Thunder 'D' Limits Lakers to 11 Field Goals in Second Half

LOS ANGELES – It was the game the Thunder expected, but not the desired result.

Physical and tough, back and forth, neither the Thunder or the Los Angeles Lakers were willing to give in or give an inch. Game 3 came down to the final seconds and a series of plays that went the Lakers’ way in a 99-96 victory that cut the Thunder’s lead to 2-1 in this best-of-seven, second-round series.

Guess what? Both teams will do it again tonight in Game 4. Tipoff is 9:30 p.m. Central and will air exclusively on TNT and the Thunder Radio Network.

“We knew they were going to approach this game with a lot intensity, being down 0-2,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “We played hard all game. We put ourselves in position to win. That’s all we can do.”

Added guard Russell Westbrook: “We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

The Thunder defense limited the Lakers to 11 field goals in the second half – five in the third quarter, six in the fourth. The difference was at the free-throw line; the Lakers were 41 of 42 from the line for the game, including 27-for-28 in the second half. The Thunder was 26-for-28 from the line for the game, 13-for-14 in both halves.

“We’re a good defensive team,” Brooks said. “We just fouled too many times, that’s the bottom line. Forty-two free throws, 41 makes; it’s hard to win on your opponent’s court when you send them to the line that many times.”

The Thunder defense, a total team effort that started with center Kendrick Perkins and continued with every player who saw playing time, limited the Lakers to one field goal in the final four minutes.

The Thunder twice had five-point leads in the final 6:40 of the game, 83-78 and 92-87. In both instances, those leads were built using the formula Brooks set out in the team’s morning shootaround: getting a defensive stop, rebounding the ball and igniting the fast break.

The Thunder finished with 11 steals and nine blocked shots and held the Lakers to 38.6 percent shooting from the field. The only blemish in its defensive effort was in the foul totals: 30 to the Lakers’ 22.

“We put them on the line. We can’t do that,” Brooks said. “Down the stretch, a couple things that you have to really lock in on is defend without fouling, make them miss a shot and rebound the basketball and not turn it over and get a good shot. “

Still, the Thunder had its chance. A 17-foot jumper by Durant following a time out gave the Thunder its last lead, 94-93 with 1:06 remaining. The Thunder made a defensive stop on the Lakers’ ensuing possession, but could not come up with the rebound. The Lakers did, and Kobe Bryant was fouled. His two free throws with 33.8 to play gave the Lakers a lead they would not lose.

“We fought, they fought, we took the lead and they took the lead,” Durant said. “It was a back-and-forth game. It’s a fun game to play in, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top.”