Read about the Lakers vs. Thunder as it unfolds. As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.
Lakers: Pau Gasol
Thunder: Ryan Bowen, Byron Mullens, Kyle Weaver
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum
Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic
Phil Jackson Pregame
The gist of Jackson’s pregame was to update Kobe Bryant’s health (fever subsided, will start) and address Gasol’s hamstring (MRI still pending, won’t play).
11:46 Does Kobe Bryant play better when he’s not feeling great? He started the game be going straight to the hoop, drawing a foul for two free throws, though he did air ball his second shot. No matter as Bynum followed with a baby hook, Odom offensive boarded that Bryant miss for an Artest three and Bynum ooped off Kobe’s alley for a quick 9-0 lead two minutes into the game.
5:00 Keeping the Thunder in the game early was Jeff Green, the former No. 5 overall pick, who hit three rather uncontested threes to pull OKC within seven at 22-15. Bynum was very effective underneath, converting 4-of-5 shots including two dunks. In related news, Bynum is tall.
0:05.4 Oklahoma City went on an 8-0 run to get within seven as the first quarter drew to a close, as L.A. began to mix a few subs into the action. Kevin Durant led the way with 12 points (3-of-6 FG, 6-of-6 FT), while Bryant matched him with 12 of his own. Lamar Odom was again terrific for the Lakers, making 3-of-4 shots for six points with five rebounds and two assists. Still, L.A. had taken its collective foot off the pedal a bit heading into the second quarter.
8:49 Generally, Lamar Odom is able to provide a big matchup edge against second units of opposing teams, but in the absence of Pau Gasol, Odom’s is often on the bench at the beginning of the second. Still, it was hard work more than anything that had the Thunder chop four quick points off L.A.’s lead, with three put-back layups by Durant (two) and Etan Thomas.
2:48 OKC put Etan Thomas into the game to better deal with Bynum, and his toughness defensively helped OKC cede fewer layups defensively. Yet after another Thunder run, Bynum broke through for an easy basket that gave the Lakers a 46-43 lead into a Thunder timeout. L.A. had made 70.6 percent of its first quarter shots, and while slowing down a bit in the second were still shooting at a 61.3 percent clip at this point. The Thunder had used offensive boards (six) and Lakers turnovers (seven) to keep things tight.
0:09.4 Moments earlier, it appeared that the Lakers had regained control of the game after hoops by Bynum, Fisher and Bynum again put L.A. up by nine. But for the second straight quarter, the Lakers allowed an 8-0 Thunder run that produced just a one-point lead (52-51) for L.A. heading into halftime. Meanwhile, the Red Panda (lady who flips bowls onto her head while riding a unicycle) came on to do her act. This would normally be good news, but since many opponents save one of the better halftime acts for the sure-to-be-well-attended Lakers game, I’ve seen her about 45 times. Whatever, she’s still impressive. Respect.
At the half, L.A. was still shooting a terrific 59.5 percent from the floor, but had nine turnovers and 15 personal fouls to just six and six (respectively) from the Thunder. Durant led all scorers with 20 points, with Green adding 13. Bynum paced L.A. with 16 points and four boards (one more rebound than he grabbed against Atlanta) and Bryant had 14 with four assists and two steals.
7:08 Unlike the first quarter, the Thunder were able to trade blows with L.A. in the third, going back and forth on the scoreboard to a 64-63 Lakers lead into the first time out. The Thunder, second youngest team in the league, had their collective gas tank full but were missing some open looks.
4:20 Bynum was the first to 20 points after another easy bucket inside, but Thabo Sefolosha’s three-pointer (just the fourth in 13 attempts for OKC) tied the game at 66.
0:38.3 Bryant had done a solid job Durant throughout the third, holding him to six points on 2-for-8 shooting until Durant grabbed his own miss and laid it home to put OKC on top by two to close the third (73-71), its biggest lead to that point. L.A. had gotten very little from its bench other than two buckets from Josh Powell, as Sasha Vujacic had the unit’s only other bucket. On the bright side, all L.A.’s bench players have a ring.
9:13 With Bryant and Odom resting on the bench, the Lakers turned to Artest on offense, and he responded with two straight jumpers – the second a three – to tie the game at 77 after OKC had sprinted out to its biggest lead. When Pau Gasol returns for L.A., the Lakers will have four players who can run an offense … no small feat.
2:44 Bryant drove hard to the hoop and drew a foul, sinking both free throws to give L.A. its biggest lead of the quarter at five, then responded to a 5-0 OKC run with a baseline jumper to put L.A. up two with 1:30 remaining.
0:49.9 Jeff Green pulled up for a long two to tie the game, and Sefolosha nearly stole the ball from Bryant before Kobe gathered in time to launch a desperation three that was well short. Thunder ball, 25.9 to play, 90-90…
0:02.7 After Durant airballed a deeeeeep three with Artest in front of him, the Lakers had a chance for a buzzer-beater, but Sefolosha got a hand on the inbounds pass intended to Bryant to force overtime.
3:27 Odom proved that his 50 percent plus three-point shooting in the playoffs last season was not a mirage, nailing from the corner without hesitation to put L.A. up 97-93.
2:23 Bryant responded to four straight Thunder points that tied the game with a 17-foot turnaround, his 29th point to lead all scorers.
0:10 Westbrook’s potential game-tying three rimmed out after Odom missed two free throws, and the game – finally – was won by the Lakers.
With the way L.A. opened the game, shooting over 70 percent and scoring almost at will particularly in the paint, it had appeared as if the Thunder would be run out of their own gym on a pleasant evening in Oklahoma City. Behind 12 first quarter points from Kobe Bryant, eight from Andrew Bynum and five boards with two assists from Lamar Odom, the Lakers charged to a 30-17 lead.
As it turned out, getting a victory would be anything but easy after the Thunder, bolstered by a crowd that may have been confused into thinking it was a Sooners football game, charged the young squad throughout the final three quarters that ultimately ended in a 90-90 tie.
Before the game, the headline story was that Kobe Bryant was suffering from a sore throat and fever (though his fever had subsided by game time). And while Bryant still managed to be effective yet again down the stretch, he had a whole lot of help from Ron Artest, who not only draped himself to the body of Kevin Durant but also carried the offensive weight with Bryant resting to start the quarter (five-straight points) but then came up with two big steals in the waning moments, the second of which resulted in his own layup. But still, the Thunder wouldn’t go away, forcing OT when Jeff Green hit a deep jumper to tie the game and L.A. couldn’t get off a final shot.
OT went just as the final three quarters had, back and forth, blow for blow until finally, L.A.’s experience won in the end, the Thunder unable to convert offensively while a Lamar Odom three and the final four points from Bryant (31 total) preserved a 101-98 victory. Twice, the Thunder had chances to tie, but Westbrook and Sefolosha both missed threes – the final attempt after two missed Odom free throws – as the Lakers eagerly ran off the floor.
With four starters (Bryant, Bynum, Artest and Odom) playing at least 42 minutes, the Lakers may be a bit tired tomorrow evening in Houston, yet they still got what they came for in Oklahoma City.