LOS ANGELES — Here's why the Lakers beat the Thunder 99-96 Friday night and kept their hopes alive.
Kobe Bryant hogged the ball. Kevin Durant didn't. That's no rip of Kobe. Sometimes hogging is good.
Kobe launched 25 shots and 18 foul shots; he made few field goals (nine) but all of the foul shots. Durant launched 23 shots and six foul shots; Durant made 12 field goals and all of his foul shots.
And he passed too much. Scotty Brooks said so after Game 2, and his assessment of Game 3 should be the same. Sometimes, you just have to shoot.
This game turned with 1:51 left, when Durant drove the lane with the Thunder owning a three-point lead. Durant dropped a nice little pass to Kendrick Perkins, which usually is a good basketball play. But not this time.
Perk is a stallion in this series, but not with the ball in his hands. Too many Laker skyscrapers for the vertically-challenged Perkins to muscle the ball into the hoop. Metta World Chaos blocked Perk's layup, Kobe Bryant hit a basket on the other end, and the Lakers lived — and won it — at the foul line the rest of the way.
Shoot the ball, Kevin. In the lane, the Thunder's best hope is the trick shots of KD. His up-and-under scoop shots were on again, and during a stretch of the second half when the Thunder missed nine straight shots, the slump was book-ended by a driving Durant bank shot that seemed unmakeable and a how-did-he-make-that trick shot that started with Durant making a remarkable jumping catch, then lofting the ball while falling on his back and barely off the floor.
Durant was sensation, with 31 points on 12-of-23 shooting. But the Thunder needed Durant to take 25 shots, or even 30, on this night.
Now, the good news is that the Thunder remains in control of this series, two games to one. And the Lakers have to do this all over again Saturday night, when their legs will be gone from chasing the baby Boomers and their bodies sore from all those fouls and their psyche wondering if the whistle will blow as crazy as it did Friday night.
Win Saturday night, and the Lakers have a fighting chance. It becomes a three-game series with two games in Oklahoma City. Lose Saturday night, and the Lakers have to know they are finished.
This was a ferocious game. Nothing came easy for much of anyone, with the possible exception of Laker point guards Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake, who were largely ignored by OKC because of ineffectiveness but combined for 24 points Friday night.
Kobe and Andrew Bynum combined to make 11 of 38 shots. Russell Westbrook and James Harden combined to make 11 of 31. This was ferocious defense, sort of like they play in the Eastern Conference, only the offensive talent is superior on both the Thunder and Lakers.
And Durant clearly was the most superior. In a game in which both teams shot under 40 percent, he shot over 50 percent, despite Chaos clinging to him at all costs.
Durant did his job in the final nine seconds, when the Thunder had to have a 3-pointer to tie. He got himself free for at least a prayer, a 25-footer in the final seconds that bounced off.
“We didn't have a timeout, but we did about as good as we can do,” Scotty Brooks said.
The Thunder has to have Durant be selfish in a game like this. He's a heck of a playmaker, but he's an even better scorer. Slay the dragon. Shoot the ball. Win the game.
We won't think less of you, Kevin.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.