Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is fouled by Thunder power forward Nick Collison…
Kevin Durant made a three-point basket with just more than 13 seconds to play to carry the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 103-100 comeback victory over the Lakers in a critical Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series at Staples Center on Saturday night.
Durant scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter when the Thunder overcame a 13-point deficit to take a three-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 5 heading back to Oklahoma City on Monday.
The game was reminiscent of the Thunder’s comeback victory over the Lakers in Game 2 in Oklahoma City.
Russell Westbrook, who led the Thunder comeback effort in the fourth, led all Oklahoma City scorers with 37 points.
Kobe Bryant, who scored 15 points in the third quarter, nearly willed the Lakers to victory with 38 points, but he couldn’t stall the Thunder comeback.
With Bryant sitting out the start of the quarter, Metta World Peace did his best Kobe impersonation and simply took over. He drained a three-pointer, went to the free-throw line and made one of two, made another three, then forced a jump ball with an aggressive defensive play under the boards, and the Lakers led, 89-78, with 8:19 to play.
Thunder Coach Scott Brooks implored his players to push the pace of play, but the Lakers had been getting back on defense and keeping the pace of the game just as they liked it.
As had been the case throughout, the Thunder managed consecutive scoring possessions when Durant made two free throws and Westbrook made an 18-footer to cut the Lakers’ lead to seven, but Steve Blake answered for the Lakers with a short banker as the shot clock expired to push the Lakers’ lead back to nine with 6:03 to play.
Then Westbrook went to work. He scored nine consecutive points for the Thunder, his 18-foot jumper with four minutes left cutting the Lakers’ lead to 96-92. The Lakers held their lead in part thanks to an impossible shot by Bryant, spinning and making an outside shot along the baseline with James Harden all over him.
Durant, pushing the ball upcourt, then went to the line for two free throws with 2:58 to play. He made both and at that point was six for six from the line in the quarter. After drawing a foul by World Peace on the Lakers’ next possession, Durant went to the line for the tie. He missed both.
Durant then made a baseline jumper over Bryant to tie the score and Kendrick Perkins picked the perfect time to make his first basket of the game on a put-back with 1:19 left to put Oklahoma City ahead, 98-96.
Bryant, who made only two of nine shots from the field in the fourth, then made two free throws to tie it again.
The teams inexplicably traded turnovers before Durant made the big three-pointer with 13 seconds to play to make it 101-98.
Lakers 80, Oklahoma City 71 (end of third quarter)
Kobe Bryant scored 15 points on an assortment of drives, turnaround jumpers and fadeaways -- including a long two-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer -- to keep the Thunder at bay and keep the Lakers up by nine after three quarters.
Russell Westbrook did his best to offset Bryant with 13 points of his own, but even with Kevin Durant adding a pair of three-pointers and two free throws, the Thunder simply couldn’t mount an attack that wasn’t answered by the Lakers.
Bryant assumed control early in the quarter, hitting two mid-range fadeaway jumpers, two free throws and a Kobe-esque baseline turnaround jumper for eight points as the Lakers maintained their 10-point lead, 68-58.
Oklahoma City was back to relying on its outside shooting, and three-point baskets by Durant and Westbrook, two free throws by Westbrook and a follow-shot and inside basket by Serge Ibaka enabled the Thunder to keep pace with the Lakers. But clearly, at that point, trading baskets would do nothing to eat into the Lakers’ lead.
Westbrook heated up once the Thunder fell behind by 12, twice driving hard to the rim for baskets and making a 10-footer. Durant followed that with a straightaway three-pointer to cut the lead to 74-67 and the Thunder called a timeout with 2:26 left in the quarter. Westbrook had 11 points in the quarter at that point; Bryant had 10 as the two guards clearly demonstrated why they are so important to their teams’ success.
Metta World Peace went to the line with 2:26 left in the quarter and made the first free throw. He missed the second but the Lakers got the offensive rebound and Bryant drove hard down the lane to push the lead back to 10.
Lakers 56, Oklahoma City 46 (halftime)
The Lakers bolted to a 10-point lead at the start of the second quarter, with Andrew Bynum making a baseline jumper, Steve Blake making a three-pointer from the left corner and Bynum dunking on another transition breakaway to make it 36-26, forcing a Thunder timeout.