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Kobe Bryant says Lakers don't get down

However, Game 2 against young Thunder seems like a must win for Lakers, given playoff history.

May 15, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan

OKLAHOMA CITY — Beyond all the speed, juvenescence and everything rolled into what Kobe Bryant called the "youthful exuberance" of the Oklahoma City Thunder, there's one statistic that should get the Lakers' attention.

Bryant's teams are automatic when they go up 2-0 in a series, winning 21 of 21. But it's a different drama when the Lakers are down 2-0 — they're 1-7 with Bryant, their lone series victory in 2004 against San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals. (Derek Fisher … 0.4 seconds … you know the rest.)

Wednesday's game between Oklahoma City and the Lakers is more than a Game 2. It might be the Lakers' last stand, seeing how they sure don't look like candidates to win four of five from Oklahoma City any time soon.

There weren't any positive questions from reporters at Tuesday's practice, none of the upbeat, "Can you take any positives from …?" that would characterize a close loss.

What's to offer other than blunt queries a day after the Lakers trailed by 35 points before falling, 119-90?

"We're a team that doesn't get down," Bryant said. "We've been blown out a bunch of times this season, blown out last series a couple times, but we're used to dealing with that."

He started laughing when asked how the Lakers could match Oklahoma City's energy. He didn't stop for several seconds.

"You can't," he finally said. "You just accept that. It's not a big deal. We don't worry about matching their energy. We just think about slowing them down and playing our style."

It was tough to tell what Andrew Bynum was thinking. He left practice without talking to reporters.

This much is certain: The Lakers need to force more than four turnovers, their defense unable to do better than that in Game 1 against the team that led the NBA in regular-season turnovers (16.3 a game).

Now would also be a good time for Ramon Sessions to show he is the Lakers' point guard of the future, especially with the symbolism of Fisher sitting on the Thunder bench.

Sessions has scored in single digits three of the last four games, shooting 28%. He had two points on one-for-seven shooting and three assists in Game 1.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were asked 100 different ways what they would do about Russell Westbrook. He worked the pick-and-roll to perfection in Game 1, completing his night with 27 points and nine assists with only one turnover.

When he wasn't blowing past the Lakers, he was burying mid-range jump shots again and again. In the third quarter, as the game rolled far out of the Lakers' reach, he made an 11-footer and a 12-footer on consecutive possessions. A minute before that, he stuck an eight-foot turnaround.

"We've got to address that obviously, not give him those pot shots," Bryant said. "It's something that he's worked on. It's not a weakness of his anymore. It's a strength."

Indeed, the book on Westbrook used to be to let him shoot from outside. He has improved his accuracy each of his four NBA seasons: 40% as a rookie, 42%, 44% and then 46% this season. He made 10 of 15 shots in Game 1.

Metta World Peace offered his own advice to Bryant, who was charged with guarding Westbrook.

"He'll have to try and stay in front of him," World Peace said. "Try to stop him from mid-range. Poison his cereal. Lot of different things."

None of the Lakers seemed concerned Tuesday, least of all World Peace. He survived the boos and insults from Thunder fans in Game 1 but didn't respond with the greatest of games, 12 points and two rebounds in 32 minutes.

It was hard to get him to talk basketball as reporters circled around him Tuesday.

"I didn't realize Oklahoma City had so many fine women. I felt really comfortable," he said of his Game 1 effort. "It was mainly because how beautiful the women were."

But what about the Lakers? How will they respond in Game 2?

"It's the same thing like a man that has five wives," World Peace said. "He's been divorced once and he moved on and got married again. You've got to move on. It's a new life. That's how the game is. I'm having fun. There's still a lot of passion involved. We will love Game 2."

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