The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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May 20, 2012

Durant’s bomb lifts OKC past Lakers

LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook scored 10 of his 37 points during a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, Kevin Durant added 31 points and hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left, and the Oklahoma City Thunder seized control of the second-round series with a 103-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Saturday night.

Serge Ibaka scored 14 points for the second-seeded Thunder, who took a 3-1 series lead and moved to the brink of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals.

Oklahoma City improved to 7-1 in the postseason with a tenacious rally on the second night of back-to-back games against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, who scored 38 points in Los Angeles’ fifth loss in seven games overall.

The Thunder finished Game 4 on a 22-8 run, punctuated by Durant’s 3-pointer and two late free throws from James Harden, who had 12 points.

Game 5 is Monday night in Oklahoma City.

After sweeping Dallas in the first round, the Thunder are one win away from sending home the NBA’s last two champions.

Andrew Bynum had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who led 92-81 with 7:45 to play before Westbrook went to work with a furious series of drives to the hoop. The UCLA product scored nine points in just over 2 minutes, and Kendrick Perkins capped the 17-4 run on a putback layup with 1:16 left, putting Oklahoma City up 98-96 with its first lead since the first quarter.

After Bryant evened it with two free throws, Westbrook and Pau Gasol then traded turnovers, with Durant swiping Gasol’s careless pass before burying a straightaway 3-pointer that silenced Staples Center. The Thunder made 10 of their 15 shots in the final period.

Metta World Peace had 14 points, and Gasol managed just 10 points and five rebounds in the second game of the Lakers’ first back-to-back playoff games in 13 years. A night after the Lakers got back in the series with a late comeback for a 99-96 victory in Game 3, Los Angeles led for most of the night, but couldn’t execute on offense late, struggling for even difficult shots.

The game was the third NBA playoff contest in 27 hours at Staples Center, which will host six playoff games in hockey and basketball over a four-day stretch this weekend. With the Los Angeles Kings’ ice just below the Lakers’ court, several players appeared to slip and slide on the floor during the game, and Westbrook nearly did the splits at the halftime buzzer when his right foot slipped.

“I was a little stiff, but we needed this win,” Westbrook said.

Oklahoma City appeared to be unhappy with the floor’s condition, but Staples Center did nothing different in its changeover, and the referees deemed the floor safe for play. The San Antonio Spurs, on course to meet the Thunder in the conference finals, didn’t appear worried about the floor during their win over the Clippers.

Bryant shot poorly in the first three games of the series, but went 10 for 18 in the first three quarters of Game 4 before managing only a 2-of-10 effort in the fourth, including a meaningless bucket at the buzzer.

Jordan Hill’s offensive rebound and layup put the Lakers up 91-78 with 8 minutes left, but longtime Lakers guard Derek Fisher kick-started Oklahoma City’s comeback with a 3-pointer.

After Oklahoma City defended its home court with a blowout win in the opener and a comeback from a seven-point deficit in the final 2 minutes of Game 2, the Lakers finally answered Friday night. Los Angeles trailed by five with less than 3 minutes left in Game 3, but Bryant hit his free throws during the Lakers’ decisive run while the Thunder missed shots, including Durant’s potential tying 3-pointer near the buzzer.

Westbrook slipped near midcourt at the halftime buzzer, his right foot sliding forward when he attempted to stop. Westbrook stayed down on the court for an uncomfortably long moment before walking gingerly to the locker room with his hand on his left hip, but got treatment at halftime and returned for the third quarter.

The game was Chapter 4 in the four-day extravaganza at Staples Center. The Kings play Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix on Sunday afternoon, followed by the Clippers’ fourth game against San Antonio – all while tens of thousands of fans gather outside to watch the Tour of California, the nation’s largest cycling race, which finishes on the street outside shortly before the Kings’ opening faceoff.

 

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