Monthly Archive for May, 2012

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Josh McRoberts: 2012 Exit Interview

Josh McRoberts appeared in 50 regular season games, starting six, and did a lot of the team’s dirty work while averaging 2.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor. He played a total of 16 minutes in the postseason.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak & Mike Brown: “It was pretty quick; we didn’t talk too much, just talked about things to work on throughout the summer and looked forward to next year. I think my biggest thing is to continue to work on shooting the ball. That’s my biggest thing.

- With Andrew Bynum suspended for the season’s first four games, McRoberts started and played well. As he recalls: “It was a lot of fun, a new experience coming here and getting an opportunity to play right away. It was kind of a whirlwind.” Unfortunately, McRoberts sprained his big toe (which is worse than it sounds, as it basically keeps players from being able to run and jump close to full speed), and by the time he got better had fallen out of those regular rotation minutes.

- It was a tricky season for new players like McRoberts, signed just before the super-shortened training camp, to find a way to fit in and establish oneself especially in a front court where playing time was dominated by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum: “Finding a comfort level this year was a little bit tough on everybody with a shortened season and no practice, especially for a guy in my position coming into a new place where you don’t really have time to prove yourself in training camp. Not to make any excuses, but that’s different from what we’re used to … it’s a challenge. You want to be out there, you want to play.” A really good teammate liked by everybody, McRoberts credited the guys that got and earned the playing time even as he coveted it like every player does.

- McRoberts said he felt the locker room was very confident that “we could continue winning” and meet the goals they had coming into the season. Of course, it didn’t play out as any of the players expected, and thus the disappointment both as a team and individually, not getting to contribute what he had hoped he would.

- On if he could have helped the team with his athleticism: “I would have loved to be out there. I would have done everything I could to try and help.”

- McRoberts is eager to prove himself next season after essentially falling out of the rotation as Jordan Hill emerged in the second-to-last regular season game. McRoberts acknowledged that Hill played well in the time he had, and Mike Brown thus stuck with the rotation. But he’s confident that he’ll prepare himself the right way in the offseason and have a chance to show what he can do starting in training camp for the 2012-13 season.

Andrew Bynum: 2012 Exit Interview

In Andrew Bynum’s best season of his young career, the 24-year-old posted impressive numbers in his first All-Star campaign: 18.7 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting wtih 11.8 rebounds and 1.93 blocks. He missed only one game due to injury and looked strong physically throughout the campaign.

In the postseason, Bynum dealt with constant double teams to average 16.7 points on 47.7 percent field goals with 11.1 boards and 3.08 blocks per evening.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- The Lakers have an option year on Andrew Bynum’s contract, but have not yet said anything official. Here’s a collection of Bynum’s responses to whether or not he’ll be a Laker into next year and the future:”I don’t expect to hear my name as a possible trade, but I think anything could happen. My job is to play basketball. I love it, so it could take place anywhere. Obviously I want to be a Laker, but (who knows what will happen) … I don’t want to go anywhere … hopefully if I keep elevating my play, I won’t have to.”

- Bynum was asked several questions about his personality, and how he’ll always say what is on his mind. At times, that got him “in the news” this season, but he maintained that he’s going to simply say what’s on his mind and be honest, and not worry about how it’s interpreted as it’s out of his control. “I like telling the truth, what’s on my mind and how I feel … people will read three to four words and take what they want from there. My statements are a bit long-winded at times, and the whole statement should be heard … I don’t plan on monitoring my comments … I don’t really care if you guys criticize me. I have to go play regardless of what you guys write or do.” Have to respect his honesty; many athletes, and people in general, don’t say what’s on their mind and stand by it. He’s not malevolent in any way about this, he just is going to say what he thinks.

- On taking his game to the next level: Bynum recognizes that what makes someone a superstar is being able to bring it every night, not just most. He acknowledged that despite a solid all-around season, there were spots in which he didn’t bring his best effort, and that’s what’s most difficult. He understands that to be a super star, there can’t be off nights. “It’s hard for anyone to focus at all times; that’s what makes people get to that superstar status, when they’re able to do that four out of five games. That’s the next level for me.”

- On the major importance of his health: “I stayed healthy, which was a big thing. While the shortened season was a lot harder on the body and not having time to recover, it also kind of keeps you in rhythm.” This was the first season in four that Bynum came into fully healthy, and then went on to maintain his health throughout. “My body feels great,” he continued. “I have a solid plan that’s been working for me. In July and August, I’ll be in Atlanta, training. It’s great because I get to add to my game. I don’t have to worry about surgeries, talking time to rebuild myself. It’s definitely a different feel (from the past).

- Furthermore, Bynum is “most definitely” considering the treatment that Kobe received in Germany, not because he’s hurt – he’s not – but because it can generally improve things: “Nothing feels wrong … it’s supposed to regenerate tissue and stuff like that.”

- Bynum acknowledged that things got more difficult in the playoffs as he was literally double- and triple-teamed throughout the playoffs by Denver and Oklahoma City as soon as he caught a pass. “I guess it’s a sign of respect.” Bynum said he’d take that into account in the offseason as he works on his game, and plans to come back with a 15-18 foot jump shot, in addition to a turnaround jumper so that he shoot away from the double (sort of like Kobe does so well). With his soft touch, he’s certainly capable of doing so, and if you watch him shoot in practice, he routinely drills that shot.

- Bynum loves Pau Gasol. “We’ve grown a lot on and off the court … when we both come and play strong it’s tough on the other team.” Gasol really helped Bynum grow this season, taking on a facilitating role and posting up far less often in order to get Bynum increased touches and put him in better positions. Bynum certainly appreciates that.

- Bynum said his relationship with Mike Brown grew “a lot” over the season, as Brown had an open door policy and Bynum could express himself when he wanted to. That was different from Bynum’s relationship with Phil Jackson, which he implied was less open.

- Like the rest of his teammates, Bynum laments the two games he felt the Lakers “gave away” to Oklahoma City. Without discrediting how hard the Thunder worked to win Games 2 and 4, it simply feels like a huge missed opportunity for Bynum. “This group definitely can win … this team is capable.”

- Bynum on his relationship with Kobe: “Not much more (developed) than it has in the past. We were cool on and off the court; he always tries to motivate me and show me little things whether it’s watching tape or taking care of your body.” Bynum said both making the All-Star team was good for them, but Kobe’s always trying to give him confidence and motivation.

- Bynum said that at times he was great, at times poor in the season, but overall felt it was very successful (which it was, just look at his numbers and how many games he dominated despite a few down spells). He went on: “It sucks to have ended in this fashion, but there’s room to grow and now I’m focusing on that. Bynum said he can see himself transitioning into a superstar, with bringing his A game consistently being the major factor.

- Bynum reflected back to the Dallas series in the 2011 playoffs, relaying that it taught him that you can’t underestimate your opponent. He cited Dirk Nowitzki’s ridiculous performance (“He was phenominal”) but implied he and the Lakers didn’t approach that series the right way (or maybe they were just exhausted after three straight trips to the Finals). The series vs. OKC, on the other hand: “We shot ourselves in the foot. We played well enough to win in a lot of those games; to come out with that result is tough, but all you can learn from it is to always be in the moment and staying focused on the next play.”

- Bynum acknowledged that he has lots of grey hair as a 24-year-old, smiling as he explained it was better to have hair than not. Both of his parents are all grey, apparently.

- In conclusion, Bynum said his No. 1 priority would be to stay in Los Angeles. He’d much prefer being a Laker than shaking up his life by being traded to another team.

Bryant Named to All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team

For the 12th time in his 16 seasons, Kobe Bryant was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team, earning his third Second Team nod after six straight First Team appearances from 2006-2011.

Here are the two teams, as voted upon by the NBA’s 30 head coaches:

NBA All-Defensive First Team: Chris Paul, Tony Allen, LeBron James, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard

NBA All-Defensive Second Team: Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, Luol Deng, Kevin Garnett, Tyson Chandler

Bryant was named to the First Team in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, and the Second in 2001, 2002 and this season.

He received 17 total points, with seven first team votes and three second team votes, getting the fourth guard spot. Andre Iguodala actually received more overall points with 19 (four first team votes), but was the fifth forward on the list.

Bryant was helped by the rim protection of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and by Metta World Peace taking on the challenge of defending the opponent’s best perimeter player on most nights, though in the postseason Bryant did step up to take on many difficult assignments particularly late in games. He’d likely admit that his defense throughout a full game isn’t what it once was, when his legs were younger, but he clearly retains the full respect of the NBA’s head coaches.

Devin Ebanks: 2012 Exit Interview

Devin Ebanks started 12 games for the Lakers in 2011-12, including seven for Kobe Bryant when No. 24 went down with his shin injury, and played in a backup capacity in 12 other contest to average 4.0 points, and 2.3 rebounds per game.

He started six of the team’s seven first round playoff games with Metta World Peace serving a suspension, and averaged 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds in his 14 minutes per game.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown: “They had a lot of good things to say. They liked the way I played to start the season, and when I was thrown back out there. I got a lot of encouraging things (said) up there and it’s going to motivate me to work harder and come back ready for next season.”

On if he thinks he’ll be a Laker next season: “That’s something we still have to work out, me and my agent have to speak about it with Mitch, but I’d definitely love to stay here in L.A. and continue my career here.” Ebanks said it’ll be a process for each side to figure it all out, as he’ll both listen to the Lakers and also see if other teams are interested. Ebanks said he felt that the Lakers were “pretty interested” in him.

On getting some more opportunity this season: “This was my first year getting time on the court, so there were a lot of things I learned out there and a lot of things I improved upon. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready, and if my number is called, (I was) ready to perform.”

- Ebanks saw time at both the 2 and the 3 this season filling in for injured/suspended Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, but he could also play some stretch 4 in the future depending on how his game develops. If he develops some additional strength, he does have the length to have success at that position. “I believe so … that’s going to come with me working on my body and being able to bang and stretch out as well, it’s just one of the facets of my game I need to work on this summer.”

- Ebanks will spend most of his offseason working out at the team’s facility, he said, though that might depend on what happens in his conversations with Kupchak.

Jordan Hill: 2012 Exit Interview

Jordan Hill, acquired at the trade deadline from Houston in the Derek Fisher deal, played in only seven regular season games for the Lakers while battling a sprained knee, but came on so strong against Oklahoma City in the second-to-last contest that he earned a spot as the third big in Mike Brown’s rotation behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

In the playoffs, Hill averaged 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds (third on the team) in 18.1 minutes per game.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

On what Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown had to say about the free-agent-to-be big man: “My productivity and how I changed the game when I’m in the game. Good things. They just want me to continue to do what I’m doing … obviously I’m a free agent right now, and I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just have to keep working.”

On if he’d like to come back? “Yeah, I mean it’s one of if not the best organizations in the league and I had a great time in the short time I was here. The staff, the players, everybody … I enjoyed it.” Hill said the Lakers were definitely a good fit for him, but implied that what he’s especially good at – like rebounding – can be used on any team.

- When asked about Mike Brown, Hill said it was clear that the coach “Just wanted to win.” He also recalled the time that Brown called him at 2 a.m. after the team was blown out in San Antonio on April 20: “I was definitely surprised. We talked a little bit, and he said we need more rebounding and energy, and I just stayed ready. The next game against Oklahoma City I just did what I had to do, and kept going with it.” Hill grabbed 15 rebounds with his 14 points in that double OT Lakers victory, delivering what Brown asked for and more.

- On playing with Bynum and Gasol: “They’re definitely hard workers, man. Like me they want to win and get better. Definitely two great All-Stars, it was a blast playing along with them. That’s why I definitely didn’t try to concentrate on scoring, because that’s what they do, so I tried to get an offensive rebound and pass out so they’d get a chance to score. I love offensive rebounding, that’s one way to get my points. But I just want to do things to help my team win, work hard on the floor and hopefully get a championship one day.”

On playing with Kobe: “I never thought that would happen to me, playing alongside one of the greatest. People would think he’d be a different guy because of who he is, but Kobe’s just like one of us. Have fun, smile, laugh, jokes – it was crazy seeing all that. But when it’s time for the game, that’s what he’s about.”

- Hill let out a deep sigh when thinking about all the struggles he’s been through in his life, overcoming the odds by making NBA roster. “I just have to keep my head up high.” Hill’s done a lot of moving, has had to learn a lot of systems, but he understand that things happen in the business. He wants to “find a home.”

Ramon Sessions: 2012 Exit Interview

Ramon Sessions had immediate success upon being acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline, averaging 12.7 points on 47.9 percent shooting and 48.6 percent from three plus 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

His production tailed off in the postseason, when in 12 games he averaged 9.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds while struggling from the field, shooting 37.7 percent from the floor and just 16.0 percent (4 of 25) from three as the offense ran much more through Kobe Bryant.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- Sessions described how it was a dream come true for him to be put in this situation, that he learned a lot from his first playoff experience and first time on a team with a winning record, which he called a “dream come true.” Of course, he was disappointed that it ended when it did, calling it “too soon.” There’s an unfulfilled feeling there, but Sessions was generally thrilled to have the chance to be a Laker.

- Next season? Sessions has a player option for next season that he’ll need to decide whether to pick up by June 20: “Definitely hope to be here. Hopefully everything works out … we’ll just see what happens. I haven’t thought about it yet, the season just got over. I’ll take some time to reflect.” Sessions denied reports about him either picking up or waiving his player option year, and said he simply had yet to make a decision.

- On what will go into his decision: “Tomorrow is not promised. It’s not something I’m weighing everything on, because I was fortunate to get one deal, and financially is not an issue, so I’m definitely going to look at how can I become a complete player, one of the top guards in the league, the best situation, the best winning experience. I just want to win, there’s no secret about it.”

- On if the Lakers is the right fit for him: “I think so. With my game maturing more, with me being able to knock down that (jump) shot. I know I can make it work … in my career I always played with the ball in my hand, but this summer I’ll work at playing off the ball more and making that better.”

- He plans on working on every aspect of his game in the offseason, including spot-up shooting, ball-handling and the like, but more specifically on the types of shots he knows he’d get playing with the Lakers. Sessions thinks that he can fit in with L.A. however they’re playing, whether slowing it down or speeding it up. He’d really be helped by a training camp and practices to determine what to do, where to do it and when to do so. He’d like to become better at knowing the personnel and how to run the team, which was more difficult due to such a lack of time he had in the purple and gold.

- On if his shooting struggles in the playoffs had to do with trying to get the ball to the bigs or Kobe more and not being in a rhythm: “It’s tough to figure out, because the offense changes a little more than in the regular season, but there were still shots that I was getting that I’d knock down if I got them tomorrow,” he said. “Sometimes they just don’t go in, that’s how basketball goes sometimes.”

- Sessions felt like the Lakers simply needed to be consistent for 48 minutes, which was a problem all season and in the playoffs, and lamented letting “some slip away” against Oklahoma City. “We played a great 46 minutes of basketball” in Game 2, he said, and 42 minutes in Game 4. That’ll hurt in the offseason.

- On what needs to improve defensively: “Just sticking my nose in there a little more on the weak side. A lot of little things. When you’re on teams that are rebuilding, defense is not the most important thing, so you don’t really see the little things. But when you’re playing with a championship team like the Lakers, those little things – like a box out or chasing the guard all the way through, things you can get away with on a rebuilding team – are big when you’re trying to win a championship.

- Sessions and his dog Sesh will return to Atlanta for the offseason as he makes his decision and works on his game.

Troy Murphy: 2012 Exit Interview

Troy Murphy appeared in 59 games for the Lakers in the regular season, averaging 3.2 points with 3.2 rebounds while making 28 of 67 three pointers (41.8 percent). He played 15 total minutes in the postseason, as Jordan Hill claimed the majority of backup big man minutes behind Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Below is a summary of Murphy’s exit interview:

On his season as a whole: “I enjoyed playing here. Unfortunately it ended sooner than we’d expected. I’m going to take some time off and collect my thoughts and see what the future has in store … It was an honor to play here. So much history, great fans, great players and every year you know you’re going to be playing for a championship. It’s a real honor.”

On having to stay ready. “It was tough being in and out of the rotation, but when my number was called, I tried to go out there and do what the coaches asked of me, and stay ready for when they called.”

On staying healthy: “It was huge for me to be able to be healthy the entire time after (being hurt last season) was tough, so I feel good about that.”

- Murphy explained that the offense was designed to utilized the size advantage the Lakers had, and that no team in the league had better bigs. His role was basically to space the floor for either Bynum or Gasol, and rebound the ball on the other end. But more specifically, Murphy got into how the league is in terms of “stretch 4′s” like himself, and how Gasol essentially had to play out of position and sacrifice much of his game: “The way our I think it’s based on the personnel. You look at a team like San Antonio that was a low post dominating team for many years, and as Tim Duncan has gotten older they’re relying more on the 3-point shot, so they have a guy like Matt Bonner space the floor for them.”

And that, said Murphy, is why not having camp or much time to practice was difficult for the Lakers: “I think that’s where the abbreviated season was a detriment to us, trying to figure out with those three guys that can each post up and command a double team where to put those guys. That’s a hard thing. Other teams have been together know where guys are going to go and how to play off each other.”

- More specifically on Gasol: “I think Pau is a different kind of animal because most guys that are stretch fours are as good as Pau is in the post. You might think Pau is better in the post than he is as a stretch four. He can command a double team and is effective in both areas, so you don’t really want to take that away from him as much. It’s a tough thing for him to try and balance out when to play inside and when to be that stretch guy because he has the ability to do both.”

And finally, what stood about about playing with Kobe: He makes some impossibly difficult shots every game. His basketball IQ is by far greater than anybody I’ve ever played with. He understands where the defense is coming from, where he’s going to be open, and that was very impressive just observing that situation. He makes it easier for guys because he gets double-teamed … he’s just a great player.

Metta World Peace: 2012 Exit Interview

Metta World Peace overcame a slow start to the 2011-12 season – plagued by offseason injury during the lockout – by rallying after the All-Star break, his numbers jumping to 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.08 steals on 43 percent field goals and 33.1 percent on threes compared to 4.9 points, 5.9 boards, 4.0 assists and 1.72 steals on 33.5 percent field goals and 23.9 percent three pointers.

In the playoffs, MWP went for 11.7 points plus 3.5 boards, 2.3 assists and 2.17 steals on 36.7 percent field goals.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On still believing the Lakers should be playing: “Definitely underachieved. We’re the best team in the NBA, lost in five, we should be up 3-2 playing tomorrow. But the better team (OKC) that took advantage of the moment, of their time, seized it and they grabbed it and held onto it. We gotta find a way to hold onto our moments.”

- On next season, while describing his slow start: “I gotta come back just how I left off. I was playing at a high level and need to be able to stay there. The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back … once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape. I was hitting the front of the rim a lot at the beginning of the season, but as I got in shape, shots started to go right. I started to get a lot of dunks … that was only because I was in shape.”

- Metta says that several of the Lakers need to trust themselves more and not depend on Kobe so much. “Mitch brought you here for a reason,” as he put it. He said it can be difficult to play with Kobe while thinking about his greatness and legacy, that teammates – not himself – had a problem being assertive knowing that Kobe was there. He has a good point, but it can be a chicken and egg argument. Is that lack of aggression at times because Kobe is extra aggressive? For World Peace, at least, that stopped being an issue; he didn’t just stand and watch Kobe try to win games like he may have in his first season. Think Game 7 of the Finals vs. Boston for a good example. He was never afraid to shoot or create a play, make or miss.

- World Peace on Mike Brown: “It was a new regime … a drastic change. It took a bit getting used to.” But World Peace said it wasn’t the coaching staff’s fault that guys missed shots, turned the ball over and the like in – for example – Game 2 and Game 4, when they led big late. “Mike didn’t come in out of shape” … then he reconsidered, and said, laughingly, “wait he did come in out of shape … he’s a fat#&@.”

- Metta kept returning to the theme that the Lakers had plenty of talent, but couldn’t find a way to channel it properly when it counted. He likes to discuss the inside dominance that Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum possess, discussing – for example – how they controlled the tempo of Game 2 against the Thunder by playing at that pace, but lamented that they couldn’t do it more consistently. Throughout the season, MWP would often say the Lakers couldn’t be beaten if they played at the pace of Bynum and Gasol, but that became easier said than done against teams like Denver and Oklahoma City.

- On his loyalty to the Lakers: “The Lakers did a lot for me. I like it here. The Lakers did nothing but great things for me; I got a championship here, something I always wanted. I don’t really talk about myself, just what can make the team better, whatever is in the best interest of the Lakers.”

- World Peace wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find his dominance again, but credited Dr. Judy Seto, the team’s physical therapist, for figuring out what was wrong with him and getting him back to what he was physically. That excited him greatly, and has him eager for next season. He also cited the work of the team’s strength coach, Tim DiFrancesco.

LAL – OKC : Postgame 5 #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s season-ending 106-90 Game 5 loss at Oklahoma City:

8,640
Career playoff minutes played by Kobe Bryant after another 40 in his 220th postseason contest, which ranks second among all players in NBA history only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (8,851).

42
Points for Bryant, who went out with his guns fully blazing, making 18 of 33 shots to hit the 40-point mark for the 13th time in his career. Bryant was very aggressive with his shot throughout the evening, failing to notch an assist for the first time in the playoffs and second time all season.

30
Fast break points for the Thunder, who averaged 18 in the regular season. Giving up so many easy buckets makes life real tough on the Lakers.

20
Second half points for Russell Westbrook (28 total), who had 23 in the second half of Game 4 and seemed to wear especially hard on L.A. in second halves throughout the series, his athleticism and explosiveness eventually finding a way through. Kevin Durant added 25 points and 10 boards.

16
Rebounds for Pau Gasol, who pushed through the evening at both ends, but couldn’t find the range on offense, making only 5 of 14 shots to reach 14 points. He added three of L.A.’s six blocks and two assists.

12
Turnovers for both teams, an improvement for L.A., who typically lost the turnover battle to the riskier Thunder. There’s a reason for that, aside from OKC taking more chances, since the Lakers focus on staying home and forcing jump shots instead of taking risks in the passing lanes.

11
More offensive rebounds grabbed by Oklahoma City than the Lakers, a major factor especially in the first half, when the edge was 10-2 (14-3 overall).

5
Personal fouls for Andrew Bynum, plagued by the whistle all evening, his third coming with more than five minutes left in the second quarter, and fourth just one minute into the third, limiting him to 34 minutes. Furthermore, when he was on the floor, Bynum was understandably more tentative than usual, trying to avoid yet another foul, which hurt the Lakers particularly on defense even as he was only 4 of 10 for 10 points on offense.

2
Three pointers converted by the Lakers on 11 attempts, one apiece from Metta World Peace and Bryant, two fewer than MWP himself hit in Game 4. OKC hit only 3 of 13 in the game, but Durant’s back-to-back triples at the start of the fourth quarter proved deadly, pushing the lead from six to 12.

LAL 90, OKC 106: Game 5 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday evening Game 5 2nd Round playoff game at Oklahoma City, 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
6:06 With their season on the line, facing a 3-1 deficit to a young, athletic, hungry group of Thunder, the Lakers took an 11-8 lead out of the first six minutes behind Bryant’s 4 of 5 field goals. A problem was developing, however, OKC grabbing nearly as many offensive rebounds as L.A. had total (five in the first six minutes), which would surely start to catch up to the Lakers with no shift.

4:01 An Ibaka dunk put the Thunder up 16-13, OKC starting to take advantage of all those O boards, and in the meantime, Bynum picked up his second foul and had to take an early seat. Gasol came out very aggressively at both ends, collecting three boards and blocking two shots, but rimmed out on three shots to fall to 1 for 6 in the period.

0:00 OKC’s lead was 26-21 almost entirely behind their hustle on the glass, a 20-10 double up producing six more field goal attempts. James Harden scored seven quick points off the bench, while the Lakers managed only one assist on their eight field goals, most coming from Bryant (6 of 9 for 15 points).

SECOND QUARTER
9:02 After Sessions struggled in the first quarter, missing all three of his shots and both free throw attempts, he was everywhere to start the second, blowing by Derek Fisher three times to produce six points (two of his own, a bucket each for Bynum and Gasol), then getting to the line in transition to tie the game at 32. When Bynum spun around Nazr Mohammad for a layup on the next possession, plus the foul, it capped a 14-6 run that had L.A. up 35-32.

5:24 A really tough call on Bynum was his third of the half, as he went straight up on a driving Harden but was hit with a very late whistle that sent OKC’s (and the NBA’s) sixth man to the line and Bynum to the bench. For L.A. to have to play five minutes without their best chance at slowing OKC’s offense was a difficult blow, particularly as Jordan Hill already had three fouls himself, with World Peace thus having to play power forward.

0:00 A bizarre sequence in the final minute of the second went against the Lakers. After L.A. took a 51-50 lead on a string of strong play from Gasol and World Peace, the Thunder got four straight free throws due to a flagrant 1 foul on World Peace. The play happened on a careless Sessions turnover, MWP getting back in transition and getting all ball as Sefolosha went in for a layup, though he made contact with his off hand. Yet flagrant 1 was the call (two free throws plus the ball) making the Lakers so irate that not only MWP but also Kobe were hit with technicals, four free throws thus resulting. OKC made all four, and despite missing the ensuing shot took a 54-51 lead into the half. That aside, L.A.’s O was terrific in the second, 30 points coming on 11 of 19 field goals.

THIRD QUARTER
7:12 The bad for LAL: Bynum picked up his fourth PF in the first minute. The good: the D was otherwise very solid, holding OKC to long jumpers, while two Gasol free throws, Kobe’s dunk and then Gasol’s tip in put L.A. up 63-62. Gasol had been excellent all game, reaching 14 points with 12 boards and two blocks/assists thus far.

5:27 L.A. continued a good start to the second half as Bryant dunked for the fourth time in the game to reach 30 points (11 already in the period) and Sessions hit two FT’s, giving the visitors their biggest lead at 70-66. OKC had taken 10 shots to that point, only two in the paint, while L.A. had scored five times at the rim.

0:53.9 Despite Bryant fighting his way up to the 34 point mark by hitting a three and 1 of 2 FT’s, LAL’s D stopped working when Bynum picked up that early 4th PF. Westbrook took the most advantage to score 12 of his 20, including 10 of the final 17 in a 17-7 run, putting OKC up 83-77 with L.A.’s playoff life on the line.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:31 Before the Lakers could blink, OKC reeled off a supercharged 8-0 run in the first 1:30 of the fourth, capped by back-to-back Durant three-pointers, to blow the game open at 91-77. Bryant was on the bench to try and get a brief respite, just as he did in Game 4 when World Peace led the subs to push the lead to as many as 13 points. Still, the tweets started to fly in to criticize Mike Brown as soon as OKC hit those three shots for not having Kobe in. Tough call either way, as his legs had tired down the stretch throughout the series, thus making those two minutes quite important.

6:33 Bryant got five shots up in the four minutes after he checked in, making two, including his fifth dunk of the game to cut OKC’s lead to 97-84 going into a Scott Brooks time out. Quite a bit of making up to do, however, for a Lakers team now desperate for any way to keep its season alive. Bryant had 38 points, Gasol 14 with 14 rebounds, but that early foul trouble really plagued Bynum into his 10-point, 4-rebound night to that point.

2:41 The game’s final time out came after Bryant reached 40 points for the 13th time in his playoff career, but the game had been decided with that initial burst to start the fourth, OKC holding onto a double digit lead into the final minutes.

0:00 The final score: 106-90. For the second consecutive season, a team with championship level talent couldn’t find a way to get out of the Western Semi’s, the chemistry never fully clicking during a lockout shortened season with a new coaching staff and key new pieces for the Lakers both coming (Sessions, Hill) and going (Odom, Fisher). Thanks for following along all season through these running diaries. We’ll see you next fall for the first Lakers preseason contest.