Bynum, who had been two for 13 in Friday night’s Game 3 loss, was seven of eight for 14 points at that point. For most of the remainder of the quarter, the teams essentially traded baskets, with the Lakers holding on to a lead that didn’t drop below seven.
Ramon Sessions scored on two consecutive drives to extend the Lakers’ lead to 40-29 before former Laker Derek Fisher made a 15-foot banker and Russell Westbrook made two free throws to cut the Lakers' lead to seven. Still, Oklahoma City was relying heavily on outside shooting, while the Lakers were mixing a more effective blend of inside and outside scoring to hold onto a comfortable –- if that is possible -- lead.
Midway through the quarter, the Lakers led, 45-35, their baskets coming on four inside shots, two three-pointers and a mid-range shot by Bynum.
Oklahoma City began trying to go inside, but a collapsing Lakers defense frustrated most of those efforts and kept the Thunder from cutting significantly into the lead.
The teams continued their remarkable free-throw shooting, each going four for four, until Jordan Hill made only one of two with a little more than five minutes left.
Scary moment at the end of the half when Westbrook slipped on the floor and went down while trying to avoid doing the splits. He stayed down for several seconds before the teams headed to the locker room for halftime. Players have been slipping frequently on the floor, the speculation being that the ice under the floor for Sunday afternoon’s Kings playoff game might have had an effect.
Big three vs. big three at the half:
Bryant 16 points, 5 rebounds; Bynum 14 points, 7 rebounds; Gasol 6 points, 3 rebounds.
Westbrook 14 points, 4 assists; Durant 12 points, 6 rebounds; Harden 10 points, 3 rebounds.
Lakers 29, Oklahoma City 24 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers wanted a half-court game; the Thunder wanted to run. How that played out could go a long way toward determining whether the Lakers or Oklahoma City would prevail in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series at Staples Center on Saturday night.
The Lakers got their way in the first quarter, keeping the Thunder out of transition and scoring a couple of baskets themselves on breaks. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum each had 10 points, with the Lakers doing most of their damage inside.
Most of the Thunder’s scoring came from outside, seven of their 11 baskets were from the perimeter.
Midway through the opening quarter at the first timeout, the score was tied, 14-14, the teams playing at a pace that suited the Lakers. Aside from two free throws by Bryant, all the Lakers’ points came from right around the basket. Bynum had three point-blank baskets.
The Thunder was relying largely on its outside shooting, with Russell Westbrook hitting two outside shots and scoring on a drive down the lane and Serge Ibaka knocking down a couple of 18-footers.
It wasn’t until 4:13 remained in the quarter that the Lakers hit an outside shot, a 15-footer by Bryant, which was followed by a three-pointer by Metta World Peace from the top of the key to give the Lakers a 21-18 lead. The teams had never been more than two points apart until that point in a back-and-forth game that had been tied nine times.
Two more free throws by Bryant, a transition jumper by Bryant and Bryant’s full-court pass to Bynum for a layup gave the Lakes a 27-22 lead before James Harden made two free throws to cut it to 27-24. Bynum’s hook shot made it 29-24.
The Thunder leads the best-of-seven series, two games to one, with Game 5 on Monday night in Oklahoma City.