The Lakers could not stop the Thunder’s athletic ability, while the Spurs were too efficient on offense for the Clippers. Photos by The Associated Press
Based on history, the Lakers and Clippers had no chance in Game 1 match ups because of a lack of rest. Playing the best two teams in the NBA did not help either.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
The Lakers and Clippers were routed in their Game 1 match ups against the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, who are better teams and present very tough match ups for the Lakers and Clippers, but also working against the two hometown team was the schedule.
Both the Lakers and Clippers only had one day of rest between Game 7 victories and Game 1 match ups, while the Thunder and Spurs each had six or more days rest.
Before these two games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, which tracks every stat from every game played, teams that have a six or more day rest before the start of a new series, who play a team that only had a one day rest, the team with the longer layoff is undefeated over the past 15 seasons. Even more surprising is that every time that happened, the team with the longer layoff won in a route.
Before this post season, this has happened five times over the past 15 seasons, and the team with the long layoff is a perfect 5-0 in Game 1 match ups, and they won those games by an average of 23 points per game. The only single digit victory in those five games was in Game 1 of last year’s Western Conference Finals, when the Dallas Mavericks, who had a long rest, defeated the Thunder, who only had a one day rest, by only nine points. But in that game the Mavericks held a 16-point lead mid-way through the fourth period. So even that game was not close.
The debate between being rusty because of a long layoff or being fatigued by a short layoff is pretty much over now. Seeing that the Lakers lost by 29 points to the Thunder and the Clippers by 16 to the Spurs, it is pretty obvious that having a longer layoff is a huge advantage.
But to take it a step further, the disservice that was really done to the Lakers and Clippers was that they were only given one day off after their Game 7 victories and before the start of their second round match ups. If they were given two or more days rest instead of just one, their chances of competing, and potentially winning, would have gone way up.
Over the last 12 series where one team had six or more days rest, and their opponent had at least two days rest, the team with more rest is only 5-7, and on average they scored 23 fewer points per game than the teams playing opponents who only had one day rest.
These numbers are extremely staggering, and it gives one explanation on why the Lakers and Clippers were beaten so badly.
So what are their chances to get back into their respective series? Well, it’s not looking too good. Over the past 10 years, there have been six series that matched up one team coming off of a sweep and one team coming off of a seven game series. Only once has the team coming off the seven game series defeated the team coming off of a sweep. It happened in 2009, when the Orlando Magic came off a seven game series and knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers, who swept their opponent in the series before.
But the Magic had one advantage that the Lakers and Clippers did not. Back in 2009, the Magic were given two days off before they started their series against the Cavaliers, and they were able to win Game 1 in Cleveland.
History certainly is not on the Lakers or Clippers side, mostly because the NBA did not do them any favors with the schedule, but also because the Thunder and Spurs are the best two teams in the league.
It was a given that the Lakers were going to give up points to the Thunder in transition, because the Thunder are young and athletic while the Lakers are older and slower. So fast break points for the Thunder were a given. But it was somewhat surprising to see the Thunder dominate the Lakers with their half court offense, which was where the Lakers were supposed to excel in this series.
The Thunder’s offense was simple. The ball handler, usually Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, or James Harden, would drive around a screen, and when they were freed up they wrecked havoc against the Lakers defense.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum and power forward Pau Gasol were often late to rotate, giving the Thunder a free run to the rim. If the Lakers bigs did rotate, the Thunder would simple dish the ball to the open man, many times behind the 3-point line, and they knocked down their shots.
The Thunder shot 53 percent for the game, and 41.2 percent from 3-point range.
It appears that the only chance that the Lakers have is if the Thunder cool off. It would be hard to believe that their jump shots will fall every game, and when they go cold, the Lakers have to capitalize.
As for the Clippers, facing the Spurs is tough because they are so efficient. Their offense runs so smooth, it is like a clinic in passing the ball until it gets in the hands of an open shooter. The Spurs always make that one extra pass, and they run plays where somebody is going to pop open at just the right time.
The Clippers are young and athletic, but the Spurs are just smart. They may be old, but they are so well coached that it is like playing against a machine. Their game plans and their execution hide the fact that a number of their stars are getting up there in age.
If the Lakers or Clippers are going to have any chance of advancing to the next round, they have to win Game 2. Without a split or the road it is going to be extremely tough to climb back into the series. But those numbers are just against them. The team that wins Game 1 of a series goes on to win 78.2 percent of the time.
The numbers, combined with playing the best two teams in the league, look like too much for the hometown teams to handle.
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