Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon home contest against Oklahoma City, the final home game of the regular season as the Lakers look to hold off the Clippers for the No. 3 seed, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Thunder: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins
7:10 A physical first few minutes found the Lakers up 9-8 after two Metta World Peace free throws, which he made despite getting cracked in the nose by an accidental Serge Ibaka elbow, forcing an official’s time out to stop the bleeding.
2:54 A slow-moving game – which is a good thing for the Lakers – had the two Western powers knotted at 15 after a Gasol alley-oop dunk from Sessions, the first points from either Lakers seven footer, going against perhaps the NBA’s best defensive 4-5 combo in Ibaka and Perkins.
0:00 The Lakers have been making the mistake of leaving shooters to over help either on penetration or just in general in the paint, and here it was World Peace helping off Durant on Collison, leaving one of the NBA’s best shooters with a wide open triple that made it 26-20 Thunder after one.
7:05 With a new rotation we haven’t seen this year including Jordan Hill instead of Josh McRoberts or Troy Murphy alongside Gasol, Sessions, Blake and Barnes, L.A. feel behind by as many as 11 before rallying to cut the deficit to two thanks to a 9-0 run.
1:39 And here’s where the whole game, and perhaps L.A.’s roster leading into the playoffs, changed: Metta World Peace, after a big dunk in traffic, celebrated by pounding his chest and throwing an elbow that caught James Harden directly in the head. Harden went down hard, and a few Thunder teammates ran over in World Peace’s direction towards the other basket, Metta not seeming to recognize what happened. Watching the play in real time from midcourt, Peace did not appear to see that Harden was behind him when swinging the elbow, but the replay looked quite bad, causing a wave of tweets from those suggesting it was intentional. All we know for sure is that MWP got ejected with a flagrant two foul, with word of a possible suspension coming likely in the next few days. The dunk had cut OKC’s lead to one, but two foul shots as a result of the flagrant, and two more from Durant had the Thunder lead up to five at the half.
8:45 The Lakers might have expected the Thunder to rally around the flag after seeing Harden go down, and that they did, their intensity sparking an 8-2 run that pushed the lead to 11, matching their biggest in the second quarter. Barnes, who injured his ankle in the first half, was able to return and started the second half in World Peace’s place.
3:06 That wave of momentum from the Thunder continued throughout the period, Durant getting to the line again to make it 70-55, reaching 21 points. Since the MWP ejection, the mojo had just shifted completely, OKC operating at full throttle. Kobe seemed to be still searching for his game legs in his second one back since missing seven contests due to his shin injury, making only 3 of 14 shots towards seven points, with three turnovers.
0:00 The deficit was 16 after three quarters, Kobe/Bynum/Gasol combining for only 26 points on a combined 10 of 36 field goals. Ibaka was everywhere for OKC, going for 18 points, 12 boards and four blocks to lead the Thunder, who were of course without Harden due to that blow to the head.
7:15 L.A. tried to find some life, cutting the lead to 11 after Gasol’s hoop, but Fisher stepped into a three off an offensive board to push it back to 14, the road still looking long and hard on this Sunday.
3:18 The Lakers weren’t dead just yet, using two big three-pointers from Steve Blake to cut the Thunder lead down to just five. Coming back to potentially haunt the Lakers, however, was their free throw shooting, as they made only 18 of 30. Moments later, after Kobe dove full on into the courtside seats to save a possession (almost taking out Denzel and Flea), Ebanks cleared an offensive board, but missed another FT, his one cutting the lead to four.
1:21 Black Mamba. With 1:21 and then 52 seconds to play, Bryant nailed two massive top of the key three-pointers. The first was a running, one-legger to beat the shot clock, the second a pull-up over Sefolosha to put the Lakers suddenly up two points. Amazing to watch…
0:00 But it didn’t quite produce a win, as Westbrook drove full speed into the paint to get two free throws on consecutive trips, the latter two tying the game at 91. Bryant missed a tough shot on the other end, and Durant wasn’t close on a three at the buzzer, meaning: overtime.
1:40 Gasol and Bryant opened the OT with long jumpers from the perimeter, OKC continuing to struggle from the perimeter with Durant missing again, but Westbrook forced his way into the paint to score four more points, his layup tying things up at 97.
0:02.3 Mike Brown stayed with the group that got him there – Blake, Kobe, Ebanks, Hill and Gasol – and it was Ebanks contesting Durant’s final attempt, Durant’s dribble going off Ebanks’ foot, which got Westbrook a buzzer-beating chance off the inbounds pass that he missed. Double OT.
3:55 Gasol’s deep two preceded back to back three-pointers from Blake (with Westbrook flying at him) and Durant (to answer Blake). Durant had been only 9 of 30 from the field before hitting that shot, tying it up at 102.
1:54 Bryant nailed a Dirk-like fadeaway J to give the Lakers a two-point edge, but Durant answered less than a minute later to tie things up at 1:05, the NBA’s top two scorers trying to find the final edge … and Kobe struck next, nailing another tough shot, then converting two free throws in transition to put the Lakers up 108-104 with about 36 seconds left. Making two consecutive huge plays on defense was Ebanks, twice getting his hands in passing lanes, the second one resulting in his two foul shots on the other end (both makes) to put L.A. up 110-104 with 24 seconds left, all but sealing it.
0:00 What a game. On Kobe’s willpower, the Lakers came all the way back from a game that seemed long ago dead, getting six straight free throws in the final minute to seal the deal at 114-106. With the win, L.A. clinched at worst the No. 4 seed, and can get the No. 3 seed with either a win at Sacramento or a Clippers loss in any of their final three games. Kobe had 26 points, eight dimes and six boards, Gasol 20, 14 and 9, Jordan Hill 14 points and 15 boards and Steve Blake 13 points, five boards and three assists. We’ll see you next time.