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Berry Tramel: Lakers of old steal the show

by Berry Tramel Modified: April 28, 2010 at 11:00 am •  Published: April 28, 2010

“I enjoy a challenge,” Kobe said. “He’s been playing sensational. If we’re going to be eliminated, then I don’t want to go into the summer thinking I could have done something about it.”

Each coach now has a master defensive move in this series. Scott Brooks shifted Durant onto Kobe in the pivotal fourth quarter of Game 3, now Kobe on Westbrook. Brooks will have to counter, and at the very least, Sefolosha must make the Lakers pay by muscling Fisher. There was none of that Tuesday night.

The Lakers also achieved their goal of turning this into a halfcourt game. They got back on defense. The Thunder had outscored LA 72-17 in fast-break points during the series, but the Thunder transition game withered. The Lakers outscored OKC 12-7 in fast-break points. The Thunder can't win getting outscored in transition.

“The guards got up more today, pressured Westbrook in the backcourt so he didn’t get the ball with that energy coming up the court,” Bynum said. “That really helped slow him down, and we just made a conscious effort to get back, because we got challenged, especially me, to run back on defense.”

Jackson has liked his team in the halfcourt all series. The Lakers can’t catch the Thunder in a footrace, but they will win tug o’ war every time. That’s what happened Tuesday night.

And the Thunder has got to do something about these slow starts. The Lakers have gotten up big early four times in five games, and while the Thunder had rallied until Tuesday night, it's no way to make a living in the playoffs.

Ron Artest's 3-pointer from the corner gave the Lakers a 31-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, and you knew it wouldn't be the Thunder's night.

Jackson was saying before the game that Artest needed to stop shooting from the corner, that his misfires were mostly from there. So what does Artest do? He nails two in the game and finds his shooting touch.

Such was the night for the Lakers, who woke up and put to rest the idea that they are some kind of bogus contender.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.