Thunder 103, Lakers 100
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.
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