Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers.
Los Angeles Lakers Team Overview
The Lakers made the biggest moves in the NBA this summer acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The Lakers exited the playoffs in the second round each of the past two years, winning just one game in total in those series.
With the team on the decline, Howard and Nash are now brought in to resurrect their title chances. Their starting five of Nash, Kobe, MWP, Gasol and Howard looks like possibly the best in the NBA right now.
The Lakers also acquired Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks who should each contribute off the bench next season. Chris Duhon and Early Clark were acquired in the Howard trade as well. The Lakers also drafted Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre.
Andrew Bynum, Ramon Sessions, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga won’t be on the roster next year.
The Lakers went 41-25 last year and finished as the 3-seed in the Western Conference. Kobe was second in the league in scoring averaging 27.9 points per game.
The new look Lakers should feature a more balanced attack as they will also institute the Princeton offense in their schemes next season. There will be a learning curve playing together but it is likely that all the pieces will mesh easily and the Lakers will be back competing for an NBA championship next season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Lakers three times in the regular season and beat them twice.
The Thunder won at home 100-85 on Feb. 23 with Kevin Durant leading the way with 33 points. Russell Westbrook had 19 and James Harden had 16. Serge Ibaka had 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.
The Lakers shot just 38.5 percent from the field. Kobe had 24 on 7-of-24 shooting.
The Thunder won in the second meeting in L.A. 102-93. Westbrook was dominant this time scoring 36 while Durant added 21. Kobe had 23 but was 7-for-25 from the field.
The Lakers won the final meeting in L.A. 114-106 in double-overtime. This game was most memorable for Metta World Peace elbowing Harden in the head, resulting in a suspension for World Peace.
Kobe was clutch late in this game but still struggled overall with 26 points on 9-for-26 shooting. Durant led OKC with 35 but on 11-for-34 shooting. Westbrook had 14 points but was a miserable 3-for-22 from the field. Ibaka was huge with 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks.
When the second round of the playoffs came around, the Thunder would have home court advantage against the Lakers.
The Thunder won the first two games at home. They won Game 1 easily 119-90 then Game 2 narrowly 77-75. The Lakers won Game 3 99-96 then the Thunder stole Game 4 on the road 103-100 and closed out the series in Game 5 in OKC 106-90.
Durant averaged 26.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in the series. He shot .516 percent from the field, .391 percent from three and .853 percent from the line.
Westbrook averaged 25.6 points, 4.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. He shot .485 percent from the field and .300 percent from three.
Harden averaged 16.0 points per game and shot .358 percent from the field and .250 percent from three.
Kobe averaged 31.2 points per game and shot .426 percent from three and .111 percent from three.
In the regular season the Lakers were 15th overall on offense in terms of points per possession.
Their bread and butter was their post-up offense which ranked 2nd in the league at 0.89 PPP. The Thunder were 4th best in the league defending post-up plays and were one of the few teams in the league who could match up with the Lakers’ bigs without doubling them.
The Thunder also never doubled Kobe in their matchups, going with Thabo Sefolosha or Harden on him man-to-man always.
The Lakers had the 11th best defense in the regular season and were best defending post-up plays while they were middle of the pack vs. isolation and pick-and-roll plays.
In the playoffs, the Lakers’ offense improved overall. They were still great in the post and improved on isolation plays and the pick-and-roll. This closed the gap vs. the Thunder but OKC’s ability to win the close games vs. the Lakers made it a short series.
The Lakers still were not good vs. isolation plays on defense and were the worst of every playoff team. They were better against the pick-and-roll though but as we all know now, OKC’s superior talent simply won out.
The Lakers will look a lot different next year with Nash and Howard in the lineup.
Nash averaged 10.7 points and 8.0 assists per game vs. the Thunder in three meetings last year. He shot only .480 percent from the field and .300 percent from three.
Howard averaged 22.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game in two meetings vs. OKC and shot .563 percent from the field.
The Lakers are now more equipped to match up with the Thunder next year but there is no guarantee that they will be able to beat them in a series just yet.
The Thunder will play the Lakers first at home on Dec. 7, then in L.A. Jan. 11, in L.A. again on Jan. 27 and then finally at home again on March 5.