“That’s two games in a row that we controlled the tempo,” the Lakers guard said following his team’s Game 3 win Friday night. “We did a good job of controlling the pace of the game and being physical.”
Now, in Game 4 on Saturday night inside Staples Center, the Thunder must figure out a way to again dictate the pace. That’s the key for Oklahoma City to regain momentum and grab complete control of this series.
The Thunder knows it and the Lakers do, too.
Bryant was blunt when asked if the Lakers, on less than 24 hours rest, will again be able to play with the same intensity and physicality Saturday night.
“No,” he said. “Not if it’s an up-and-down game, no. We don’t have a shot. If both of these teams were well-rested we wouldn’t have a shot. So we have to slow the game down and play our pace, play our tempo and we’ll be fine. Whether it’s a back-to-back or three nights in a row it doesn’t matter. If we control the pace, we’ll give ourselves a great opportunity.”
In Game 1, the Thunder cruised to a 29-point victory by speeding up the game and making the Lakers uncomfortable. OKC scored 13 fast break points and converted 15 Lakers turnovers into 22 points. The Thunder also kept the Lakers off the free throw line, limiting them to 15 attempts.
In Games 2 and 3, however, at least one ingredient was missing from that three-part recipe.
The Thunder notched a 77-75 win in Game 2 despite scoring just 14 points off 15 Lakers turnovers. In that game, the Thunder raced to 18 fast-break points and again did a good job of limiting the Lakers’ free throw attempts, holding them to just 14.
On Friday night, it was the free throw line that doomed the Thunder.
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