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Lakers stunned by Thunder's Game 4 performance


By Randy Renner, NBA.com
Posted Sunday April 25, 2010 2:29AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (NBA.com exclusive) -- After his team's practice on Friday Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons said, "If we don't pay attention to detail, it will lead to our demise."

On Saturday night in Oklahoma City, in front of another roaring, sell-out crowd, the only detail the Lakers seemed to be paying attention to was how soon they could board their flight back home to Hollywood, as they sleepwalked through a 110-89 beat down by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The teams' first round playoff series is now deadlocked 2-2 after each team swept both games on its home floor.

"Not much to say about that one, they just took it to us," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "The beginning of the second half was as bad as we can start and we tumbled from there. It was a pretty good meltdown."

After all his years of playing for Jackson, LA point guard Derek Fisher said, "I don't know if I've ever heard him say that. Where we melted down and didn't even give ourselves a chance to win."

The Thunder, a feel good, turnaround story coming into the playoffs, may now actually be a serious threat to knock the defending NBA Champions out of the playoffs.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to be here and then we got here a lot of people thought we'd get swept," Thunder star Kevin Durant told reporters. "It's all on us now, we just have to keep working hard."

Durant finished with 22 points, eight below his regular season average, but he led all scorers. Los Angeles didn't have anyone with at least 15. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 13. Bynum managed just two points in the second half.

"That's about as good as we can play," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. "We made them miss and we took care of the basketball. We limited their second chance points. We have to defend, that gets us in transition."

And in transition the young Thunder ran the older Lakers ragged outscoring them 24-2. Fisher had no answers for how to slow the Thunder down.

"I don't know how they're scoring so much on the fast break, it seems like they're scoring three and four points at a time."

For the first time in the series Oklahoma City got off to a good start, shooting 52.5% and holding the Lakers to just 36.4% for a 29-17 lead after the 1st quarter.

"We've never had three bad first quarters in a row like we had in this series," said Brooks, "so it was bound to happen."

The Lakers concentrated on getting the ball into their bigger post players at the beginning of the game. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom took 13 of L.A's 22 shots in the 1st quarter. But the Lakers began to once again stray away form the big men in the second when that trio took just eight of LA's 23 shots.

Kobe Bryant, who put up 29 attempts on Thursday, didn't fire one up at all until drilling a 3-pointer three minutes into the second quarter by that time the Lakers trailed 36-21. Bryant finished the half 3-for-6 with eight points and finished the game with just 12 on 5-for-10 shooting.

"I thought I was managing the game well but I didn't have a chance to do what I do best, close out games."

This game was closed out for the Lakers long before the final horn. Most of LA's starters sat the bench in the fourth quarter, Bryant went to the dressing room to begin receiving treatment on his knee and other ailments.

"It's effecting me a little bit," he admitted, "that's why I wanted to get started on my treatment early, it's a long flight back."

Maybe for the Lakers but the Thunder will make that same trip and it won't seem nearly as long.

"It's a great feeling (to win) but we know we still have a lot of work to do," said Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook who continues to bedevil the Lakers. Westbrook had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Jeff Green and James Harden each contributed 15 for the Thunder though Green continues to struggle with his shooting. He was just 5-for-17. But he grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Thunder assault on the glass.

Oklahoma City outrebounded the Lakers for the second straight game, 50-43 was the advantage Saturday night.

"We have to be able to do that," said Brooks. "We have to limit their rebounds."

After losing two close games in Los Angeles and winning a close one in OKC, the Thunder ran away with Game 4. They never trailed and the Lakers only managed to tie the game once at 2-2. Oklahoma City led by as much as 29 points in the fourth quarter. Asked if he was concerned such a beating could fire up LA for revenge in Game Five Brooks told reporters, "I wasn't really thinking about that I just thought 'wow we're up on the Lakers by 29', I didn't expect that."

No one did, least of all the Lakers themselves.

"You always play to win," Fisher said, "We didn't envision ourselves in this situation but it's where we are."

"You go through stretches where you play well in the playoffs and then you get busted up pretty good. We wanted to win both these games and be done with it," Bryant said, "But now we have a tough fight. It should be fun."

The series now shifts back to Los Angeles where the Lakers built that 2-0 lead that disappeared in Oklahoma City. The Thunder realize if they're going to have a chance to take the series they'll have to win a game at STAPLES Center.

"This was as big a win as could possibly be," said Brooks, "The Lakers took care of home court and so did we. Now we have to somehow get a win in LA."

The Thunder will be rested and ready to run on Tuesday night thinking they have a chance to shock the basketball world.

The leader of the Lakers says he doesn't know what his team's mindset is now or will be then.

"You know I'm honestly not sure," is all Kobe Bryant would say about that.

Game Five should be fun indeed.

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