Kobe Bryant scoring 38 points and the rest of the starting five in double figures. Sounds awfully familiar to Game 3. On the other side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 68 points, the Thunder’s defense clamped up in crunch time and Durant showed Bryant how it’s done when the game’s on the line.
But it’d be foolish to blame Bryant. This is what the Lakers can give against the Thunder. They blew their big shot in Game 2 and gave everything they have to come out, barely, with a win in game 3. Twenty Four hours later, and they weren’t far from toppling the Thunder, but Bynum and Gasol didn’t show up for the fourth quarter while the Thunder ran away with a 103-100 win, making it 3-1 in the series.
It’s some tight scheduling in the West and especially in Los Angeles, needing to split the Staples Center between the Clippers, Lakers and the NHL’s Kings. You would think that 24 hours would make it easier for the Thunder to dominate, right? Well, they struggled with keeping Gasol and Bynum at bay for three quarters. The Lakers’ big two combined for 26 points through the first 36 minutes.
Fourth quarter? Thunder defense prevailed. Bynum and Gasol added only two more points; The Lakers shot 2-10 from the field during the final five minutes, Bryant took 8 of those shots and made the only two field goals. When the offense gets dumbed down to Bryant posting up and trying to create something while Bynum and Gasol watch idesly by, don’t expect to beat a better team.
When Bryant actually gave up the ball, he passed it to Gasol. Kevin Durant used his long limbs once again to come up with a huge steal. Second later he took Metta World Peace on a 1 on 1, nailing the dagger and giving the Thunder a 101-98 lead which they didn’t lose. Including the regular season, Durant is 10-23 in the final 24 seconds of game when shooting for the win or to tie the game. Another short addition on the ‘clutch‘ subject.
While Durant mirrored his previous game with 31 points, it was Russell Westbrook who really broke out and made it impossible for the Lakers defense throughout the night. Westbrook scored 37 points, his best performance in the postseason, shooting a whopping (for him) 15-26. Again, despite the Lakers having five players in double figures, they always seemed to be outgunned. Even with Harden scoring ‘only’ 12 from the Thunder.
Serge Ibaka was the surprise contributor for the Thunder with 14 points, his best production since Game 1 against the Mavericks. Even bigger were his 5 blocked shots, averaging 3.8 in the postseason and 5 in the last three games against the Lakers.
We talked all season about no matter how good Kobe Bryant is going to be, the Lakers won’t be going anywhere without Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Bynum delivered for most of the night, finishing with 18 points and 9 rebounds. But Gasol scored only 10. And it was also the way Perkins and Ibaka manhandled them in the fourth quarter, easily setting screens for Durant and Westbrook to exploit. The feeling of this Lakers group being disbanded keeps getting stronger.