Though it took them all 48 minutes of Tuesday evening’s Game 2, the Lakers ultimately prevailed with a 95-92 victory against Oklahoma City behind 39 points and some vintage toughness from Kobe Bryant.
With his father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant seated across from L.A.’s bench, Kobe missed a number of good looks to go 8-for-20 shots in the first three quarters.
But as he’s done so many times when it counts, No. 24 rallied to convert down the stretch. He buried three consecutive jumpers in the middle of the period, then closed the game with another jumper and five makes from the foul line to score 15 of the team’s 22 points.
“One of the best players ever,” said Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “You expect him to make big shots and tonight he did … (but) it’s not about scoring points … he brings that toughness. He was great tonight.”
“I put in a lot, a lot of work over the last month or so every day, just kind of fine-tuning things,” said Bryant, referring to his shooting with a broken finger. “Trying to figure things out with the stroke, trying to get it back to being consistent, and tonight it felt good.”
L.A. certainly needed it, because it was only fellow All-Star Pau Gasol – 25 points and 12 rebounds – from whom else the Lakers got offense. Derek Fisher and Ron Artest made just 2-of-10 shots apiece, while Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum combined to go 5-of-18 as the team shot 37.5 percent overall.
“Our shooting was horrendous tonight,” said Phil Jackson. “Ron, Fish, Lamar, guys that are experienced players in the NBA … We’ll have to shoot much better to beat them in Oklahoma.”
L.A. led by eight after the first quarter, trailed by two at halftime and led by four into the fourth quarter before holding on thanks to Bryant on offense, and the Spaniard’s active hands that helped forced two key turnovers in the final minutes on Kevin Durant.
“Those plays were big,” said Gasol, who impressed with a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double. “Defensively you have to get stops no matter what to win ball games, and that’s what I try to do. I try to be active, and I just tried to help Ron (Artest) as much as I could with active hands.”
Artest was again draped to OKC’s leader throughout the evening, stripping him several times and playing a role in his 12-of-26 shooting. Durant, despite eight turnovers, still had a chance to give his team the lead on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds, but it wasn’t to be.
“Ron has done a great job,” said Odom. “He’s made him take tough shots.”
Durant still managed 32 points, and while Russell Westbrook added 19 with three assists on 5-of-10 shooting and 8-of-8 from the line, the Lakers did a good job of containing his penetration, limiting the Thunder to just an 11-6 edge in fastbreak points.
OKC did manage to block a ridiculous 17 shots, led by seven from sub Serge Ibaka, but their activity left the offensive glass open for the Lakers, who won that category 19-7 and claimed the overall edge on the backboards 49-37.
We’ll have much more from Lakers practice tomorrow, but until then, your numbers.
5 OKC’s edge in fastbreak points, much better than the 14-2 margin it held in Game 1.
8 Turnovers for Kevin Durant, including two crucial cough ups in the final minutes, thanks to Ron Artest (four steals) and Pau Gasol’s helping hands. Durant did manage 32 points on 12-of-26 shooting with eight boards and four blocks.
17 Blocks for the Thunder, the league’s best shot-blocking team in the regular season, though they managed only three swats in Game 1. Serge Ibaka had seven of them himself.
19 Offensive boards for the Lakers, thanks in part to the Thunder’s super-aggressive defensive style, as OKC’s bigs repeatedly went for blocks. L.A. won the overall battle of the glass 49-37.
39 Points from Kobe Bryant to lead all scorers, on 12-of-28 shooting and 13-of-15 from the line. He scored 15 of his points in the fourth quarter and added five boards with two steals and an assist.