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Thunder 103, Lakers 100

by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 20, 2012

Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday's win at Los Angeles.

  • About 20 minutes before the start of the game, I answered questions in one of those Twitter chats I sometimes do. Allow me to take a moment to say I called it...even nailed the spread.
  • After Game 3, I also reminded you in this space that I originally predicted the Thunder to win in five and still stood by that prediction. Looking awfully good right now. Gotta believe this thing is over on Monday.
  • Now that I'm done gloating. What a game. The Thunder stormed back from a 13-point, fourth-quarter deficit and stole a pivotal Game 4 on the road. Had the Thunder not won this game, we could have been looking at a six or even seven-game series. Huge win.
  • Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "I wish I could sit up here and say how that happened, but it just happened."
  • I'll tell you how it happened. Russell Westbrook saved the day. With the Thunder struggling to get any sort of offensive rhythm going from the second quarter until late in the fourth, Westbrook put his team on his back and willed OKC to victory. He scored 10 fourth-quarter points, including nine straight during a 2 minute, 17 second stretch that turned the tide.
  • Westbrook: "I just came out and tried to continue to stay aggressive, try to find a way to keep us in the game."
  • Lakers coach Mike Brown: "Westbrook had a heck of a game. He imposed his will and he made plays especially when it counted in the fourth quarter, which led to a 32-point quarter for those guys."
  • The Thunder couldn't get closer than seven. That was the hump, and the Thunder couldn't clear it from very early in the second quarter until just less than five minutes remained in the fourth. OKC cut L.A.'s lead to seven on nine occasions after the Thunder fell behind by eight with 10:07 left in the second.
  • Behind Westbrook, the Thunder finally hurdled the seven-point deficit. And when the Thunder finally did, you knew this game would belong to the boys in blue -- especially with how OKC finally got it under seven, on a driving, three-point play by Westbrook. When Westbrook made that layup and the ensuing free throw, he lifted the weight of the Staples Center off his team's back. With that hurdle in the rearview mirror, the Thunder could then focus on finishing the job rather than searching for a way to get closer than seven.
  • Westbrook knew exactly how significant that seven-point margin. He knew how big of a burden it was. "My job was to try to keep us in the game, regardless of what was going on," Westbrook said. "I was kind of upset because we weren’t able to get a stop. It kind of felt like we were down 10, eight, 10, eight. We just kept going back and forth. So it was kind of frustrating, but we just kept fighting."
  • Major credit goes to Kendrick Perkins for creating Westbrook's three-point play on the possession that sliced the Thunder's deficit from seven to four. Perk essentially orchestrated the whole thing. Westbrook was sizing up Steve Blake and was close to being in no man's land. But that's when Perk waved Westbrook in his direction. Perk sealed Pau Gasol and allowed Westbrook to use the Lakers' big man as a screen for Blake. And with Gasol sealed by Perk, Westbrook had a free lane to the cup.
  • More from coach Brown on Westbrook: "We just didn't do a good enough job when they kept running pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll of imposing our will and trying to play the right way defensively on whoever had the ball, especially Westbrook. Westbrook kept getting right in side that elbow and knocking that shot down and we didn't do a good job with that. And/or he just sized the guy up in front of him and drove the ball."
  • Not to be lost in his scoring outburst was Westbrook's huge offensive rebound off Kevin Durant's missed 3-pointer  with just less than six minutes remaining. Westbrook flew in and snatched the board to give the Thunder a second-chance opportunity...and then he hit a pull-up jumper to cut the Lakers lead to seven.
  • Making Westbrook's night all the more impressive was that it was unclear for a while whether he would even be able to play the second half. He slipped at the end of the second quarter and gingerly walked off the court and into the locker room at halftime. During intermission, Westbrook received manual treatment and came out in time for the start of the third quarter. The official word on Westbrook was that his hip is what was ailing him.
  • Said Westbrook of his injury. "I was a little stiff at halftime, but it's the playoffs. You can't afford to sit back and whine about it."
  • Oh yeah, Westbrook scored a team-high 37 points on 15-of-26 shooting. In 43 minutes, he also had five assists against just one turnover.
  • Westbrook has committed just three turnovers in the first four games against the Lakers. Wow!
  • As a team, the Thunder again did a terrific job of taking care of the basketball. Just seven turnovers tonight, and they led to only 10 Lakers points. The Thunder is now averaging just 8.3 turnovers in its four games against the Lakers.
  • Westbrook was so good tonight that had his turnover with 47.8 seconds left cost the Thunder a game he would have gotten a pass from me. The Thunder wouldn't have even been in it had it not been for Westbrook. If anybody had earned the right to make a mistake it was Westbrook. Besides, he slipped and lost the ball. Not like he turned it over on a bone-headed play.
  • I wish every Thunder head could have heard the collective sigh inside Staples Center when Durant drilled the go-ahead 3 with 13.7 seconds remaining. Imagine 19,000 people screaming "nooooooo" in unison and then letting out a collective 'aaaaahhh.' I imagine there is no better sound on the road for a player.
  • KD on his final shot: "I wanted to run the shot clock down and get the last shot. Standing up there, I was just trying to look at the whole picture of the floor and see where I could get the best shot possible...(When) it left my hand I was thinking 'If this doesn't go in, it's going to be a terrible shot. They're going to criticize me a lot."
  • How about Durant's defense? Once again, he switched onto Kobe Bryant and made the Lakers star work extremely hard for everything he got, which wasn't much in the last four minutes after KD attached himself. Using his incredible length, KD contested every shot in textbook fashion. Not only did Durant drill the 3 to put OKC ahead, but he also defended Kobe's 3 that could have tied it. And before that, Durant stole a Gasol pass immediately after Westbrook's turnover. There wasn't much more KD could have done in this one.
  • Oh yeah, KD's final line: 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting with a game-high 13 rebounds in 46 minutes. Can we just start building his statue now?
  • Durant's 13 boards were one less than Gasol and Andrew Bynum had combined.
  • I love how KD can hit a cold-blooded shot like his go-ahead 3 tonight and just turn and look at his bench like 'Yeah, that's what I do.'
  • Worth noting that Durant and Westbrook played the entire second half.
  • The empty trip to the line by KD with 2:33 left to play? That would not have gotten a pass. He had a chance to knot the score at 96-all but clanged them both. Got to hit those.
  • Of course, after an ensuing Lakers turnover, KD nails a turnaround baseline jumper to knot the score at 96-all.
  • This is when Kobe's greatness gets the best of him. If you're going to give him the glory for winning Game 3, you'd better make him the goat for blowing Game 4. The Lakers were executing their game plan to perfection, getting the ball inside and pounding the Thunder in the paint. But then Kobe wanted to transform into the Black Mamba. He got it going in the post against James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha and soon made the game about him. The Lakers were ahead by 11 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining. But that's when Bryant started trying to be the hero, taking tough shots from all over the court while trying to win it on his own. He went 2-for-10 from the field in the final 8:04 and might not have even thought about passing more than twice in the entire stretch.
  • Two more plays that Perk needs to be recognized for, one on defense and one on offense. When the Black Mamba finally did let someone else have a shot, Perk shut down Bynum all by himself with 2 1/2 minutes to go. Perk's low-post defense forced Bynum into a missed turnaround jumper and kept the Lakers lead at two points. Then Perk had the tip-in of Westbrook's miss with 1:16, breaking a 96-all score and giving OKC its first lead since 2:19 was left in the first quarter.
  • Derek Fisher was far from great tonight, but he did stabilize Ramon Sessions for a bit after the Lakers' starting point guard got off to a terrific start. Fisher also hit a huge 3 that sparked the Thunder's 12-3 run that turned the 13-point deficit into just a four-point margin.
  • Serge Ibaka was credited for five blocks. It felt like he had 50. Ibaka's defense was game-changing tonight.
  • Gasol: 10 points on 10 shots tonight. Looks to me like Gasol has lost all interest in battling Ibaka for the better part of 48 minutes. I'm going to credit Ibaka for taking Gasol out of this series. In four games, Gasol has scored 46 points on 40 shots. He's averaged 11.5 points on 47.5 percent shooting while pulling down 8.5 rebounds per game.
  • The free throw line was worth watching in this one because of what transpired in Game 3. The refs were much better tonight, which says more about how bad the crew in Game 3 was than how good the trio in Game 4 was. The Thunder got called for four more fouls than the Lakers and attempted four fewer foul shots than L.A.
  • Through three quarters, Kobe had 14 free throw attempts, the Thunder had 12.
  • Durant didn't get awarded his first trip to the stripe until 33.8 seconds remained in the third quarter.
  • The Thunder has got to clean up its rebounding if it wants to close out this series Monday night. L.A. out-rebounded OKC 18-9 on the offensive glass, which lead to a 19-13 advantage in second chance points. And that would have been much worse had the Lakers converted more second-chance opportunities.
  • Up next. Game 5 on Monday at 8:30 p.m. at the Peake.
-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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