Thunder Closes Game 4 With Gritty 25-9 Run
LOS ANGELES – It started slowly, with no hint of what was to come. A basket here, a defensive stop there; whatever fuels momentum, the Thunder was willing to fight to keep it going now that it finally was on its side.
Because for 39 minutes and 58 seconds in Game 4 Saturday night, there was no momentum, at least not for the Thunder.
The Los Angeles Lakers were methodically going about their mission to knot the best-of-seven, second-round series at 2-2. The Lakers led 29-24 after the first quarter, 56-46 at halftime and 80-71 heading into the final quarter.
“We just couldn’t get that lead down,” Thunder guard Russell Westbrook said. “We’d get it to six or eight, they’d score and take it back to 10 or more.”
With 8:02 remaining, the Thunder trailed 91-78, the second time in the second half it faced a 13-point deficit.
But instead of getting frustrated, the Thunder chose to fight. It did so with a 25-9 run to end the game in a 103-100 victory and take a 3-1 lead in the series before a stunned and mostly silent Staples Center crowd.
“The win was an amazing win,” said Westbrook, who finished with 37 points. “You know, everybody just kept fighting, we all believed in each other.”
Unlike the previous three quarters, the Thunder finally was able to string together consecutive baskets and just as important, get defensive stops and secure defensive rebounds. In a blink, the 13-point deficit was down to single digits. Less than five minutes later, the game was tied at 96-96.
“Our guys really did a good job of fighting, not giving up and making basketball-winning plays after another,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks said.
Leading the charge was Westbrook, who bounced back from a scary moment at halftime that saw the two-time All-Star laying on the court surrounded by his teammates and coaches after slipping on the floor. Westbrook returned with his team after halftime and carried the Thunder with a gritty 13-point performance in the third quarter to keep the Thunder within striking distance.
He was only getting warmed up.
Following a 3-pointer by Derek Fisher and two free throws from Kevin Durant, Westbrook scored nine consecutive Thunder points in a stretch of 2:17 in the fourth quarter, re-energizing his team and essentially telling a national television audience: This game isn’t over.
"That's what he does,” Thunder guard James Harden said of Westbrook. “He has a battery pack in his back. He can play all four quarters and he willed his way. He's done that so many times throughout this entire season and since he's been in the NBA. So it's no surprise, but he really stepped up big."
After Westbrook’s final basket, a 17-foot pull-up jumper, the Thunder trailed only 96-92 with 4:15 to remaining.
With the offense rolling, the Thunder cranked up the defensive heat. It forced the Lakers into several bad shots and two turnovers down the stretch, the last a steal by Durant of a Pau Gasol pass that resulted in a Durant 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds to play that gave the Thunder a 101-98 lead.
“We locked in on the defensive end,” Brooks said. “Kevin played the passing lane and he was active with his hands. Kevin’s a great defender, that’s what makes him a special player. He can play both ends of the floor.”
Durant finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and a block.