Lakers Lose Control Late, Drop Game 3

60242050En route to winning the 2009 NBA title, the Lakers won at least one road game in every playoff series, including two straight in the Finals to beat Orlando.

On Thursday night in Oklahoma City, the Purple and Gold looked every bit the part in controlling the contest … at least until the end of the third quarter, when everything turned the other way as an impressive rally from the Thunder enabled a surprising come-from-behind victory in the first ever playoff game at the Ford Center.

The Lakers had opened the game on a 10-0 run, using a wild-and-crazy home crowd against the Thunder, and left the first half with seven-point lead that remained at eight with 1:59 to go in the third. But then came a quick 8-1 OKC run to close the quarter, cutting L.A.’s lead to just one heading into the fourth quarter.

60241429In the final period, Kobe Bryant went suddenly and unexpectedly cold, missing all but two of his 10 shots as the Thunder rode the wave of momentum created in the third all the way through, winning the fourth 27-21 to win 101-96.

After L.A. had effectively quieted a terrific crowd, the seal was broken for good.

“It was phenominal, man,” said Kevin Durant, who finished with 29 points and 19 rebounds despite struggling with his shooting (8-of-24 FG’s). “I couldn’t hear myself at one point. They kept us in the game.”

The Lakers didn’t make it easy, however, rallying back from a 90-82 deficit behind Derek Fisher’s fourth three, Lamar Odom’s first three and two Ron Artest deep twos to get within two with 1:03 remaining when Pau Gasol hit two free throws. But then Durant drew an off-ball foul on Artest to get to the line, the place Phil Jackson said was the biggest reason the Thunder won the game.

“The key factor was the free throws,” said L.A.’s head coach in describing the Thunder’s 34-12 advantage in attempts. “That has to do with their aggressiveness.”

Jackson also noted L.A.’s struggle to get the ball inside after the first quarter, crediting the Thunder’s ball pressure, as the Lakers hoisted an all-time playoff-high tying 31 3-pointers.

“Too many,” said Pau Gasol, who attempted just 12 shots himself, and Andrew Bynum nine. “We tend to settle.”

For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, highlighted by a big one-handed dunk that started the late third quarter run and 3-pointer with 3:02 to play (despite his 22 percent 3-point percentage), and James Harden added 18 points off the bench after failing to score in limited minutes in Los Angeles.

“I thought that was a good team win,” said Scott Brooks. “Everybody chipped in, made plays that helped us win the game.”

Gasol had a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double for the Lakers, Derek Fisher added 17 points including 4-of-5 3-pointers and Andrew Bynum scored 13 points with seven boards in the loss.

The Lakers will try and bounce back on Saturday evening, but until then, your numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
1 Of 10 shots made by Kobe Bryant in an uncharacteristic fourth quarter. He led the Lakers with 24 points and eight assists, but took 29 shots.

3 Blocked shots for the Thunder a game after swatting 17 shots in L.A.; OKC instead grabbed 14 offensive boards after getting just seven in Game 2.

19 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, helping to make up for a slow shooting night (4-of-17 through three quarters, 8-of-24 overall).

22 More free throws attempted by the Thunder than the Lakers (34-12), which Phil Jackson said was the biggest reason for L.A.’s loss (crediting OKC’s aggressiveness).

31 Three-pointers hoisted by the Lakers, tying an all-time playoff high. Jackson bemoaned the team’s failure to get the ball inside particularly late in the game.