OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant
scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook added 18 points and eight assists,
and the Oklahoma City Thunder evened their first-round series against
the Los Angeles Lakers with a 110-89 victory in Game 4 on Saturday
For the second straight game, the
Thunder capitalized on a significant edge at the foul line and on the
boards despite the presence of the Lakers' 7-foot tandem of Pau Gasol
and Andrew Bynum.
Oklahoma City never trailed after the
opening five minutes and led by double digits for the final three quarters
in a thorough dismantling of the defending NBA champions.
Bynum had 13 points and 10 rebounds,
and Gasol also scored 13 to lead Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant finished with
only 12 points.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los
After Durant clamped down on Bryant in
the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 101-96 win in Game 3, the matchup
between the NBA's youngest scoring champion and the 2008 MVP never
materialized this time around.
Instead, both superstars were on the
bench for the entire fourth quarter while lineups of mostly reserves
toiled away with little more than the final margin at stake.
It was the Lakers' largest playoff
loss since Boston's clinching 131-92 victory in Game 6 of the 2008
finals. Oklahoma City held a 50-43 rebounding edge and shot 20 more free
throws — finishing 42 of 48.
There was plenty for another raucous
Ford Center crowd to cheer about, with Oklahoma City adding to its lead
throughout. A huge ovation followed when Eric Maynor converted a
double-pumping three-point play and when fellow rookie James Harden hit a
3-pointer moments later to push the advantage to 99-72, then hoisted
three fingers over his head as he trotted back downcourt.
The Thunder bucked a trend of slow
starts in the series, grabbing the lead early and increasing their
advantage with a 12-0 run late in the first quarter. Westbrook had the
first six points in the rush and Bryant headed to the bench for his
first rest of the game while Oklahoma City surged to a 27-14 lead.
Bryant had spent all of his time to
that point deferring to his teammates and didn't attempt his first shot
until he drilled a 3-pointer with 9:07 left in the second quarter after
L.A. had fallen behind by 15. The Thunder led by as many as 16,
including after Bryant's foul led to a four-point play by Harden
that made it 44-28, and it only got worse in the second half.
Lamar Odom made a brief bid to get
the Lakers back into the game with three straight baskets to cut the
deficit to 76-61 late in the third, but Oklahoma City came right back
with its own run of seven straight points.
The lead reached 86-63 after Durant
hit three straight free throws, including one after Luke Walton drew a
technical foul for arguing the initial whistle.
Coach Phil Jackson had seen enough by
then and kept Bryant, Gasol and fellow starters Ron Artest and Derek
Fisher on the sidelines for the final period.
The Thunder are still fighting
against history. Only three of 52 eighth-seeded teams have ever pulled
an upset against a No. 1 seed, and Jackson is 44-0 when his team wins
Game 1 of any playoff series.
But who expected Oklahoma City, the
youngest team in the league, to make it this far in the first place? The
team won only 23 games last season and made no significant free-agent
acquisitions before its 27-win improvement that was the best in the
league this season.
Now, they're guaranteed at least the
chance to extend their season until Game 6 on Friday night back on their
home court — and maybe beyond.
After tying a franchise
playoff record with 31 3-point attempts in Game 3, Los Angeles went 4-for-22 in Game 4. … In the process of answering a question about the
challenge of coaching young players in the postseason, Jackson delivered
what could be perceived as a message to the Lakers' home crowd as the
series shifts back to the Staples Center. "You try to coach players into
having the poise and character that they have to have to sustain that
energy or that rush that comes with that kind of a surge. I don't think
the Thunder's had to face that yet. L.A.'s kind of a laid-back crowd.
They haven't had to face that energy surge in this series yet." …
Among those seated courtside were Gov. Brad Henry, NFL wide receiver
Mark Clayton and Gerald McCoy, the former Oklahoma defensive tackle
taken third overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL draft on