LAL 99, OKC 96: Game 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening Game 3 2nd Round playoff game vs. Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a crushing last-minute loss in Game 2, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
OKC: R. Westbrook, T. Sefolosha, K. Durant, S. Ibaka, K. Perkins

FIRST QUARTER
9:25 The first two minutes were for L.A. a very strong continuation of the solid defense they played in Game 2, the Thunder missing all five of their attempts, while a bucket each from every starter but World Peace had L.A. up 8-0, causing OKC’s time out.

4:12 The trend continued despite a line up shift from OKC, putting Westbrook on the bench in favor of Fisher and moving Durant to the four (Harden and Sefolosha on the wings, Perkins remaining inside), with Bryant’s third field goal making it 18-6 for the home team. Two standing ovations had already come out of a frenzied STAPLES crowd, appreciating a terrific effort full of ball movement on O and aggression on D.

2:34 Harden did stop the run with consecutive drives to draw two Kobe fouls (3 of 4 free throws) while going hard to the hoop with his head down, and Fisher converted a transition finger roll after Blake’s turnover. So L.A. had finally cooled off, but still led 18-11 into their first time out. At quarter’s end, the lead was 23-15, the third consecutive excellent defensive quarter (if you take out the final two minutes of Game 2, of course). All five starters scored, with the corner three from World Peace giving him the lowest point total.

SECOND QUARTER
6:10 With Bryant and Bynum resting on the bench, LAL’s second unit conceded an 18-9 run to OKC, fueled mostly by Harden’s penetration off pick and rolls (12 points), while Durant’s triple capped a run to make it 33-32 OKC. The lead, as large as 12 in the first quarter, was thus gone alone with the momentum.

3:50 Our first bit of legit testiness came as World Peace tried to tie Westbrook up while OKC’s PG was on the ground, Westbrook taking exception and swiping out at MWP, but matching T’s were the only result as the refs did a good job of breaking up the respective teams. L.A. had re-taken the lead with four consecutive Bryant free throws, helped on by Jordan Hill’s activity inside on the glass (plus his huge swat of Durant).

0:00 A buzzer-beating triple from World Peace, who barely had time to collect the Sessions pass before firing, allowed L.A. a 50-47 lead heading into the break. A concern, however, was the defense, which conceded 32 Thunder points after just 15 were allowed in the first quarter. OKC improved from 30 percent to 41 percent overall with the hot second period, LAL hanging around 44.4 percent, and getting 15 of 15 makes at the foul line.

THIRD QUARTER
6:07 A 13-6 run out of the half from the visitors allowed their biggest lead of the game, at 60-56, behind Kevin Durant. With LAL’s trapping of Westbrook on pick and rolls working well, the Thunder put the ball in Durant’s hands, and his scoring (two field goals) and play-making (dish for a Sefolosha three) taking advantage of two unforced Lakers turnovers.

1:49 With OKC in the bonus, LAL was pleased to see Fisher get switched over to Kobe, as they banged on each other until Fish was called for the foul, allowing Kobe to make the 21st and 22nd Lakers free throws in as many attempts. He was 10 of 10 and Bynum 8 of 8, allowing L.A. to trim what had been a 7-point lead to one. That would be the margin after three, L.A. improving to a perfect 24 for 24 as Blake FT’s countered two from Durant (23 points, one more than Kobe).

FOURTH QUARTER
10:00 Mike Brown decided to keep both Bynum and Gasol in to start the fourth, resting only Kobe (Blake in with the starters), and four straight free throws from the bigs (team now 28 for 28) got LAL the lead back. However, the Lakers couldn’t keep OKC off the line either, particularly Harden, who hit four more freebies of his own (9 of 10 total) to make it 74-73.

6:40 James Harden continued to absolutely kill the Lakers, drawing consecutive fouls in about a five-second stretch (neither of which featured hardly any contact), two bonus free throws preceding a Durant layup (from Harden) and then Harden’s transition three off a Barnes turnover.

3:25 An off ball foul on Harden put Kobe at the line, and two more makes cut OKC’s lead to one. It helped a struggling half court LAL offense that did manage to get five straight points all from Steve Blake (a pull-up J and a line-drive triple), but was otherwise having a hard time getting anything going inside. Bynum was only 2 for 12, getting pushed out of his favored spots by Perkins.

1:09 An extremely timely 6-0 Lakers run, fueled by Kobe with a driving layup and then two free throws, erased a 5-point lead to make it 93-92 Lakers, much to the pleasure of the standing STAPLES Center.

0:09.8 After blowing Game 2 in the final two minutes, the Lakers erased a 5-point lead in the final two minutes of this one, with Bryant sealing the win at the foul line, going a perfect 18 for 18 (the team was 41 of 42), his final two with nine seconds left protecting a 99-96 margin. OKC didn’t have any time outs, and thus had to settle for Durant’s 30-foot attempt which actually just missed. Ibaka got the board with three seconds left, but inexplicably tried to stick it back in instead of kicking out for a three. Bynum swatted him, the horn sounding moments later, LAL securing a comeback victory to make it a 2-1 series heading into Saturday’s Game 4. We’ll see you there.