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GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Oklahoma City Thunder 15 32 23 26 96
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 23 27 19 30 99
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Kobe leads Lakers past Thunder in 99-96 thriller

By GREG BEACHAM


Posted May 18 2012 10:50PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant made 18 free throws without a miss and scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied late for a 99-96 victory over Oklahoma City in Game 3 on Friday night, cutting the Thunder's second-round series lead to 2-1.

Metta World Peace swiped the ball from Kevin Durant and hit two free throws with 12.9 seconds left for the third-seeded Lakers, who shook off the memory of their late collapse in Game 2.

When Durant missed a potential tying 3-pointer before Andrew Bynum blocked Serge Ibaka's shot at the buzzer, the Lakers' frenzied crowd celebrated only their second victory in the last six playoff games.

Durant scored 31 points before missing his last shot for Oklahoma City, which could have moved to the brink of its second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. Instead, the Thunder lost for the first time in the postseason.

Game 4 in the back-to-back set is Saturday night.

Russell Westbrook and James Harden scored 21 points apiece for the Thunder, who couldn't match the Lakers' late-game execution after soundly out-executing the Lakers in Game 2. Los Angeles finished Game 3 on a 6-2 run in the final 33 seconds, all on free throws.

Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who got 12 points apiece from Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake. Gasol also had 11 rebounds and six assists in front of the Lakers' energized crowd, which didn't appear worried while the Lakers flirted with an 0-3 deficit, which has never been overcome in NBA history.

Oklahoma City's bench celebrated a 92-87 lead on Westbrook's breakaway dunk with 2:55 to play, but the Lakers trimmed away with Gasol's free throws, Bryant's layup and several possessions of tenacious defense. Bryant's free throws put the Lakers ahead with 1:09 to play.

Durant immediately hit a go-ahead jumper with a hand squarely in his face, but Bryant added two more free throws - his 15th and 16th - to put Los Angeles ahead 95-94. The Lakers finished 41 of 42 from the line, and the Thunder were 26 of 28.

The game was the first of four second-round NBA playoff games in just over 48 hours at Staples Center, also the site of the NHL's Western Conference finals between and Kings and Phoenix on Thursday and Sunday. The top-seeded San Antonio Spurs will face the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday in an afternoon game before the Thunder and Lakers play Game 4.

Thanks to the NBA's shortened schedule, the Lakers are playing their first back-to-back playoff games since May 22-23, 1999, in the second round against San Antonio during another season shortened by labor strife.

Staples Center was bubbling with energy even before tipoff, with thousands of Lakers fans actually deigning to wear the gold giveaway T-shirts that are usually tucked under chairs or slung over shoulders.

The Lakers responded to the buzz, jumping to a 16-6 lead while Oklahoma City missed its first five shots and used two timeouts. The Lakers led by 12 points in the first quarter, but Oklahoma City erased it quickly in the second quarter when Bryant left the game.

Harden was booed the first time he touched the ball in his first game at Staples since World Peace gave him a concussion with a vicious elbow in the Lakers' penultimate regular-season games.

Tempers flared in the second quarter when Westbrook furiously attempted to prevent World Peace from tying him up for a jump ball. World Peace's knee came down on Westbrook's leg during a brief skirmish including Jordan Hill, and both Westbrook and World Peace received technical fouls.

Oklahoma City surged in front during the third quarter, but the Lakers kept it close despite a rough quarter from Bryant. Kendrick Perkins' interior defense largely prevented Bynum from scoring in the low post, but the Thunder also struggled for offensive consistency.

The Lakers stayed in Game 3 with incredible free-throw shooting, making their first 28 foul shots before Bynum missed with 9:15 to play.

NOTES: Before the game, Gasol received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his charity work as a UNICEF ambassador. World Peace won the award last season. ... Perkins had six points in 30 minutes, but coach Scott Brooks put no limit on his minutes in the back-to-back games despite the veteran's sore hip. ... NBA Commissioner David Stern, Denzel Washington, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Ice Cube, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and the Los Angeles Kings' Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll and attended the game.


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited

Lakers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday, May 18th at Staples Center at 7:30PM. Catch all the action on ESPN and 710ESPN.



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Points Bryant 36, 9-25
Rebounds Bynum/Gasol 11
Assists Bryant/Gasol 6
Steals Bryant 4
Blocks Bynum 3
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POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike Brown:

Lakers coach Mike Brown on Andrew Bynum:
“Drew was very active for us tonight. We have him doing a lot of stuff that nobody sees and nobody recognizes. He was an absolute monster. I could not take my hat off to anyone on our team more than Andrew Bynum. His activity with what we’re asking him to do almost every single possession defensively on top of logging over 40 minutes was terrific.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on Steve Blake:
“I thought Steve Blake’s two shots were big. We need some production from other guys and he came off the pick and roll and shot his pull up. He was aggressive and knocked that thing down. He came off the pick and roll a second time and knocked down a three.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on the Lakers free-throw shooting:
“Every possession is huge in a series against a very good team like the Thunder. When you talk about possessions, that means if you get fouled and you step to the free-throw line, you have to knock those freebees down. It is a grind it out game and you’re not going to get a better look than a free-throw against these guys. That’s how good they are. For us to step up to the free-throw line and have the concentration and focus that we had there and knock them down especially at a clip of 41/42 is huge. Guys stepped up late in the game and knocked them down in a timely manner.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on keeping the Thunder out of transition:
“We need to try not to let them get out in transition too much. I thought they did there for a stretch. Having 23 fast break points is kind of tough. If we can keep them playing half-court basketball we’ll have a better chance. They’re getting out after our turnovers and their getting easy baskets after our turnovers. That’s been the difference a lot of these ball games.”

Lakers coach Mike Brown on coming back from a tough loss in game two:
“I’m telling you guys, we’ve got a great, veteran group of guys who have been through this before. They’ve been poised and they stay poised the whole time and move onto the next play. The next play for us was game three. We know that this series is going to be a physical series and the team that’s most physical is going to win. I give my guys credit because they stepped up to the plate, they brought their hard hat, and we found a way to give ourselves a chance to win down the stretch.”




Steve Blake:

Lakers’ Steve Blake on what kind of momentum tonight’s win provides:
“I think with a win you always feel like you have a little momentum but both teams will come out tomorrow being aggressive and we’ll be ready and focused.”

Lakers’ Steve Blake on preparing for a back to back:
“We have a lot of veteran players who understand how to get the rest and how to prepare for back to backs.”

Lakers Steve Blake on whether his confidence was shaken after game 2:
“I didn’t hesitate on all. I was just excited to get some looks. It felt good from the beginning and a lot of credit to my teammates who continue to trust me.”




Andrew Bynum:

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on playing with energy despite having little rest:
“I think we just respect our opponents and we know that if we don’t come and play things are going to get ugly like they were in the first game. So, after the embarrassment, we just kind of let it up, just playing with a lot more energy and force.”

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on setting the tempo tonight:
“We wanted to get out early and then play on our defense. Obviously when you get up its easier for us to play defense and on offense we just took our time.”

Lakers’ Andrew Bynum on what tonight’s win means for the team:
“It just means that if we play defense we will win games, regardless of how poorly we all shoot and all that other stuff.”




Pau Gasol:

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on what he was trying to do in the fourth quarter:
“I was trying to make an impact on the game. At the end of the game you just have to try to hustle and fight through fatigue and come up with positive things for your team. That’s what I was trying to do; defensively stay active and pursue balls, pursue rebounds, and give ourselves another opportunity to score.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on how he and Andrew Bynum gear up for another game:
“it’s going to take a mental commitment on our part in order to fight through the fatigue we might feel tomorrow. It’s going to be all will and desire, and effort. Just pushing ourselves through everything and anything that we might be feeling or going on out there.”

Lakers’ Pau Gasol on if the team wants it enough to win:
“Yeah, I think we do. This game was another very tough game and we pulled though. We continued to work even when they got the lea a couple of times down the fourth quarter. It’s in us. We want to win this series, we want to beat this team and we will do whatever it takes. Obviously, we know how hard it is going to be but we are ready for it.”




Kobe Bryant:

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant on controlling the tempo tonight:
“That’s two games in a row that we controlled the tempo. We did a good job of controlling the pace of the game and being physical. As you see, even tonight there were stretches where, their explosiveness, they just go on runs quickly.”

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant on whether the Thunder’s run’s are taxing:
“It’s not taxing, it’s fun. It’s a challenge and we all enjoy that, I know I certainly do. You want to be against an opponent that you respect and you know is going to bring it physically and emotionally.”




Scott Brooks:

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on tonight’s loss:
“It was a heck of a game. Unfortunately we lost the game, but it was as physical as you want a game to be. Both teams displayed a lot of toughness. I’m proud of our guys’ effort, we just came up short, nothing to be ashamed of. We’ll come back tomorrow night with the same type of effort.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the pace of the game:
“We are a defensive team. We’re not afraid to mix it up and play defensive basketball. I think people think that with Kevin [Durant], Russell [Westbrook], Serge [Ibaka] and our athletic guys, that all we want to do is run and use our youth. We play defensive basketball. And we have to defend and have to get out of transition off of our defense. But we can play both ways.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Kendrick Perkins’ defensive performance:
“That’s what he does. Kendrick [Perkins], he’s a warrior, he plays hard every night. That’s how he practices, that’s how he plays. He wakes up angry. He wants to beat his opponent every time down the court. He’s a physical player and we need that. We need that toughness. He’s changed the dynamics of our team since we picked him up last season.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on Kobe Bryant’s performance tonight:
“He’s one of the greatest players to ever play this game. He knows how to come back with his game. I coached him in the All-Star game, I knew he was then. I’ve read about him, I’ve heard about him, I’ve seen him for many years, but being around him for two days, the guy’s a competitor. He loves to play the game the right way. He plays hard. He did a great job, he got to the free throw line, but we put him on the line too many times.”

Thunder coach Scott Brooks on the Lakers 42 free throw attempts tonight:
“We fouled too many times. That’s the bottom line. Forty-two is a high number, that’s more than they average, a lot more than they average. We were using our hands and fouling too much. We’ve got to do a better job, 42 free throws and 41 makes, it’s hard to win on your opponents home court when you do that. We have to do a better job of not fouling, defending, rebounding and getting out and running.”




James Harden:

Thunder James Harden on the physicality of tonight’s game:
“That’s how it’s going to be the entire series. It’s going to be a physical battle. They got two big men and obviously Kobe. It’s going to be a grind this entire series, but they got us tonight.”

Thunder James Harden if there was any difference trying to get a win on the road:
“It wasn’t. We just didn’t execute when we needed to. We got off to a slow start in the beginning and had to battle all the way throughout the game, and it just didn’t work out.”



Kevin Durant:

Thunder Kevin Durant on tonight’s game:
“We knew they were going to approach the game with a lot of intensity down 0-2. That’s what they did to start the game off. We did a great job of fighting back and taking a lead. We played hard all game, we played hard all game and put ourselves in a position to win.”

Thunder Kevin Durant on whether or not the pace the last two games is favorable for them:
“We can play any type of basketball. That’s what’s good about our team. We can play fast, we can play slow. That’s what tonight was and so was Game 2. But both games, we did a good job of fighting. Tonight, we just didn’t come out on top.”

Thunder Kevin Durant on how the team was able to weather the Lakers’ strong start:
“They started off well, which was expected. We took their first hit and threw a few back. Going into the half, we were down three, and that was a good position. In the second half, we fought, they fought, we took the lead and they took the lead. It was a back-and-forth game. It’s a fun game to play in, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top.”

Thunder Kevin Durant on whether or not he wasn’t aggressive tonight:
“I trust my teammates even if they miss 20 shots in a row. I was just picking and choosing my spots. I got to the paint and wanted to take a good shot, but they were tough defensively. I got to the spots I wanted to. Like I said, I believe in my teammates and I’m going to continue to make the right play.”




Russell Westbrook:

Thunder Russell Westbrook on the defensive play tonight by their team:
“Tonight was a great defense effort --- rebounding, steals, blocked shots. Everybody did everything. It was just one of those games where we just didn’t close it out. But we played hard and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Thunder Russell Westbrook on the incident with Metta World Peace in the second quarter:
“I just was trying to get the loose ball and quickly call time out, but I guess it was hard for the refs to see it. That’s all I was trying to do.”

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Lakers - Thunder Preview

GREG BEACHAM


If the Los Angeles Lakers can just shake the memory of the disastrous final two minutes of Game 2, they'll find plenty of reasons in the first 46 minutes to be encouraged about their chances this weekend against Oklahoma City.

After blowing a seven-point lead and the chance to steal homecourt advantage from the powerful Thunder on Wednesday night, the third-seeded Lakers' fate will be decided rapidly at Staples Center, with back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.

Oklahoma City leads the series 2-0, and could earn its second straight trip to the Western Conference finals Saturday night.

The Lakers have now lost four of their last five playoff games since taking a 3-1 lead in the first round against Denver, but they imposed their favored style on Game 2 until their late collapse. Los Angeles locked down Russell Westbrook, limited Kevin Durant with double-teams and thwarted the Thunder's transition game, holding Oklahoma City to its lowest scoring total of the entire season.

None of it helped when the Lakers allowed nine unanswered points to close the 77-75 loss, but at least they know shutting down the Thunder is possible.

''I don't think we have many pieces to pick up,'' center Andrew Bynum said after the Lakers' workout Thursday in El Segundo. ''We know exactly how to defend them now, and offensively, we (have to) make them pay for being aggressive. ... They protected their home court. It's the playoffs, and obviously we let one slip, but we've got another one coming up.''

Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks emerged from the thriller excited about the resilience of his young team, which improved to 6-0 in the postseason. In their third playoff run together, the Thunder have figured out how to keep their cool when their opponents are losing it - even Bryant and his small core of championship-tested teammates.

''You've got to understand, the team that we're playing, Oklahoma, they've been playing together a long time, much longer than we have,'' said Kobe Bryant, one of four Lakers left from the 2010 title team. ''We have guys who have a great deal more experience than they do, but in terms of playing together, they have more experience, so we have to constantly keep the lines of communication open, almost every play really.''

The Lakers managed just four points in the final 6:43, all on baskets by Bynum. Bryant missed his final five shots. Metta World Peace made multiple mistakes. Pau Gasol didn't even take a shot, and Steve Blake missed the biggest one of all: That open 3-pointer in the corner with 3 seconds left.

If not for the Lakers' game effort in Game 2, overconfidence would appear to be Oklahoma City's toughest opponent so far in the playoffs.

''We've had some success (in) this playoffs so far, but it doesn't really guarantee the next game results if you don't get the good effort and good energy and teamwork,'' Brooks said Thursday before the Thunder flew to the West Coast. ''You have to have confidence in it, but you can't become complacent and cocky with it. You have to understand that you have to respect your opponent, and they're going to throw a lot of things at us, and you have to be prepared.''

Although the Thunder's offense was less than impressive in Game 2, Bryant has been unable to assert control against Oklahoma City's defense.

Durant, James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha have taken turns guarding Bryant in Brooks' plan to keep Kobe uncomfortable by throwing multiple defensive looks at him, sometimes on each possession. So far, it's working: The NBA's second-leading scorer behind Durant has managed just 20 points in each of the first two games on 16-for-43 shooting, and Bryant is a dismal 1 for 9 on 3-pointers.

''There's not a lot of 6-10 guys that you would throw on Kobe,'' Brooks said of Durant, who played solid defense on Bryant in the fourth quarter of Game 2. ''He's a guy that can guard multiple positions, and it's definitely a different look when you're used to a guy 6-3, 6-4, and all of a sudden 6-10 comes on you.''

Although Bryant isn't at his game-changing peak, he has been awfully good at home in recent months. Yet Bryant and the veteran Lakers also might be running out of energy. When the back-to-back weekend ends, the Lakers will have played 11 playoff games in 21 days, a product of their inability to finish off Denver quickly.

''The reality of it is we were probably a little tired, not to use that as an excuse,'' Lakers coach Mike Brown said. ''We went seven (games in the first round), they went four. We should have gone 4-0 and not had to deal with that, if that was an issue. I thought we were a lot more physical, a lot more in tune in that second game. ... At this point in the playoffs, if we can't sustain it, we don't deserve to win.''

The Lakers were among the NBA's best home teams for the first three months of the shortened season, but stumbled late, culminating in a lifeless loss to the Nuggets in Game 5 last round. The Lakers and their crowd rebounded for an energetic victory in Game 7, but Los Angeles also lost two second-round home games last season against Dallas.

Los Angeles prefers a slower tempo, both for its lack of team speed and its preference for playing a half-court game built around 7-footers Bynum and Gasol. Brooks also said the Lakers used elements of the triangle offense in Game 2, going back to the principles of the offensive scheme promoted by 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson.

''They were throwing a lot of that in their sets, so we were ready for that,'' Brooks said. ''Our guys did a good job defending it.''

5/16/12
L OKC 77, LAL 75
5/14/12
L OKC 119, LAL 90
5/12/12
W LAL 96, DEN 87
5/10/12
L DEN 113, LAL 96
5/08/12
L DEN 99, LAL 96
Probable Starters
Lakers
#15 World Peace SF #35 Durant
#16 Gasol PF #9 Ibaka
#17 Bynum C #5 Perkins
#24 Bryant SG #2 Sefolosha
#7 Sessions PG #0 Westbrook
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Lakers Matt Barnes
(sprained right ankle) is probable.
Devin Ebanks
(middle & ring finger contusions, left hand) is probable.
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Eric Maynor
(torn right ACL is out.
Kendrick Perkins
(right hip muscle strain) is day-to-day.
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PLAYOFF SERIES
Game 1: 5/14 - LAL @ OKC L 119-90
Game 2: 5/16 - LAL @ OKC L 77-75
Game 3: 5/18 - OKC @ LAL
Game 4: 5/19 - OKC @ LAL
* Game 5: 5/21 - LAL @ OKC
* Game 6: 5/23 - OKC @ LAL
* Game 7: 5/27 - LAL @ OKC
REGULAR SEASON
Game 1: 2/23- LAL @ OKC L 100-85
Game 2: 3/29- OKC @ LAL L 102-93
Game 3: 4/22 - OKC @ LAL W 114-106
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