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It's out with the old as Thunder gallops past Lakers to win series

Lakers were NBA champions in 2009 and '10, but that era is a distant memory after 106-90 Game 5 loss to young, frisky Oklahoma City seals aging team's second straight second-round playoff elimination.

May 21, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant strikes a familiar pose as the Thunder celebrate late in Game 5 on Monday night in Oklahoma City.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant strikes a familiar pose as the Thunder celebrate… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Bynum was right. Close-out games can be easy.

The Oklahoma City Thunder stepped all over the Lakers in the fourth quarter of their 106-90 Game 5 victory Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, ending the Lakers' season yet again in the Western Conference semifinals.

It wasn't as bad as last season's 36-point blowout loss in Dallas, and there won't be any carry-over suspensions for next season, but the two-championship run the Lakers put together couldn't have seemed any further in the past.

PHOTOS: Lakers vs. Thunder, Game 5

The symbolism was gloomy for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, who openly yelled back and forth at each other in the final minutes after a six-point deficit through three quarters swelled amid a 10-0 Thunder run to start the fourth.

Only eight teams had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA series. The Lakers wouldn't be the ninth.

Bryant had 42 points but Gasol was a distant second with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Ramon Sessions had eight points, made only one of six shots and committed six turnovers.

The Lakers' reserves were badly outscored, 35-5, which was hardly unusual this season.

Bynum had only 10 points and four rebounds in 35 minutes.

Bryant, Gasol and seemingly every Lakers player took part in postgame handshakes with the Thunder, but Bynum walked to the locker room without offering any congratulations. He didn't exactly apologize afterward.

"Nah, I just came back. We lost," he said. Then he added, "Give that team credit, they obviously were the better team."

The Lakers are expected to pick up the one-year, $16.1-million option to keep him next season but Bynum said he had "no idea" if he would sign a long-term extension during the off-season.

"It's going to depend on what the team wants to do," he said. "I definitely want to stay. I really think I'm going to be back next year. I can't say the same for everyone but I do know that I'm going to come back and be a better player."

Bynum made one of six shots and had three points and two rebounds in the second half. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak declined to comment on the future of Bynum or any other Lakers.

Meanwhile, Gasol looked incredibly sad while Derek Fisher hugged him near the Lakers' bench and talked to him privately after the game.

"It has been a crazy year," said Gasol, who was part of a three-team preseason trade that was vetoed by the NBA. "Obviously I would like to continue to work and fight for this franchise and help it as much as I can. But I don't know if that's mutual or not."

Gasol brushed off the angry words he and Bryant exchanged in the fourth quarter.

"Obviously when you're down and you're losing and you see yourself out of the playoffs, you get frustrated," Gasol said. "Our relationship is good. We expect a lot out of each other. What he brings to the table is very unique and he's one of the greatest that's ever played."

Bryant will be 34 next season and will travel to Germany again for another innovative, non-invasive procedure on his habitually sore right knee. He looked fine in Game 5, making 18 of 33 shots.

"We all know he's getting older but he can still play," Kupchak said. "The window is still open."

If so, it's closing, very quickly.

Russell Westbrook had 28 points and Kevin Durant scored 25 for Oklahoma City, which expects to return everybody next season from its stunning nucleus of under-25 players.

The Thunder will play San Antonio in the West finals. The Lakers will begin cleaning out their lockers Tuesday, another season shortened by a better team.

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