NBA Playoffs 2011: 5 Keys To Success for the L.A. Lakers in Game 2
Lakers fans are no doubt feeling a mix of déjà vu after seeing their team down 0-1 again. But unlike the New Orleans Hornets, they’re behind to a team that has more weapons to throw at them and all the confidence in the world.
There’s reason to be uneasy heading into Game 2 but at the same time, they have been down this road before. If the Lakers want to avoid being down 0-2 for the first time since the 2008 NBA Finals; these are five key areas they have to address.
Andrew Bynum Has to Step Up
After dominating the Hornets in the first round, Bynum disappeared in Game 1 against a taller Mavericks frontcourt with only eight points and five rebounds. For all of the talk of how he’s been the Lakers MVP since the All-Star break, he shrank away when the Lakers needed him the most.
Bynum faces a tall order with Tyson Chandler guarding him but this is his chance to show that he’s ready to take the leap as a top flight center. Like Pau Gasol did in Game 1, he has to fight to be more of a factor in blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and demanding the ball in the post.
Of the Lakers’ starting five, he played the worst overall in Game 1 and there’s more weight on him to bounce back in Game 2.
Kobe Bryant Needs to Balance Scoring/Facilitating
Despite having zero assists, Kobe Bryant didn’t have a bad Game 1 by any means. He scored his 36 points within the flow of the offense and his potential game-winning three-pointer was as good a look as you can get. But trailing 0-1, don’t be surprised to see Bryant become more of a facilitator like he did in Game 2 against the Hornets.
That could be a problem considering that Bryant will have no trouble scoring at will against Dallas and forcing the pass could hurt the Lakers more if they suffer from another cold-shooting night. He doesn’t need to have one of his “Let-me-prove-I’m-not-a-ballhog” performances but combine the best of both styles for maximum efficiency.
To win Game 2, Bryant needs to have at least six to seven assists without sacrificing his normal offensive flow. Unlike the Hornets, the Lakers don’t have too many matchup advantages besides Bryant and he has to exploit it as much as he can while doing his best to get others involved.
The Bench Mob Has to Score More
The Lakers’ bench was outscored 40-25 in Game 1 and Lamar Odom had 15 of those points. When the Mavericks made their second-half rally, they did so at the expense of the Bench Mob.
This is one of the advantages that Dallas has, but it’s not as if their bench is superior to the Lakers. Jason Terry can create shots better than anyone besides Dirk Nowitzki but there’s no excuse for Peja Stojakovic having as many points (10) as Steve Blake and Shannon Brown combined.
Odom and the Killer B’s can’t just hold momentum in Game 2; they need to create it. That means Blake, Brown and Matt Barnes have to be more proactive on offense to ignite the team.
Cut Down the Mental Mistakes
At the end of Game 1, the Lakers shot themselves in the foot with a three-pack of stupid decisions.
Kobe Bryant driving to the lane and passing out of a layup into a turnover. Phil Jackson substituting Pau Gasol to defend Dirk Nowitzki, leading to Gasol’s silly foul 30 feet from the basket. And as you can see in the picture, Gasol followed that up with turning over the ball after panicking over a fallen Kobe Bryant.
It was as if the roles were reversed and the Dallas Mavericks knew how to play down the stretch and the Lakers shrunk in the moment.
In all honesty, the Lakers know they could’ve won Game 1 if they didn’t beat themselves.
This is on Phil Jackson to mentally prepare his squad and remind them that losing Game 1 is not a reason to panic and to do what got them there. These aren’t the same soft Mavericks and it will require the Lakers to be as sharp as ever if they want to regain control of this series.
Increase Defensive Intensity/Urgency
The Lakers blew a 16-point lead in the third quarter. No matter who fans try to blame, that’s a stat that hurts the most when looking back at Game 1. Dallas shot just under 50 percent from the field, including 45 percent from three-point land and they seemingly got every shot they wanted down the stretch.
To win Game 2, the Lakers have to commit to winning with defense. Dirk Nowitzki will face different looks from Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and possibly Ron Artest in an attempt to cool him off in Game 2. Gasol and Bynum both will have to make Tyson Chandler work harder to get rebounds.
Artest did a good job limiting Shawn Marion’s opportunities but Shannon Brown and Steve Blake will have to step up on Jason Terry. Don’t be surprised to see Kobe Bryant take a few trips down the court guarding Terry either.
Although the Lakers outrebounded Dallas, both teams forced the same number of turnovers. That's an area the Lakers need to win in Game 2 if they hope to walk off the court tied with Dallas.