Transition game: Lakers must look inside for answers


It was easy for Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons to draw conclusions Friday once he looked again at the statistics sheet from Thursday’s game.

He pointed out how in Game 3 the Oklahoma City Thunder had 23 fastbreak points, the Lakers seven. The Thunder shot 34 free throws, the Lakers 12. Thunder rookie reserve James Harden (18 points) outscored the entire Lakers bench (14 points). The Lakers also stopped scoring from inside.

The Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, but Cleamons has some words of caution as Game 4 looms Saturday night. “If we don’t pay attention to detail, it will cause our demise,” he said.

Cleamons, in charge of putting together the Lakers’ game plan against the Thunder, has given the players the blueprint.

“There are a lot of areas that we can improve,” Cleamons said. “It doesn’t require major surgery, but it requires us paying attention to detail and having a willingness to execute at the offensive end and the defensive end as a unit.”

Here are some keys to what Cleamons has outlined:

Transition defense

The Thunder ran the ball down the Lakers’ throats in Game 3. The Lakers have to get back on defense.

“They are taking advantage of our miscues,” Cleamons said.

Don’t settle for three-pointers

The Lakers were 10 for 31 from three-point range, three for 12 in the second half, in Game 3. The three-ball is a shot the Lakers can get any time, but shooting them early in the 24-second shot clock is not wise.

“The 31 three-point shots says that we aren’t being patient enough to look inside,” Cleamons said. “And we don’t need to settle.”

Work the inside/out game

Why are the Lakers frequently going away from their strength?

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, their 7-footers, were a combined 13 for 21 from the field in Game 3 for 30 points. But they shot a combined two for four and scored seven points in the fourth quarter.

“We can’t give up on our post players,” Cleamons said. “Our post players can’t give up on us. We have to find a way to get the ball inside.”

The Thunder liked what it did in the last game and will try and do more of the same.

Kevin Durant (29 points, 19 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, eight rebounds, four assists) had big games and both will look to stay aggressive.

The Thunder bench has outplayed the Lakers’ bench in this series: Lakers reserves are averaging 15 points per game and 10.3 rebounds, versus 16.7 points and 13.3 boards by Oklahoma City’s nonstarters.

“They are right in their comfort zone now,” Cleamons said. “We need to take them out of their comfort zone and find ours.”