LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first half in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 19 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The Lakers could not finish in the fourth and will have to battle in Oklahoma City to keep their championship dream alive.
The Thunder won it 103-100 and lead the series 3-1 and will have home court advantage for Game 5. Westbrook had 37 and Durant had 31, outscoring Bryant and Bynum who had 38 and 18.
Both the Lakers and the Thunder got off to quick starts to begin game 4.
The Thunder got into a groove with jump shots while the Lakers dominated the paint. It was neck and neck until Metta World Peace hit the game’s first 3-pointer with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter.
This gave the Lakers a little breathing room to build a 5-point lead by the conclusion of the first. Kobe Bryant, making his 219th playoff appearance, continued what he started last night with his ability to draw fouls and make OKC pay at the line.
At the end of the first, Bryant and Bynum led the Lakers with 10 points a piece, while Serge Ibaka led the Thunder, who were going through a rare fast break drought, with six.
The Lakers continued to control the paint and expanded their lead in fast break points and rebounds on both ends of the floor. With five minutes to go in the half, both teams turned it up and increased the pace.
The increased speed led to increased slipping and Westbrook lost his footing as time expired. Los Angeles went into the locker room with a 10-point lead and OKC was left wondering if their leading scorer would return to the game. Bryant led all scorers with 16 points.
When Westbrook did not take any shots coming out of the locker room, it appeared as though he had a groin or ankle injury.
Clearly it did not hinder him because he went off for 13 points to keep the Thunder in the game. Perkins got a technical with 7:13 remaining, but Durant hit a three when they got the ball back. Gasol committed an offensive foul on the ensuing possession, which allowed the Thunder to stay in the game.
Bryant hit a long 2 to beat the buzzer, making it 80-71 at the end of the third. Bryant and Westbrook continued to lead their teams with 31 and 27 points respectively.
The fourth quarter saw another Laker meltdown. Steve Blake’s three-point woes continued, but things looked good with 8:30 to go when Metta World Peace hit another three. Westbrook got a technical with 7:45 left and Jordan Hill got two big offensive rebounds, but with less than 5 minutes to go, OKC cut the lead to 4 with a 12-3 run.
With 2:30 left, the Thunder were only down by 2.
Staples Center got excited when Durant missed his two free throws with just over 2 minutes remaining, but OKC tied it up with under 2 to play. The Lakers came up empty on 6 possessions late in the fourth.
That allowed the Thunder to go on a 20-5 run to take the lead with Kendrick Perkins’ first points of the game, which made it 98-96 with just over a minute left in the game.
Bryant tied it back up with two free throws, making it 98 even. With 40 seconds left, Westbrook lost the ball. Ten seconds later, Durant stole Gasol’s pass to Bryant and hit a huge three pointer with 13.7 seconds left.
Bryant missed the three that would tie it back up on the next possession. Harden was fouled on the rebound and his free throws gave the Thunder security with a 103-98 lead. Bryant hit another 2-point buzzer beater, but it was not enough to combat Westbrook and Durant’s solid fourth quarter play.