Following the Los Angeles Lakers loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final score of 119-90 to open their seven game match-up, a reporter asked Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant if his team was capable of guarding the Thunder. Rather than responding; Bryant walked off the podium, ending his interview session with the media. Friday night, the Lakers answered that question on the hardwood in their first game at the Staples Center in this series; as they defeated Oklahoma City by a margin of 99-96 to get their first win in the Western Conference semi-final round. The victory puts Los Angeles back into the series as they now trail the Thunder 2-1 with the fourth game at the Staples Center on Saturday night.
The Lakers would win the contest with clutch shooting at the charity stripe down the stretch along with Bryant scoring 14 of his game high 36 points in the final 12 minutes of action and six of those points at the line in the last 1:08 of the game. Although their shooting percentage at 38.6% (27-70) from the floor for the night was far from impressive; they scored points in key situations throughout the contest.
Los Angeles had their most balanced shooting game so far in the Playoffs as they had six players in double-digits, with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum both notching double-doubles. The tandem of Ramon Sessions as the starter at the point and Steve Blake off the bench held their own against the Thunder’s point guards Russell Westbrook and former Lakers starter Derek Fisher as the pair from Oklahoma City outscored their opponents by just one point in the contest.
Kevin Durant knocked down 31 points for the night while Westbrook and James Harden each added 21 points; but they got far too little help from the rest of their roster to hold on for the victory. The Thunder would come back from a terrible opening period in which they scored just 15 points to hold the lead for much of the final quarter. Oklahoma City bench boss Scott Brooks decided to see if the Lakers would be able to win the game at the stripe rather than allow them to attack the basket at will. Unfortunately for his team, Los Angeles did what they needed to do to get the victory and get a foothold in this series.
It will be interesting to see how the back-to-back games will affect the older legs of the Los Angeles players. The only two series that will have these back-to-back contests will be both matchups played in Los Angeles; as both the Clippers and the Lakers are the lower seeds in their current match-ups. That could also prove to take a toll on the Spurs as well.