After two hard-fought games at Staples Center, the Lakers took to the road to face the Thunder on their home floor. The Ford Center was rocking from the tip, and the Lakers would have to start strong to come out victorious.
The start to the game could not have been better for the Lakers. From the tip the defense was intense and aggressive. After the first few minutes, the score was 10-0 Lakers and it seemed as if this game was in the bag. For the entire first quarter the Lakers dominated the paint and controlled the game. Artest seemed to finally break out of his slump by hitting two outside jumpers… but the shots did not look good. Additionally, Fish was able to catch fire and hit some tough outside shots to really push the Lakers ahead. Kobe was not a huge factor points wise, but was able to control the game regardless. Once Kobe sat for Shannon, the momentum shifted and the Thunder were able to close the gap. The quarter ended horribly for the Lakers, with the Thunder cutting the 9 point lead down to 5, finishing 27-22 Lakers.
The bench was a nonfactor in their first run of the game, but the team was able to hold the lead for most of the quarter. The Thunder would not go away, closing the gap to 3 points with about 4:28 to go in the half. Once Kobe saw the Thunder gaining some steam, he went into Black Mamba mode and hit three 3’s to keep the Lakers in front. The half ended with the score 50-43 Lakers, but I don’t think any fans felt comfortable. This lead should have been double digits, and the Lakers just weren’t able to put up enough points to create some real separation
Once the second half started it was obvious the Thunder were the aggressors. They were getting to the line “easy and often” as Phil would say, and this is what kept them in the game even though the Lakers were outplaying them for most of the contest. Additionally, the outside shooting of OKC really clicked and their unproductive players (Green and Harden) were hitting shots they didn’t in Games 1&2. In spite of all this, the Lakers held the lead with 3 minutes remaining in the quarter. Phil decided that a 7 point cushion was the perfect time to rest Kobe, and Shannon entered the game. The Thunder used this rest to close the gap and enter the fourth down 1 with all the momentum.
With the building going crazy, the upstart Thunder were able to take the lead and never look back with about 8 minutes to go. On their home floor, the defensive lapses and bad shots on offense vanished and the Thunder were able to close the game out. Kobe was ice cold in the quarter, hitting only two shots (I think he was 2-9?). The Lakers were battling until the end, but it seemed like every time we would hit a big shot, the Thunder would go down and answer with a bigger shot. I still feel like this was a winnable game, regardless of how bad Kobe shot, or how shaky our bench was. I look forward to seeing the Lakers come out with the same kind of intensity in Game 4- I just hope the can sustain it down the stretch.
Final Score LAL 96 – OKC 101
Andrew and Pau played great (again), but their frontcourt partner Lamar Odom was a no show. I was severely disappointed with his shot selection and aggressiveness – I really hope he can figure this out before its too late.
Kobe shot horribly from the field, but was really keeping the Thunder at bay with timely shots and some great passing. Yes, he had a few turnovers, but the game really changed when he sat to end the third.
Kevin Durant had a rough night until the end, and a lot of that had to do with his shot selection, and not Ron Artest. If he continues to have bad stretches like this, I don’t see how the Lakers can lose this series.