Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons has wish list for team’s success
Asked to assess how the Lakers did in Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons paused for a few seconds.
The Lakers won by eight points. But they shot just 41% from the field, 68% from the free-throw line. They outscored the Thunder by 14 points in the first quarter, but Oklahoma City outscored them, 66-60, the rest of the way.
The Lakers built a 17-point lead, but saw that cut to six points in the fourth. The one constant was the stifling Lakers defense, which held the Thunder to 40% shooting for the game.
So as Cleamons collected his thoughts, he came to a conclusion.
“I thought we did OK,” Cleamons said. “OK is nothing to brag about because the first game you never know anyway what they were going to do or how we would respond. But we survived and it’s always nice to get a win as you go.”
At the start of every season, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson gives his assistants eight to 10 teams they are in charge of scouting.
The Thunder is Cleamons’ team, and it’s his job to develop the Lakers’ game plan.
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Cleamons said the Thunder has a versatile menu of plays it runs, something it did out of timeouts Sunday. “Even opening the game, they ran a couple of plays that we hadn’t seen before,” he said.
Cleamons was very complimentary about the young talent on the Thunder.
He called the league’s top scorer Kevin Durant a versatile player. Cleamons said Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook showed he can attack the rim and that Jeff Green can play both power and small forward. The Lakers’ assistant also noted that Thunder rookie James Harden is a swing player who can score and be a facilitator.
Cleamons has a wish list for the Lakers to be successful in Game 2.
Get back in transition
The Thunder had 14 fast-break points in Game 1. It averaged 15.7 fast-break points during the regular season, seventh-best in the NBA.
“I call it a ‘jail-break,” Cleamons said. “They literally run that ball down your throat.”
Make it tough on Durant
Ron Artest hounded Durant, and the Lakers’ defense, including some double-teams on Durant, held the Thunder forward to 24 points on seven-for-24 shooting. The Lakers want to deny him the ball and for the rest of their defenders to beware of where Durant is when he gets by Artest.
Take care of the basketball
The Lakers had just 12 turnovers in Game 1.
As for the Thunder, the Lakers expect them to free up Durant by running him off screens to get more open looks at the basket.
Westbrook, who had 23 points and eight assists but didn’t score until the second quarter in Game 1, may look to attack sooner Tuesday.
“He can get to the lane [quickly], so you slow him down by making your shots,” Cleamons said, laughing.
The Thunder also needs more from Green, the team’s third-leading scoring (15.1 points) during the regular season. Green had 10 points on four-for-12 shooting in the first game.