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Lakers hold off Thunder in Game 3

The Lakers beat the Thunder 99-96 Saturday night in the NBA's Western Conference semifinals to assure a Game 5 Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, Modified: May 19, 2012 at 2:31 am •  Published: May 19, 2012

— Well, there goes the sweep.

The Oklahoma City Thunder had a chance to continue its march through this postseason by dusting off its second straight opponent with four straight wins.

But the Los Angeles Lakers narrowly dodged its third straight loss to the Thunder on Friday night, escaping with a 99-96 win in Game 3 inside Staples Center.

Game 4 is right back here Saturday night.

Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 36 points, including eight of the Lakers final 10 points to help L.A. hold onto the win and keep hope alive for his team. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, and the Lakers were seconds away from facing potentially staring at that hole.

But, led by Bryant, the Lakers now seek to even the series at two games apiece.

Six of Bryant's final eight points came at the free throw line, a place where the Lakers lived all night. Los Angeles shot 42 foul shots and made a whopping 41 of them.

The Thunder shot just 28, not nearly enough to keep up despite sinking 26 of them.

Bryant alone attempted 18 foul shots, making all 18 to offset a 9-of-25 shooting night. His final pair with 9.8 seconds remaining provided the final margin.

“Every possession is huge in a series against a team like the Thunder,” said Lakers coach Mike Brown. “You're not going to get any better look than a free throw against these guys. For us to step up and … knock down 41-of-42 is huge.”

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