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NBA Playoff Recap - West First Round, Game 3

(8) Oklahoma City 101, (1) L.A. Lakers 96 - Lakers lead series, 2-1

 

 

It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the franchise's first-ever playoff series. Now, at least, the former Seattle Sonics have managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the defending world champions.

The Los Angeles Lakers took control of this Western Conference clash by taking Game 2 on Tuesday in the City of Angels, but on Thursday night at the Ford Center, Oklahoma City managed to inject some fresh drama into this series by displaying the resolve that has marked coach Scott Brooks' team since it began the season in late October of 2009. The Thunder have been nothing if not resilient in this history-making campaign, and so it was not terrifically surprising that they remained true to character on their home court.

 



The game began with the Lakers scoring the first 10 points, but that shock of nerves didn't hold back Kevin Durant and his teammates, who slowly but steadily found their footing and made a raucous sellout crowd work for them. Oklahoma City pulled within a point (75-74) after three quarters, setting up a mad dash to the finish and a repeat of Tuesday's scenario. Two days ago, the Thunder had every chance to lap L.A. in a taut final period, but failed to hit enough clutch shots en route to a disappointing 95-92 loss. This night, the eighth seed in the West learned its lessons, as its meal-ticket players responded to the crucible of crunch time.

The score was 80-80 with 8:45 left in the fourth period, and unlike Game 2, the combo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook soared in the spotlight. At times awed in Los Angeles, the dynamic young duo for the Thunder played a different tune in the Sooner state. Durant scored 12 points in the final 8:45 of regulation while Westbrook chipped in eight. The Lakers got four 3-pointers within a two-minute span late in the game to stay close, but Durant and Westbrook always managed to deliver a more-than-adequate response. When Durant hit two foul shots to give Oklahoma City a 98-94 lead in the final minute, the Lakers' last best threat had come and gone. Coach Phil Jackson's team couldn't deliver another bomb to change the scoreboard calculus, and as a result, Saturday's Game 4 will be a genuine dogfight. The Lakers still own the upper hand, but it's quite tantalizing to consider how much confidence Oklahoma City might absorb if this series heads back to Los Angeles as an even-steven standoff.

 

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This was a momentous win for the Thunder, given their lack of a postseason history in the state of Oklahoma. As far as this series is concerned, however, this was just a prelude. Game 4 will do much to tell the tale of this fascinating collision between an established superstar - Kobe Bryant - and a rising young talent - Durant - who appears destined for greatness in the coming decade.

 

 

 

By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Senior Staff Writer


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