Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works in the post against Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha… (Sue Ogrocki / Associated…)
Here's some things to take away from the Lakers' 106-90 Game 5 loss Monday to the Oklahoma City Thunder that officially ended the 2011-12 season.
1. Kobe Bryant shot a lot, and that was a good thing tonight. One thing that's indisputable: The Black Mamba relentlessly works regardless of the circumstances. Even when the Lakers neared defeat, he still competed. One thing that is disputable: when it's fine for him to dominate the offense. In Game 4, it was a bad idea because his shots weren't going in and the Lakers weren't patient enough in running counters to the Thunder's fronting in the post. In Game 5, it was a good idea because Bryant's shots were going in and he hardly had much of a supporting cast outside of Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
In Game 5, Bryant provided everything that makes him such a great scorer, posting 42 points on 18-of-33 shooting. He nailed pull-up jumpers. Bryant worked the post. He drove the lane so aggressively that he even threw down four dunks, something that's hard to fathom considering all the basketball mileage that he's accumulated. Bryant simply brings it, but clearly he needs more reliable scoring options.
2. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace lay everything on the line. Yes, Bryant and Gasol appeared animated as the two argued over where Gasol should be on the floor. It's also possible Gasol might have just played his last game as a Laker. If that's the case, Gasol left a good lasting impression by finishing with 14 points and 16 rebounds. His shooting percentage wasn't ideal (five of 14), but he looked more aggressive in looking for his shot and having a presence on the glass as well as on defense. Part of that was circumstantial because Andrew Bynum got in early foul trouble, which moved Gasol to center. But most of it was Gasol's insistence on leaving nothing to chance. Even when he went one of five from the field in the second half, Gasol still recorded seven second-half rebounds.
As for World Peace, he gave a stabilizing presence in the post during Bynum's foul trouble, scoring 11 points. He heeded Mike Brown's call into playing physical, so much so that it earned him a wrongful flagrant foul on Thabo Sefolosha. And on a touching note, World Peace shook hands with James Harden following the game nearly a month after delivering a vicious elbow.
3. Andrew Bynum was a no-show. At least he didn't clothesline anybody. But once Bynum got into early foul trouble, he didn't look engaged in the game at all. He didn't look aggressive at all in the post (10 points, four-of-10 shooting) and he barely moved on defensive rotation. Say all you want about Bynum being tentative because of foul trouble and fatigue, but he reverted back to his poor habits at a time the Lakers really needed him.
4. The Lakers offered nothing at point guard. So much for the Lakers' front office thinking it upgraded at point guard. Ramon Sessions pulled another disappearing act by scoring eight points on one-of-six shooting, looking tentative and providing no match for Russell Westbrook (28 points). The most egregious error happened in the third quarter when Sessions committed a turnover and then tried blocking Westbrook, only to draw a foul as Westbrook banked in a runner. Steve Blake, who had proved somewhat dependable this postseason with his outside shooting, remained a non-presence with only two points.
5. The Lakers bench was atrocious. The reserves showed in yet another game why the Lakers need to overhaul their bench. Matt Barnes has proven to be so unreliable in this postseason that Brown played Devin Ebanks. Aside from two blocked shots, Ebanks couldn't make shots (one of six), limit Kevin Durant (25 points) or provide any energy (zero rebounds). Jordan Hill, who often makes hustle plays, had only two rebounds. And Blake attempted only one three-pointer. This largely hurt the Lakers considering the Thunder's depth and the fatigue level of Lakers starters.