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Lakers Throw Away Game Four (5.19.12)
The Lakers just threw away their title chances.
After game three, I was pretty excited to see OKC finally lose a close game. The Thunder have been great at finishing games this year. Game four would bring more of the same.
Pau Gasol shrunk from the moment in the closing minute. Following a pick and roll with Kobe, Pau had two great options, either shoot the shot from the near mid block, or hit Bynum for a lob at the far block. Instead, Pau decided to try to kick the ball out to Metta World Peace at the far wing. Kevin Durant jumped the gap and brought the ball up the court with less than 30 seconds to go. With the score tied at 98, KD ran down the clock as he dribbled at the far top about 6ft behind the line. KD calmly took a dribble in toward the line, forcing MWP to back up below the line, and fired up the 3. Durantula sank it and provided the go ahead basket with 13 seconds to go. Kobe couldn't respond with a 3 of his own, and the Lakers dropped another close one, losing 98-101.
Up 91-78 with just eight minutes remaining, the Lakers gave up another lead and let another win slip away. Instead of being down 3-1 in the series, the Lakers could easily be up 3-1. With a trip to OKC on Monday, the Lakers will look to avoid another early second round exit. Overcoming such devastating losses will surely be difficult.
Although Kevin Durant hit the game winner, the game ball belongs to Russell Westbrook. Westbrook dominated the game. He scored 31 of his 37 points on either isolation plays or the pick and roll. 14 points came off of isolation, and 17 off of the pick and roll. He routinely hit pull up jumpers. Westbrook only shot 2-8 from 18ft and beyond, but he nailed 7-8 shots from 10ft to 17ft. The Lakers did a great job containing Westbrook in games two and three, but in game four, the Lakers did not hedge well and they allowed Westbrook to get off good looks.
The Lakers dominated the paint to begin the game, but Russell Westbrook kept the Thunder within striking distance. Westbrook scored the first basket of the game by nailing a pull up 18ft jumper. Kobe responded with some free throws and some nice body control due to a slip on the court. There would be about six slips throughout the game. At one point it looked like Westbrook may have pulled his groin due to slipping while trying to cut back to the ball for an inbound pass. With Staples Center overloaded due to the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings all playing in the postseason, the conditions of the ice under the court may have been to blame. Although Staples Center officials claimed that the floor was fine, I cannot recall a game with so many slips, let alone a first quarter. Anyways, Kobe dribbled at the near wing, attacked middle, slipped in the lane, maintained his pivot with his back to the basket, ball faked, and turned toward the rim for the two handed dunk. Bynum followed with a dunk of his own due to a setup from Sessions. A minute after Kobe's slip, Ramon Sessions slipped while trying to dribble at the far wing. This led to a shot clock violation.
Bynum responded by stealing a Durant pass in the lane, out hustling the bigs of the Thunder up the court, and finishing a dunk in transition. I can't recall the last time Bynum beat other bigs down the court for a dunk. Bynum gets some dunks by leaking out after contesting jumpers, but he rarely beats someone when they start at the same position and begin to run. Pau followed with a nice putback dunk following a Bynum miss. Westbrook responded with another pull up jumper due to a pick and roll. Bynum didn't hedge and Westbrook easily sank the open look, which led to some great analysis by Steve Kerr. Bynum responded by hitting a diving Sessions in the lane for a layup, and then finishing a turnaround lefty bank shot from the near mid block.
Following a turnover by Pau, Westbrook ran a high pick and roll from the far wing. He attacked middle, crossed over right to left to get to the far elbow, and slipped. Westbrook was able to dump the ball off to Perkins before he fell all the way down, and Ibaka finished a putback following Perkins' missed reverse layup. Westbrook followed with another pull up jumper. Utilizing an iso at the far wing, he attacked left, got to the far mid block, and pulled up for the 13ft jumper. Kobe responded with his own jumper, and an attack to the basket that yielded free throws. Following a Durant air ball in the lane, Kobe hit a 17ft pull up jumper. Bynum followed that by hedging and contesting a Fisher far wing jumper that air balled. Bynum leaked out, and Kobe hit him for the easy layup in transition. Kobe closed the quarter on a rather embarrassing note. After drawing a foul on KD while establishing position at the top of the key, Kobe took the inbound pass at the far wing and circled to the top of the 3. Kobe danced, dribbled through his legs five times, pulled off a rock step to hesitate and fake the cross over between the legs, and then attacked to his right. Kobe went hard, but he lost his dribble as he blew by Durant. The Thunder did not capitalize, and Bynum finished the last bucket of the quarter by hitting an 8ft righty hook in the lane.
The Lakers finished the quarter up 29-24. Kobe went 3-5 for 10 points, 2 assists, and 1 turnover. Bynum went 5-5 for 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Bynum was spectacular. Pau went 1-3 for 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 turnover. Westbrook went 4-6 for 8 points and 2 assists. KD went 3-7 for 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. Although the Lakers scored a lot of points, the pace of the game still favored them. The Lakers were able to pound the ball inside, and Bynum capitalized.
Bynum started the second with a baseline 12ft turnaround jumper. Then he swatted a Nazr Mohammed putback in the lane, raced down the court, and finished with a dunk in transition. Seeing Bynum sprint down the floor was a treat. Unfortunately, Bynum would not score for the rest of the quarter. Kobe followed by setting up MWP for a wide open 3 that put the Lakers up 43-33. The lead hovered around ten points for the rest of the quarter. Late in the quarter, Kobe made a spectacular play. Following a Pau swat on KD, Kobe pushed up the far side, got to the wing, changed pace, crossed left to right between his legs, and blew by Harden to attack the rim. Kobe went strong to the rack, absorbed the contact from Ibaka, and finished with a two handed layup. Westbrook followed with a 16ft pull up jumper following a pick and roll. Then Kobe was swatted on a dunk attempt and Westbrook finished with a dunk in transition. Kobe responded by pushing up the far side with 9 seconds to go in the half, changing his pace, and once again blowing by Harden. Kobe attacked the basket at full speed, absorbed the contact from Perkins, and finished the strong layup, and one. Kobe sank the free throw. Following the made free throw, OKC looked to inbound the ball for the final shot. Westbrook streaked up the near sideline and then tried to cut back to the ball. As he cut back, Westbrook slipped and fell to the ground. Westbrook stayed down for a good while, and it looked like he could have seriously injured himself. As he tried to plant his right foot, he missed the plant, and his right foot slid while his left knee buckled.
The Lakers finished the half up 56-46. Kobe finished the quarter 2-6 for 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 turnover. Bynum went 2-6 for 4 points and 1 assist, with two of his shots getting blocked at the rim. Pau went 2-4 for 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks. Westbrook went 2-4 for 6 points and 2 assists. KD went 3-5 for 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block.
Fortunately for OKC, Westbrook started the third, and he played really well. The third quarter pretty much featured Kobe versus Westbrook. Kobe started the quarter with a 16ft fade from the near mid wing. Two minutes later he hit a 13ft fade from the near mid block. Westbrook followed with a pick and roll from the near wing for a 3. Then Westbrook pushed in semi transition, used a Perkins pick at the near mid wing, attacked to the elbow, and drew a foul on Bynum as he pumped and absorbed the contact. Westbrook sank both. Kobe responded with his own trip to the line. He used a Pau pick at the near top 3, attacked to the near side, took the double with him to the near mid corner, backed down, spun baseline, spun back middle, split the double, and absorbed the contact for a foul at the rim. He sank both free throws as well, making the score 66-56 with 6:54 to go. Kobe followed with another pick and roll with Pau. Kobe used it at the near top 3, attacked to the near mid wing, backed down, turned baseline, and hit the 9ft floater. Then Kobe curled to the free throw line, attacked the basket, and drew another foul to sink both free throws. Kobe followed that by backdoor cutting from the far wing to the basket. Pau hit Kobe on the cut and Kobe circled under the rim to drop off the ball to Bynum for an easy dunk in the lane.
Not to be outdone, Westbrook brought the ball up, used a Perkins pick at the far wing, attacked middle, elevated in the lane with his left shoulder launching into Pau's chest, and finished the layup with his right hand. Then Westbrook hit a pull up 13ft jumper over Bynum following a pick and roll. Kobe followed with a near top key isolation. He backed down Westbrook, got to the elbow, turned middle, stepped through to seal Westbrook on his backside, and hit the leaning scoop shot in the lane. Following an Ibaka block on Hill, Westbrook ran down the ball to the near corner, pushed up the court, noticed no one picking him up, and turned on the jets about 35ft from the basket to attack the middle and finish a layup at the rim. Kobe responded by pushing up the near side with 6 seconds on the clock. Kobe got to the near wing, crossed right to left, picked up his dribble, pumped, pumped again to get Westbrook out of position, and hit the long 22ft jumper with his foot just on the line.
Kobe barely beat the buzzer, as the ball left his hand with just 0.1 to go, and the Lakers entered the fourth up 80-71. Kobe finished 5-7 for 15 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist. Bynum went 1-2 for 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 steal. Pau went 1-3 for 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 turnover. Westbrook went 5-10 for 13 points and 1 rebound. Durant went 2-3 for 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 turnovers.