Kobe Bryant strolled into the interview room, pulled his sunglasses off and adjusted his eyes to the bright lights.
He spoke in even tones, neither mad nor happy, about the Lakers having been defeated by 21 points, 110-89, by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round playoff series at the Ford Center.
The Lakers lost both games here, trailing by 29 at one point in Game 4.
The best-of-seven series is now tied, 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center.
That was the only good news for the Lakers.
They talked about getting the ball inside to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. They did, for all the good that did.
They talked about keeping the Thunder off the free-throw line.Oklahoma City was 42 for 48 from the line, the Lakers just 17 for 28.
The Lakers talked about getting back on defense. That didn't happen, the Thunder getting out for 24 fast-break points.
The Lakers talked about keeping the Thunder off the backboards.The Thunder out-rebounded the Lakers, 50-43.
So in a game that nothing seemed to go the Lakers' way, Bryant was asked where his team's frame of mind is after losing two straight playoff games to a young and inexperienced Thunder team.
"I'm not sure," Bryant responded. "I'm not sure.
"But we understand this is a tough test. We said at the beginning of the series that this series wasn't going to be easy. It's going to be a long series. It's going to be a dog-fight – no more so than before because they have a tone of confidence. They know how to play against us. They know what matchups they like. We've just got to go for what we know."
Bryant was asked if it bothered him not to know how the Lakers are feeling after losing two straight playoff games to the Thunder.
"I didn't know last year," Bryant said. "It happens. The playoffs, it's tough. You go through games where you play extremely well and you get busted up pretty well and then you're on to the next one. It's such an up and down thing, especially when you're playing against great competition. It's just part of the process."
Bryant had just 12 points on five-for-10 shooting. He didn't take any shots in the first quarter, scoring nothing. He stayed with the game plan of getting the ball inside.
Bryant didn't play in the fourth quarter.
He left the team bench with a little more than five minutes left in the game to get treatment and to ice his right knee.
Bryant had missed the last two regular-season games recovering from swelling in his right knee. He also has an avulsion fracture on his right index finger and a sore left ankle.
He wanted to get treatment on his knee for the flight home to Los Angeles after the game.
When asked how the knee is affecting his ability to get to the rim, Bryant said: "It's affecting it a little bit. But we'll get on top of it and I'll be ready to go next time."
Bryant was asked if losing by a lopsided margin got his attention more than the five-point loss in Game 3.
"No, we didn't need this for the Thunder to get our attention," Bryant said. "They have our attention. They just beat us -- simple as that."
The Lakers have been in this situation before.
They were tied 2-2 and then 3-3 against the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals last season.
The Lakers won Game 7 at Staples and went on to win the NBA championship.
"We obviously have a lot of experience in doing that, but that's not going to win the next game," Bryant said. "You got to play and you got to play and you got to play hard."
The Lakers won the first two games in this series. Many of the pundits had the Lakers winning in five games.
Now that it's 2-2, Bryant was asked if he had expected the series to be tied going back to Los Angeles.
"Naw, man, our expectations, we wanted to win both of these games and be done with it," Bryant said. "I think that's every team's mind-set coming on the road being up 2-0. That's not the reality of the situation. We've got a tough fight and it should be fun."
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