- GAME RECAP
- GAME HIGHLIGHTS
- COACH PREVIEW
- GAME PREVIEW
- SCOUTING REPORT
- INJURY REPORT
- GAME NOTES
Thunder even series with 110-89 blowout of Lakers
By JEFF LATZKE
OKLAHOMA CITY(AP) Kevin Durant scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook added 18 points and eight assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder evened their first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 110-89 victory in Game 4 on Saturday night.
For the second straight game, the Thunder capitalized on a significant edge at the foul line and on the boards despite the presence of the Lakers' 7-foot tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Oklahoma City never trailed after the opening 5 minutes and led by double digits for the final three quarters in a thorough dismantling of the defending NBA champions.
Bynum had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Gasol also scored 13 to lead Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant finished with only 12 points.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
Copyright 2010 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
10 Field goal attempts from Kobe Bryant, who took 29 in Game 3. Bryant spent the first half drawing defenders and finding wide open Lakers, and did not play in the fourth quarter.
13 Points for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, which lead the Lakers, a new low for the team’s high scorer.
20 Free throw discrepancy for Oklahoma City, who made 42-of-48 while the Lakers made just 17-of-28. The previous night, the Thunder attempted 34 free throws to 12 for the Lakers.
24 Fastbreak points for OKC, to just two for the Lakers.
43 Bench points for the Thunder, led by 15 from rookie James Harden, who followed up his 18-point performance in Game 3 after scoring not a single point in limited minutes in L.A.
Mike Trudell, Lakers.com
Lakers’ Coach Phil Jackson
On the loss:
“There’s not much to say about this game. They took it to us tonight. They beat us to the ball. They ran the court…We started off the second half as bad as you could start off with Kobe (Bryant) fouling and getting them two points on the foul. And then Fish (Derek Fisher) missing two down there at the other end and it just tumbled from there. It was a pretty good meltdown.”
On Kobe Bryant in the first half:
“He wanted to get everybody involved in the game. It was okay. If we make our foul shots, we’re okay in that ball game. We’re down maybe five points or seven points and we didn’t make some free throws, like professional players should do. But I thought we played a pretty consistent game there. The only thing I didn’t like was when it got stretched and they obviously got a run up.”
Lakers’ Guard Kobe Bryant
On the loss:
"We knew this was going to be a long series and that it was going to be a dogfight. Now, more so than before, they (Thunder) have a ton of confidence and they know how to play against us.”
On how to regain their swagger:
“We have to move onto the next game. It is not rocket science. We have a tough battle and we have adjustments to make. We are playing a team that is playing extremely well right now that we have to deal with. It is not something where we have lost our swagger. We just have to go defend our home court. It is as simple as that.”
On if Oklahoma City has their attention after the lopsided loss:
“We didn’t need this for this team to get our attention. They have our attention, they just beat us. It is as simple as that.”
Lakers’ Forward Ron Artest
On struggling to defend Oklahoma City in the second half:
“That’s true, you know they have a lot of energy and they are an extremely potent offensive team. They are strong, solid and play headstrong defense. They played well tonight. I give them a lot of credit for how they played tonight. It is their length and quickness, too.
“We had our hands full tonight due to the defensive pressure put on us. They are a very strong team. We didn’t have the shot making tonight after their early push.”
Lakers’ Forward Pau Gasol
On the loss:
“We started off okay. Obviously they (Thunder) made a run and it was downhill after that. It’s a tough loss. We have to regroup now and stay positive and make sure we understand what we have to do in game five to win the ball game. We have to be ready to win another tough game.”
On drawing from previous experiences to finish out the series:
“We have the experience. We have faced adversity before. We understand that this team (Oklahoma City) is playing really well at home. We faced that last year and the year before that. We just have to go home now and watch tape, practice what we need to practice and be ready to come out strong in game five. It will be a crucial game.”
On if he is worried about this series moving forward:
“I am not worried. I have a lot of strength inside of me that is ready to play again in game five. It is going to be such a critical game. We have to regain our confidence and our momentum in the series. We kind of lost it a little bit tonight. It is just one game, it is tied 2-2. We still have home court advantage and we need to get back and do what we need to do.”
Thunder Coach Scott Brooks
“Well that was about as good as a game of basketball we could play at both ends of the floor. I thought we set the tone defensively. We really made them miss some shots. Offensively, we took care of the basketball. Going into the basketball game we didn’t want them to have a big offensive rebounding night. They got a few early ones and we did a better job in the second half. We limited their second half chances of scoring.”
On the team’s toughness tonight:
“That was something that we talked about all summer long and going into the season that we had to be a better defensive team, and that was going to take a lot of toughness on our guys’ part. I talk to the guys about it all the time. Toughness is not just going out there and showing that you have bigger muscles than your opponent. Toughness is making the right play, making the right pass, setting the proper screen, rebounding, blocking out. We’ve been much better this season, and the playoffs is another test for us. We knew going into this series that we would have to play tough, aggressive basketball that we were going to be tested mentally, physically. They’re a very good team; one of the best teams. We showed that we can compete against the best team by using our toughness. ”
On transition points throughout the game:
“That’s one of the things that we do well as a team. You have to defend and that gets us out in transition. We have some pretty good scorers on the wings and Jeff is a guy that can finish. Kevin, we all know what Kevin can do on the wings and runs the floor very well. We have to be able to do that. That’s one of the things that we’re not the best team in the league in half-court offense. We generate our offense through our defense. That was as well as we can do tonight.”
Thunder’s Forward Kevin Durant
On figuring things out this playoff series:
“I felt even more comfortable. It’s just figuring out how physical playoff basketball is. Playing a team four times, they start to know your steps, so you have to run it harder, you have to run the second option. You know I’m running hard and getting through that, and basically just playing physical and playing as hard as I can.”
“A lot of people didn’t expect us to be here. Once we got here, I know people were saying we were going to be swept. We knew what we were capable of. We’re playing every day hard and practice every day hard, and with those attributes we can go far as a team.”
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Guard Russell Westbrook
On the win:
“It was a great feeling, but we know we still have a lot of work to do. We have to go to L.A. and try to figure out a way to squeeze out a win. But it was a great feeling to be up by that many points.”
“First of all, the night was a great victory for us. Our crowd kept us in the game. Coach emphasized to us to get down in transition and I think we did a good job of that.”
By JEFF LATZKE, AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—There’s no doubting that Kevin Durant can score.
But it took some convincing for the NBA’s scoring champion to believe that he could really impact a game when his shots weren’t going in—a lesson that proved crucial to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 27-win improvement this season.
“A lot of coaches say—it’s something I didn’t believe but—`If you do other things, then your scoring’s going to come around.’ I’m like, `No, that’s not true because if you’re off, you’re off, right?”’ he said. “But it does happen. It does help. It gives you confidence that your next shot’s going to go down.”
Durant has been regarded as a potent scorer since he entered the league after being named college player of the year at Texas, then averaged 20 points during his Rookie of the Year campaign when the franchise was still in Seattle.
Defense was a different story.
The SuperSonics gave up the fourth-most points in the NBA in Durant’s rookie year and little changed during the franchise’s first few months in Oklahoma City. The tide started to turn midway through last season but it wasn’t until Durant’s slow shooting start to begin this season that he really bought into all the aspects of the game outside racking up points.
By Game 3 of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Durant had developed enough on the defensive end that he was asking to guard Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter. He limited Bryant to 2-for-10 shooting while rediscovering his offense to lead the Thunder to a 101-96 win.
“That’s a very important lesson. The game of basketball, offensively you’re not going to be on every game. It’s just impossible,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
“The greatest players of all times had bad shooting games and bad shooting slumps. He’s done a better job with that this year—but now he fully understands that. You have to do other things that help your team win.”
Durant, who averaged 30.1 points this season to become the NBA’s youngest scoring champion, was quick to shy away from the sudden defensive accolades leading up to Game 4 on Saturday night in Oklahoma City.
“Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world and some of those shots he missed just because he missed. Maybe two or three of the shots I made him miss,” said Durant, who leaped to swat away one Bryant jumper during Oklahoma City’s decisive 10-2 run.
“But other than that, he just missed shots and I know he’s going to come back more focused and more ready for the fourth game. But hopefully he misses those shots he’s going to take next game.”
The 6-foot-6 Bryant gives up nearly half a foot to Durant, who’s listed conservatively at 6-9.
“He’s long. He’s 7 feet. I don’t know that he wants to admit that he’s 7 feet but he’s 7 foot,” Bryant said. “He has great agility, great mobility and caught us all by surprise a little bit.”
Brooks said Durant’s fourth-quarter success wouldn’t change his plan to rotate defenders against Bryant. Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City’s defensive stopper, has logged the most minutes against Bryant while forward Jeff Green and reserve James Harden have also guarded him.
“It’s very unique for a team to be able to do that,” Bryant said. “It just shows how athletic they are. … I’ve got a pretty good feel for how to play against Harden, Thabo and Green. When they were in Seattle, Green guarded me the majority of the time. Thabo obviously guards me the majority of the time now, and Harden, so I’ve got a pretty good feel for those guys.”
Bryant took four games off near the end of the regular season to rest a variety of injuries, including a broken right index finger and a sore right knee, and said he still isn’t 100 percent “but I don’t need to be.”
He finished with 24 points on 10-for-29 shooting in Game 3, after scoring 39 and taking over in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
“Playing against guys with the length of Sefolosha, Durant and guys in the past that he’s played against that like to use their length against him, it’s important that he has a base and that he has his legs under him,” veteran teammate Derek Fisher said. “I’m, I guess, not as concerned as everybody else about his numbers or statistically how it’s playing out.”
Brooks had rarely deployed Durant to guard Bryant during four regular-season meetings or the first two playoff games before making the move Thursday night.
“It’s not easy to make him miss shots, but Kevin has an impact just because of his length and his activity,” Brooks said. “It’s hard to imagine us being a good defensive team without him. He’s been one of our better defenders, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve improved this year is that he’s committed to playing defense.”
The only question now is whether it’ll work again.
“It won’t catch me by surprise, that’s for sure,” Bryant said. “Whether or not it’s effective, we’ll see.”
Copyright 2010 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-Thunder Scouting Report
It’s the roller coaster nature of playoff basketball that the media and public perception can be ready to anoint one game and throw in the trash heap the next. The advantage to having a veteran team who has been through some battles is that it is easier to keep balanced mentally and objectively look at what went right and wrong in a game and what needs to be done to improve the next game. The two stats that jump off the page from game 3 are the number of three point shots we took and the rebound number. 31 three point attempts are too many and being out-rebounded by 14 (and giving up 14 offensive rebounds) is simply not acceptable. Clearly we need to go inside – out and back in more often on our offensive end and it is crucial that all five players crash the defensive boards.
Regster to Lakers Courtside Connection to read more.
Lakers-Thunder Injury Report
Ron Artest (sprained left thumb) will play.
Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant (avulsion fracture, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum (left Achilles strain) is probable.
Jordan Farmar (strained left hamstring) is probable.
DJ Mbenga (retinal surgery, left eye) is probable.
Sasha Vujacic (severe sprain, left ankle) is out.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.
Nenad Krstic (right knee contusion) is day-to-day
Lakers-Thunder Game Notes
SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won the season series with Oklahoma City 3-1 after sweeping last
season’s series with the Thunder (3-0) for the second straight year, having gone
4-0 against the Thunder in 2007-08. This was the 5th consecutive season series
victory for the Lakers over the Thunder. The two teams have met 218 times but
just seven times since the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City prior to the 2008-
09 season. Los Angeles leads the all-time series 134-84. In their most recent
meeting, however, the Lakers lost to the Thunder 75-91 at the Ford Center,
snapping their 12-game win streak over the Thunder and marking their first loss
to Oklahoma City since the team’s relocation from Seattle. The Lakers are 13-2
in their last 15 games against Oklahoma City and have won 12 of their last 13
against the Thunder overall. On the road against the Thunder, the Lakers have
gone 8-2 in their last 10 overall. The Lakers have now played six times during
the regular season at Ford Center in Oklahoma City, going 0-2 against the New
Orleans Hornets while the team was temporarily relocated from 2005-07 but 3-1
against the Thunder. At home, the Lakers have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games
against the Thunder and are 14-8 all-time against Oklahoma City at STAPLES
Center. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 26-12 against the
Thunder. In 2006-07, Kobe Bryant established a Lakers series record with 46
points 4/6/07 at KeyArena only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points
4/15/07 at home against the then Sonics. In those games, he surpassed the old
mark of 45 points established by himself in January of 2003 and Jerry West in
December of 1970. In 50 career games including 43 starts, Bryant is averaging
25.1 points against the Thunder.
LAKERS vs. OKLAHOMA CITY IN THE POSTSEASON
The Lakers and Thunder have met seven times in the postseason (1978, 1979, 1980, 1987, 1989, 1995 and 1998) with Los Angeles advancing on five occasions (1980, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1998). The Lakers have won their last five straight playoff series versus the Thunder. The Lakers are 1-1 in the First Round against Oklahoma City, defeating the Thunder in 1995 (3-1) but losing in 1978 (1-2). Los Angeles has gone 2-1 against the Thunder in the Conference Semifinals, winning in 1998 (4-1) and 1989 (4-0) but dropping the 1979 series (1-4). In Conference Finals matchups, the Lakers are 2-0, defeating the Thunder in both 1987 (4-0) and 1980 (4-1). Overall, the Lakers are 23-10 all-time against the Thunder in the postseason, going 14-2 at home and 9-8 on the road.
BRYANT MOVES PAST JERRY WEST FOR 1st ON LAKERS ALL-TIME PLAYOFF SCORING LIST; 5th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME LIST
With a fade away jumper at the 8:58 mark of the third quarter April 22 at Oklahoma City, Kobe Bryant moved past Jerry West (4,457) for 1st on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list and 5th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. Last postseason, with 32 points 5/21 vs. Denver, Bryant (4,465) moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4,070) for 2nd on the Lakers all-time playoff scoring list. Overall, in the 2009 Playoffs, Bryant moved past Larry Bird (3,897) for 6th, past John Havlicek (3,776) for 7th, past Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755) for 8th and past Earvin “Magic” Johnson (3,701) for 9th the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list and 3rd on the Lakers franchise playoff scoring list. Next up on the all-time NBA list is Karl Malone (4th/4,761). Among all players with 2,500+ postseason points, only Michael Jordan (33.4), Jerry West (29.1), Elgin Baylor (27.0), Hakeem Olajuwon (25.9) and Dirk Nowitzki (25.6) have a higher postseason scoring average than Bryant (25.1).
THIRTY-ONE TOO MANY
In the Lakers 96-101 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City April 22, the Lakers attempted a playoff franchise-high tying 31 three-point attempts (10-of-31 (.323)) for the third time in franchise history, falling to 0-3 in those games. The Lakers shot 9-of-31 (.290) on three-pointers on 5/25/09 in a 101-120 loss at Denver in Game 4 of the 2009 Western Conference Finals. Los Angeles also attempted 31 three-point attempts (10-of-31 (.323)) on 5/24/02, in a 90-103 loss to the Sacramento Kings in Game 3 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals.
JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT AFTER WINNING GAME 1
When Phil Jackson wins Game 1 of any playoff series, best-of-five or best-of-seven, his teams are 44-0, having gone 24-0 with Chicago and 20-0 with the Lakers.
JACKSON-LED TEAMS A TOUGH OUT WHEN LEADING A PLAYOFF SERIES
When holding a series lead of any kind, Phil Jackson, currently in his 19th postseason as a head coach, is 51-1 all-time. Overall, Jackson owns a 211-92 postseason record, with his 211 victories being the most of any NBA coach in playoff history. Additionally, Jackson’s 303 career playoff games are also the most of any coach in playoff history, while his .696 postseason win percentage is tops among all coaches as well. Currently at 100 playoff victories with the Lakers, Jackson is two wins shy of Pat Riley (102) for most playoff victories in Lakers franchise history. With the Lakers 2009 NBA Championship, Jackson (10 as head coach, 2 as player) surpassed legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach for most championships won by a head coach while also passing fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell (11) for most championships won by a player/coach. Should the Lakers reach the NBA Finals this season, it will be the 13th time he has taken a team to the final round, tying him with NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman for most trips to the finals in a major pro sport played in the U.S.
OPENING ROUND HISTORY (Los Angeles era only)
The Lakers have opened the Playoffs in the FIRST Round 38 times and in the SECOND round on seven occasions (1962, 63, 65, 66, 80, 82, 83) since moving to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season. The Lakers have won 35-of-45 opening playoff series over that span and are now 134-68 (.663) in opening round games. In Game 1’s of their first postseason series, the Lakers are now 34-12. When the Lakers have had home-court advantage in the opening round, they have posted a 32-2 series record. When winning Game 1 in the opening round, the Lakers have a series record of 32-1. Their lone loss came to the Phoenix Suns (2-3) in 1993. With their victory over the Thunder in Game 1 of the First Round on April 18, Phil Jackson-led teams (Bulls and Lakers) improved to 15-0 when opening their postseason at home.
HOW CHAMPIONS HAVE FARED THE NEXT SEASON
Since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1946-47, 20 of 63 winners of the NBA Finals have followed their championship seasons by winning the NBA Finals. Among the other 43 teams, nine lost in the NBA Finals, 17 lost in the Conference Finals, 10 lost in the Conference Semifinals, five lost in the First Round and two failed to make the playoffs.
THREE OR MORE CONSECUTIVE VISITS TO THE FINALS
Since the NBA’s inaugural season in 1946-47, 11 teams have advanced to the NBA Finals three or more consecutive seasons with the Lakers doing so on five separate occasions (1952-54; 1968-79; 1982-85; 1987-89; 2000-02). Among the other teams to advance to three or more consecutive Finals, only the Celtics did so more than three straight seasons (New York: 1951-53; Boston: 1958-66; Boston: 1984-87; Detroit: 1988-90; Chicago: 1990-92; Chicago: 1996-98).