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NBA WEST SEMIS - Lakers outlast Thunder, take Game 3


PhilBoxing.com




SAN FRANCISCO -- There's no place like home.

After losing the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals in Oklahoma, the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the friendly confines of the Staples Center Friday night and beat the Thunder in Game 3, 99-96, to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Again, the Lakers struggled shooting the ball --- just 27-for-70 from the field and 4-for-11 from three-point range. But in a tight battle that featured 10 ties and 10 lead changes, the Lakers had a massive edge from the free throw line which proved fatally decisive for the Thunder.

Oklahoma connected 26-for-28 free throws while Los Angeles attempted 42 freebies and made 41, including six in the final 33.8 seconds to put the game away.

"You're not going to get a better look than a free throw against these guys," said head coach Mike Brown whose Lakers trailed 92-87 with 2:54 remaining in the final stanza.

Kobe Bryant had 36 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Lakers, who narrowly avoided an 0-3 series hole which nobody in NBA playoffs history had ever come out of.

Five other Lakers finished with double figures in points. Andrew Bynum had 15 points while Pau Gasol notched 12. Both 7-footers combined for 22 rebounds and clogged the middle against the Thunder slashers and penetrators.

Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake took turns manning the point for the Lakers and they tallied 12 points apiece. Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, had 10 points while alternately defending Thunder stars Kevin Durant and James Harden.

DURANT led the Thunder with 31 points on 12-for-23 shooting, but he missed a contested 3 that could have forced overtime. Durant also had five turnovers for Oklahoma, which shot just 33 of 83 from the field and a miserable 4 of 17 above the 3-point arc.

Durant's sidekick, point guard Russell Westbrook, had a quiet 21 points, nine rebounds and one assist. Harden finished strong with 21 while Serge Ibaka ended up with 9 points and 11 rebounds.

"We put them on the line. We can't do that. Down the stretch, you have to defend them without fouling and rebound the basketball. Unfortunately, we came up short," Oklahoma Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told the Associated Press.

Game 4 is scheduled at the Staples Center, a rare back-to-back postseason duel. The younger Thunder guns for a 3-1 lead while the Lakers hope to even things up 2-2 befrore heading back to Oklahoma for Game 5 on Monday night. (Joan Secuya-Medida)


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joan Secuya-Medida.


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