Archive for the 'Playoffs' Category

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.

Game 5 Shootaround Notes

We took some notes from Lakers shootaround in advance of Monday evening’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City:

One Game at a Time: That was the central theme of the shootaround session. The Lakers are trying to focus only on winning Game 5, and not thinking about the fact that they’re down 3-1 and would have to win three straight, including two on the road, to win the series. That’s always in the “easier said than done” area, but it’s the only sensible way to approach a game.

Mental Frustration: The angst of a team that feels like it was in great position to win two of the three games they lost, the Lakers blowing a 7-point lead with two minutes left in Game 2 and a 9-point lead with six minutes to play in Game 4 is high. But that’s also part of the “one game at a time” mindset, the dismissal of emotion from earlier in the series, if possible.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are tall: It’s always a good reminder how long the two largest Lakers are when leaving shootaround with a stiff neck from staring straight up.

The 7-Footers: Speaking of tall people … the Lakers clearly need to get a bigger impact from Bynum and Gasol than the two bigs were able to produce in the second half of Game 4, tired legs or not, if they’re to win Game 5. They combined for only eight points and four boards in that fateful second half after playing quite well in the previous 10 quarters of the series. Expect Gasol in particular to step up early, after he took what was probably an unfair amount of blame for L.A.’s crunch time woes in Game 4 as he opted to make a dangerous pass that Kevin Durant intercepted instead of taking an open shot in the final minute. The prideful Spaniard will look to respond as he did to a poor Game 6 at Denver, when he exploded for 23 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and four blocks in Game 7.

Pick and Roll D: The biggest adjustment the Lakers made between a blowout loss in Game 1 and three consecutive tight games played mostly at their pace came on pick and roll defense. The Lakers changed Bynum’s coverages in particular, encouraging him to show hard and bother Russell Westbrook when he came hard off screen/rolls, and for the most part it really worked well. Westbrook was shooting below 40 percent in Games 2 and 3 and the first half of Game 4, but eventually Bynum (though it wasn’t him on every possession) tired and Westbrook exploded for 23 points in the second half of Game 4. Fatigue had to have been an issue in the rare playoff back to back. For those looking for an explanation: Bynum had played 40 minutes in Game 3, and then over 42 in Game 4, having previously played consecutive 40-minute games only in a March 13/14 back to back at Memphis and New Orleans, in which both games went to overtime. It’s also possible that Bynum had gotten frustrated with his lack of touches on offense especially in the fourth quarter, which at times affected his defensive production throughout the season.

World Peace Seeks 1-on-1 Assignment: Metta World Peace praised OKC’s coaching staff for running Durant off all kinds of down screens, often involving the over-physical Kendrick Perkins, to free the NBA’s leading scorer throughout the series. World Peace relishes chances to defend Durant 1-on-1, but pointed out that it’s very rare Durant isn’t getting a screen of some sort. That makes MWP’s job more difficult, which is one of the reasons why he’s been so determined to fight Durant when he’s off the ball and try to deny him the ball in the first place. On offense, OKC has been helping off MWP quite a bit to double Bynum (most often) and Gasol, and World Peace nailed four triples in Game 4. He is shooting 38 percent from three in his five postseason games.

Sessions in the Mix: After two quiet road games to start the series, point guard Ramon Sessions was more assertive at STAPLES Center, taking nine shots in each home game (22 total points) after attempting only 10 total in OKC (four points). He added nine collective assists after managing only three total in Games 1 and 2, causing the Thunder some problems with his penetration off screen/rolls. However, Steve Blake’s been getting the crunch time minutes – and has played well in them – so Sessions hasn’t been able to impact the games late. L.A. will need his aggression and speed in Game 5.

Elimination Games: Courtesy of the Lakers Game Notes: The Lakers are 44-42 in postseason elimination games (games in which a loss would end a Lakers playoff run), going 35-36 since moving to Los Angeles and 9-6 while playing in Minneapolis. Since 2000, the Lakers are 9-6 in 15 elimination games: Game 7 of the WC First Round vs. Denver (W), Game 4 of the WC Semifinals at Dallas (L), Game 6 & 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals vs. Boston (W), Game 7 of the 2009 WC Semifinals vs. Houston (W), Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals at Boston (L), Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals vs. Boston (W), Game 5 of the 2007 WC First Round at Phoenix (L), Game 7 of the 2006 WC First Round at Phoenix (L), Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals at Detroit (L), Game 6 of the 2003 WC Semis versus San Antonio (L), Game 7 of the 2002 WC Finals at Sacramento (W), Game 6 of the 2002 WC Finals vs. Sacramento (W), Game 7 of the 2000 WC Finals vs. Portland (W) and Game 5 of the 2000 WC First Round vs. Sacramento (W).

LAL – OKC: Game 4 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 103-100 Game 4 loss to Oklahoma City, in which they couldn’t hold a 9-point lead with 6:03 to go in the fourth quarter:

37
Points for Russell Westbrook on an efficient 15 of 26 shooting, plus 6 of 7 free throws, to lead all scorers. He was particularly deadly in the second half, scoring 23 points to keep OKC in the game. The L.A. native was particularly dangerous coming explosively off screens, which Andrew Bynum had deterred successfully since Game 2; doing so is very tiring, however, and Westbrook gained steam in the second half as Bynum tired. “It was an amazing win,” he summarized. “We kept fighting for each other.”

28
Field goal attempts for Kobe Bryant, who made 12 while being forced into a bevy of tough looks in the final six minutes. He was fantastic in the third quarter, willing L.A. to a double digit lead, but couldn’t find the hole in the fourth. After 18 free throw attempts in Game 3, all of which he made, he converted 14 of 17 in this one to help him reach 38 points, the 87th time he’s been at least to 30 in the playoffs (second only to Michael Jordan). He added eight boards and five assists, but will remember only the fact that L.A. lost one it had to have.

13
L.A.’s biggest lead of the fourth quarter and the game, coming on Jordan Hill’s put-back with 8:03 to play. But Derek Fisher, who was otherwise quiet throughout the evening, answered with a three to trim the lead back to 10, which Thunder coach Scott Brooks said was critical to the team’s confidence.

8
Total points for Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol in the second half, after Bynum alone had 14 in the first half. L.A.’s inability to get the ball inside especially down the stretch, whether the fault of the bigs for not getting open/being aggressive or the perimeter players for not finding ways to get the ball inside and settling for contested jumpers. Either way, it didn’t work for the Lakers.

8
Free throws missed by the Lakers, a killer in a 3-point game, after they missed only one on the previous night.

4
Three-pointers hit by Metta World Peace on eight attempts, including two at the start of the fourth quarter that helped push L.A.’s lead to a game-high 13 points. He finished with 14 points, six boards and two steals.

2
To reiterate the point that LAL’s big men were tired: Bynum and Gasol had only two rebounds apiece in the second half, while Durant alone had seven in that time. Bynum finished with 18points, nine boards, four assists, three blocks and two steals, Gasol a quiet 10 points, five boards, three blocks and two assists.

1
More fast break points for the Lakers than OKC, not something one might expect, but L.A. had only two in the second half.

LAL 100, OKC 103: Game 4 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday evening 2nd Round playoff Game 4 vs. Oklahoma City, the Lakers looking to build upon a Game 3 victory, 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
7:00 Despite an intense, emotional Game 3 that came down to the final minutes just 24 hours earlier on this rare playoff back-to-back, neither team showed signs of fatigue in the opening minutes, as they combined to make 12 of 17 shots in a 14-all tie, including 3 of 3 from Bynum, already one more shot than he made in Game 3 (2 of 13).

2:59 The first triple of the game came courtesy of Metta World Peace, whose top-of-the-key launch put LAL up 21-18 into the first Thunder time out. All five Lakers had scored, combining to shoot 64.3 percent from the field, led by six apiece from All-Stars Bynum and Bryant. Westbrook paced OKC with eight.

0:00 Bynum finished 4 of 4 from the field after another make, for 10 points plus three assists and three boards, leading L.A. to a 29-24 lead after one. Brown called him the star of the game in LAL’s Game 3 victory despite his shooting struggles, so it was a big positive to see Bynum continue to play defense as effectively while also converting at the other end.

SECOND QUARTER
9:35 Officially dominating the game: Bynum. He followed up a swat of Mohammad, his second, by sprinting full court, collecting a pass at the FT line, taking one step and dunking home his seventh field goal in eight attempts. That gave him 14 points, with three boards, three assists (one short of Sessions’ four) and the two blocks. In related news, LAL led 36-26.

4:46 After draining all 18 of his foul attempts to set a Lakers franchise playoff record, Bryant finally missed one after hitting his first five, and though he got his own rebound, Ibaka blocked him at the rim to lead to Durant’s fast break dunk, cutting LAL’s lead to eight at 47-39.

0:00 It was quite fun to watch the final minute or so at STAPLES, thanks to Kobe Bryant, breaking out three consecutive hard drives to the rim, scoring through contact on the first and third while getting blocked by Perkins on the second. The third drive came with 2.6 seconds left, and came plus the foul on Perk (his third), and kept the Lakers up 10 at the half. Sessions was excellent in the half, scoring eight points with four assists, and sparking LAL’s 13-8 edge in fastbreak points, certainly unexpected against the youthful OKC legs.

THIRD QUARTER
8:00 The teams spent the first four minutes of the third exchanging hoops, both scoring eight points as L.A. maintained its 10-point lead. At some point, L.A. would have to expect OKC to make a run with those young, athletic legs, but they continued to control tempo as they had throughout the first half.

5:56 Kobe continued to punish Sefolosha as OKC failed to bring a help defender, going three for four from the field, and making five trips to the line (including a technical) to score 10 points in the first half of the period, keeping the Lakers up 12.

1:50 Yet another Kobe conversion in the paint preceded two free throw misses from Bynum (who was 10 of 11 in Game 3, but may have been tiring a bit) and 1 of 2 from World Peace, the lead thus staying at 10 instead of 13. LAL went 41 of 42 in Game 3, but was 16 of 22 in this one. Bryant then missed one of his foul shots, but he made up for it with a buzzer-beating J over Westbrook, giving him 31 points (the 87th of his playoff career, trailing only Michael Jordan’s 109) and the Lakers an 80-71 lead despite 27 from Westbrook and 20 from Durant, OKC hanging around.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:40 With Kobe getting some much deserved rest after carrying LAL through the third, World Peace stepped up in a major way, draining two triples, hitting 1 of 2 free throws (team at just 69 percent) and finding Bynum for an easy lay in, accounting for all nine Lakers points. Then for good measure, he tied up Ibaka with five seconds left on the shot clock, resulting in LAL winning the jump ball, holding onto an 11-point lead.

2:27 Suddenly, the Lakers offense had stalled completely, and Westbrook/Durant took full advantage to trim the lead to only two despite two missed FT’s from Durant. Moments later, they’d actually take their first lead since the first quarter when Perkins tipped in Westbrook’s miss with 1:16 to go, though Kobe’s two free throws tied it back up at 98 on the ensuing possession with 1:04 to play.

0:00 For the second devastating time in three games, the Lakers blew a lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, this time a 9-point edge with just under six minutes to play. The final blow in a 16-6 run to end the game came from Durant, who rose to break a 100-all tie with a top-of-the-key triple. Bryant missed the ensuing three-pointer on the other end that would have tied the game with 8.9 seconds to go, but L.A. would regret a few opportunities they passed up. The most glaring would come from Gasol, who instead of rising to take a 15-foot jumper, tried to make a cross court that Durant intercepted, before hitting the three with 13.7 left on the other end. OKC never let up for a second despite trailing by double digits for nearly the entire second half, and coldly made its final run behind Westbrook (37 points) and Durant (31), thus tearing victory away from L.A.’s hands to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Oklahoma City for Monday’s Game 5. We’ll see you there.

LAL – OKC: Game 3 Postgame #’s

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s dramatic 99-96 victory, in which the Lakers erased a 5-point deficit with 2:54 to play:

1
Missed free throw in the entire night for the Lakers, who sank 41 of 42, highlighted by Kobe Bryant’s 18 for 18 and Andrew Bynum’s 11 for 12. Bryant hit six of his 18 in the final 1:09, including two with 9.8 seconds left to force OKC into a game-tying three-point attempt that Kevin Durant missed.

Said Mike Brown: “Every possession is huge in a series against a very good team like the Thunder, and that means when you go to the line you have to knock them down,” said Mike Brown. “For us to step up to the line and have the concentration and focus that we had, especially at a clip of 41 of 42, is huge.”

6
Assists for Pau Gasol to match Bryant for the team lead, as OKC committed a lot of attention to the 7-foot Spaniard. He added 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal to his 12 points on only eight field goal attempts, saying after the game that he again just tries to find ways to help his team win regardless of what the defense does.

8
Season-high rebounds for Steve Blake in his 28 minutes, including a huge offensive board with 45 seconds left that got Kobe an extra look, which he used to draw a foul on Russell Westbrook and hit two key free throws to put L.A. up one in the final minute. Blake added 12 points, hitting two huge shots to tie the game with 5:57 left, the second a triple, erasing a 5-point OKC lead. Brown cited Blake’s constant “multiple effort” and toughness.

11
Field goal misses for Andrew Bynum on 13 attempts, such a rare poor shooting night for one of the league’s most efficient players. That’s what made his night all the more impressive to Mike Brown*, who had this to say: “‘Drew was an absolute monster. I cannot take my hat off to anybody more than Bynum.” Bynum was extremely active on pick and rolls, repeatedly closing out to discourage open looks on pick and roll sets, and grabbed 11 rebounds plus three blocks. Despite recording the only Lakers missed free throw, he still hit 11 of 12.
*Brown actually pulled Bynum aside early in the fourth quarter during a time out, telling him to just keep doing what he was doing, playing hard every play despite the misses, and Bynum certainly did.

15
Lakers turnovers, which nearly proved fatal, as Westbrook’s strip of Bryant and dunk on the other end with 2:54 left produced a 92-87 OKC lead. LAL needed a 6-0 run to reclaim the edge, at the 1:09 mark, on two Kobe free throws.

36
Points for Bryant, a game-high, half of them coming at the foul line. It was the 86th time in his career that Kobe has hit at least the 30-point mark in a playoff game, second only to Michael Jordan’s 109. In a humorous postgame presser, Bryant said: 1) “Put your big boy pants on, leave your diaper at home” in response to a question about having to play a back-to-back; 2) “Come on, he’s like 5-2″ on hitting two jumpers in the fourth over Derek Fisher; and 3) “Pau was (being) politically correct. I’ll give you the real s&*#.”

38.6
Lakers shooting percentage in the game, thanks to a poor second half performance from the field. “Tonight was a great defensive effort,” explained Westbrook. It was certainly a physical contest, OKC’s bigs pushing Bynum off his spots,

97.6
L.A.’s free throw percentage, the second best in NBA playoff history with a minimum of 30 attempts, trailing only a 49 of 50 by Dallas at San Antonio on May 19, 2003.

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.

2012 Playoff Podcast No. 4: Kevin Ding

L.A.’s reward for a tough 7-game Round 1 series with Denver is a young, fresh, talented Oklahoma City squad that’s been resting for nine days after sweeping Dallas 4-0 … but could that actually help the Lakers steal Game 1?

Orange County Register beat writer and columnist Kevin Ding joined us to break down the entire series, from specific matchups to general areas of importance.

We touched on the importance of Andrew Bynum’s constant defensive energy (can he bring it?), Pau Gasol’s All-Star level play in Game 7 (can he sustain it?), Kobe Bryant’s impact (count on it), the point guard situation (Sessions/Blake vs. Westbrook), Ding’s favorite thing about Oklahoma City (clouds) and more.

You can listen by clicking below:

Round 2 Schedule

Game 1 – Mon May 14 Lakers at Oklahoma City 6:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed May 16 Lakers at Oklahoma City 6:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 18 Oklahoma City at Lakers 7:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sat May 19 Oklahoma City at Lakers 7:30PM TNT

Game 5 * Mon May 21 Lakers at Oklahoma City TBD TNT
Game 6 * Wed May 23 Oklahoma City at Lakers TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sun May 27 Lakers at Oklahoma City TBD TNT

* – if necessary
(All Times Pacific)

2012 Playoff Pod No. 3: Bill Macdonald

Bill Macdonald just completed his first regular season as the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, sharing the games with fans alongside analyst Stu Lantz, and was in his usual courtside seat as the Lakers defeated Denver 92-88 in Game 4 to bring a 3-1 series lead back to Los Angeles.

Macdonald joined us from his Orange County home to discuss what the Lakers need to do to close out the Nuggets in Tuesday’s Game 5, what he’s noticed behind the scenes with the team throughout the year that will come into play moving forward, what stands out the most about Kobe Bryant in the postseason, how he approaches his craft calling games and more.

To listen, click below: