displeasure with the Lakers' point guard play reached the point of ridiculousness after Los Angeles' loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 2, when a missed three-pointer by Blake at the end of the game led to death threats against the player and his family on social media sites after the game.
The sheer lunacy of threatening a man's family over a basketball game aside, both Blake and Sessions went into Friday night's Game 3 in dire need of a strong performance, especially with the team trailing the Thunder two games to none.
Both players responded to the challenge, and not surprisingly, the Lakers went on to win the game 99-96, handing Oklahoma City their first loss of the postseason and getting right back into the series.
Sessions started the game and was aggressive from the tip, scoring six of his 12 points early while chipping in four assists in 28 minutes. The fourth-year pro attributed being able to penetrate rather than settling for jump shots as a key to his early success in the game, according to Kevin Arnowitz of ESPN.com.
"I just tried to push the ball a little bit more," Sessions said. "In this offense, it's not traditional where you have the ball in your hands a ton off pick-and-rolls. I just tried to find angles and ways I can be aggressive and get baskets."
Blake shook off the effects of the Game 2 miss and made a solid contribution for the Lakers, adding 12 points of his own. The eighth-year veteran's biggest moments came in the fourth quarter, when Blake single-handedly erased a five-point Oklahoma City lead with two straight baskets, a stretch that Lakers head coach Mike Brown told Arnowitz was pivotal in the Lakers' win.
"I thought Steve Blake's two shots were big," Brown said. "He came off the pick-and-roll and shot his pull-up. He was aggressive and knocked that thing down. He came off the pick-and-roll a second time and knocked down a 3."
These performances underscore exactly what the Lakers need from Sessions and Blake if they are to come back and win the series with the Thunder.
Who Will Win the Lakers-Thunder Series?
Sessions is a much more effective player when he presses the action offensively, driving to the basket to create a shot or open up the pick-and-roll for big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, rather than settling for outside shots.
For Blake, the job is even more clear-cut. Spell Sessions, don't turn the ball over and knock down jumpers when the opportunity presents itself.
Granted, the Los Angeles Lakers will advance as far into the playoffs as Kobe Bryant carries them, as evidenced by the 33-year-old's 36-point outburst in Game 3, including 14 points in the game's final quarter.
However, the Lakers have a much better chance to advance if the load Bryant is asked to carry isn't backbreaking, and solid play from Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake will go a long way towards lightening it.
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