The Los Angeles Lakers faced elimination tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder and had to try to for a Game 6 in front of a hostile crowd. The Lakers blew another late-game lead in Game 4 and very easily could have been up 3-1 in the series instead of being down 1-3.
Kobe Bryant criticized his teammates, especially Pau Gasol, after the previous loss and wanted to see them play more aggressively. The Lakers have not played well in road elimination games in the past, but they had to tonight if they wanted to return to Staples Center for another game.
The Lakers made an effort to get in the paint and tried their best to slow the pace of the game. The guards and big men were focusing on attacking the basket and get a nice flow to the offense. The Thunder have a great defensive lineup, but the Lakers saw the most success when getting inside. However, at the 9:50 mark, the Lakers were down 4-2.
Both teams struggled on the offensive end to begin the game and the shots that usually fell were not going in. Luckily for the Lakers, they were the ones who broke away from the slump first. With 6:05 left in the quarter, the Lakers were up 9-8 despite 41 percent from the field while the Thunder were at 26 percent.
Still, the Thunder used their speed and athleticism to spark a little run. Their half-court offense was not generating a lot of points, so they relied on on the fast break to get on the board. The Lakers hit a little snag, but to make matter worse both Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum picked up their two personal fouls in the period. At the 3:40 mark of the period, the Lakers were down 18-13.
Kobe Bryant was dominating the ball on the offensive end and he was carrying to scoring load for the Lakers. Kobe shot the ball very efficiently in the first quarter and he was doing whatever he could to will his team to victory. In the first 12 minutes, Kobe had 15 points on 6-9 shooting. The Lakers shot 38 percent as a team and were down 26-21.
The Lakers began the second quarter with Bynum and Gasol on the floor, something that has not happened a lot this season. As a result, the Lakers got most of their points off post passes and tip-ins. Bynum and Gasol were controlling the paint and the Thunder had trouble against the big men. However, the Lakers had issues stopping the Thunder and generating any sort of run. At the 9:50 mark, the Lakers were down 32-28.
With Kobe Bryant on the bench due to the foul trouble, the Lakers had to rely on the other players to contribute. At first they played well and even gave the Lakers a three point lead. However, the Thunder once again used its explosiveness to regain control of the momentum. Los Angeles began to miss its shots and that allowed the Thunder to get into the open-court.
The Lakers eventually fed the ball to Metta World Peace who used his size to punish smaller defenders. World Peace was getting inside the paint and that allowed him to score near the basket or at the free-throw line. The Lakers made 13 of their 16 free-throw attempts and that allowed the to come within one, 46-45, with 4:01 left in the half.
The half ended with a little testiness as World Peace picked up a flagrant and technical foul, while Kobe picked up a technical foul also. After 24 minutes, the Lakers were down 54-51 behind 19 points from Bryant and ten from Gasol.
The Lakers opened up the second half well and were shooting the ball with success. Kobe Bryant continued with his hot shooting and the Lakers were getting a lot of point thanks to that. The team also fed the ball to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who were having their way with the Thunder. At the 8:49 mark, the Lakers were up 59-58.
Both teams exchanged baskets and the lead was being flipped constantly. Bryant kept on burning the Thunder with his offensive attack, but the Lakers still had trouble preventing the Thunder from scoring. The lead for the Lakers would not exceed five points as the Thunder answered back with their own buckets. After a Kobe Bryant dunk with 5:49 to play, the Lakers were up 68-66.
The Thunder made their run in the quarter and it was sparked by the young Russell Westbrook. Once again the Thunder relied on their speed to hurt the Lakers and fed off the crowd to gain the momentum. At the three minute mark, the score was tied at 73.
After 36 minutes of play, the Thunder were up 83-77 thanks to a 17-7 run. Westbrook scored 12 points in the quarter and was the catalyst to the surge. As for Kobe Bryant, he had 34 points on 14-24 shooting.
The Lakers began the fourth quarter with Kobe Bryant on the bench while the Thunder had their best three players on the court. The Thunder took advantage of the absence of the players and punished the Lakers with Bryant sitting on the sidelines. Just one minute into the fourth, the Thunder went up 11, 88-77.
The Thunder used an 11-0 run to open up their lead and they were in complete control of the game. The momentum was on their side and the Lakers had to do something in order to save their season. Nothing was going right for the Lakers, while it seemed like everything was falling for the opponent.
At the 6:33 mark of the period, the Lakers were down by 13, 97-84. Kobe Bryant was doing whatever it took to save the Lakers, but his teammates just couldn’t match his level of productivity.
At no point in the fourth quarter did the Lakers have a chance to retake the lead. From the moment the period started, the Thunder were on top and they never allowed the Lakers to get back into the game.
Kobe Bryant (finished the game with 40 points) did not quit on the Lakers and fought to the very end; however, one man could not beat the Thunder. As the final buzzer rang, the Thunder won Game 5 and eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers from the 2011-12 NBA Playoffs, 106-90.
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