LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19: Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a shot between Andrew Bynum #17 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers 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. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers players wouldn't admit they were tired after a heart wrenching game 4 loss to Oklahoma City, but it was clear to anyone who watched, they ran out of gas.
Game 4 played out like many NBA pundits predicted -- the younger, more athletic Thunder would eventually wear the Lakers down in the second game of a back to back.
The Lakers aren't the greatest defensive team, but they have had a reputation all season long of stepping it up in the fourth quarter.
Saturday night, the complete opposite happened.
They had their worst quarter defensively in the fourth, giving up 32 points.
Andrew Bynum, who was blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and running the floor for fast break dunks in the first half, was a total non-factor late in the game.
Kobe Bryant went from super hero to mere mortal in a matter of minutes.
At the end of the three quarters, Bryant had 31 points and the Lakers out in front 80 to 71. He had put the team on his back, desperate to get back to Oklahoma City with the series tied 2-2.
Then his jump shot left him. Presumably because his legs felt like logs. He went 1 for 8 in the final quarter, including an off balance brick with 7 seconds to go that would have tied the game.
Meanwhile, the Thunder's young core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook torched the Lakers late in the game.
They combined for 16 points in the final six minutes. I am not saying the Thunder toyed with the Lakers, but it seemed that they weren't really worried about the Lakers double digit lead for most of the game. It's as if they knew all along they had enough in the tank to make their final push past the Lakers.
This now makes two games in the series that the Lakers have let get away.
Tough to swallow, especially now since they have to hop on a plane back to Oklahoma City facing elimination.
Lakers head coach Mike Brown says he has no "magic tricks" on how to handle a loss like this, he's just hoping his players shake off the disappointment and show up Monday in game 5 determined to win. So with that being said, I guess there is always hope.