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Gasol in perfect position to end the first-round series. Jazz is up next.

May 01, 2010|Mike Bresnahan

OKLAHOMA CITY — Better make room for another historic tenth of a second.

Six years after Derek Fisher's unforgettable "0.4" shot came Pau Gasol's "0.5" clincher, another last-second theme on a different Lakers team that pushed itself past the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Gasol's follow of Kobe Bryant's miss provided the final points Friday at Ford Center, an apparent loss turned into a 95-94 victory with the flick of two hands and half a second showing on the scoreboard.

The Lakers will have barely 36 hours, if that, to celebrate another memorable playoff moment for a franchise filled with them. They eliminated the Thunder, four games to two, and begin the Western Conference semifinals at home Sunday against Utah at 12:30 p.m.

It looked as if a Game 7 would be necessary against Oklahoma City when Bryant's 13-footer from the wing hit the rim and bounced to the right side. But Gasol was there, hands up, and pushed the ball into the basket.

"I kept battling, kept hustling," Gasol said. "Luckily, I pursued that ball and I put it in."

Gasol looked around with a smile and then checked the game clock, later saying he knew the final buzzer hadn't sounded but he wanted to know how much time was left.

Not enough for the Thunder. Russell Westbrook's three-point attempt after a timeout barely grazed the rim.

The Lakers rid themselves of the Thunder, finally, thanks to Gasol and a healthy-looking Bryant, who had 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Bryant's effort in the third quarter -- 16 points, six-for-eight shooting -- kept the Lakers ahead of the Thunder going into the fourth quarter. From there, it came down to the final seconds.

Bryant's shot with 1.8 seconds left wasn't good enough. Gasol's tip was.

"Pau didn't quit on the play," Bryant said. "He just kept playing. He's done that numerous times in the playoffs. Last year I missed a couple of shots, but he's right there to follow it up."

The Lakers now face an injury-diminished Utah team they beat three out of four times this season. The average margin of victory in their wins: 17.7 points.

Utah center Mehmet Okur is out because of a ruptured Achilles' tendon and forward Andrei Kirilenko only recently began running full court after missing the first round because of a strained calf.

The Lakers won't have much time to rest.

"We'll be ready," Bryant said. "No scouting report necessary for either team. We've played each other so many times. We're just extremely, extremely familiar with each other."

Friday wasn't entirely wonderful for the Lakers.

Andrew Bynum sustained a hyper-extended right knee near the midpoint of the third quarter and checked out of the game for a few minutes. He re-entered at the start of the fourth quarter but finished with a quiet six points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.

The Thunder made it a series with victories in Games 3 and 4 in front of an unforgettably loud crowd, but Kevin Durant and Westbrook couldn't quite carry them back to Staples Center for a seventh game.

Durant had 26 points Friday but made only five of 23 shots. Westbrook had 21 points but made seven of 20 shots.

Despite it all, Oklahoma City almost took another home victory, turning a 91-84 deficit into a 94-91 lead with 2:30 left. But the Thunder didn't score any more.

"Unfortunately, Gasol was in the right place at the right time," Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said. "We didn't put a body on him. The ball went right into his hands. They got a good break. But he put himself in that position."

Gasol finished with only nine points on four-for-11 shooting, but he took 18 rebounds, one of them unequivocally more important than all the rest combined.

He smiled broadly after it was over.

So did the Lakers. The conference semifinals await.

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