The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on the brink of elimination Monday night after splitting a pair of nail-biters over the weekend at Staples Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder, thanks to Kevin Durant's clutch shooting, have pushed the Lakers against the wall after a dramatic Game 4 win.
A strong theme has developed in this series. The Lakers jump out to sizable leads, then slowly watch them dissipate as the Thunder ratchet up the intensity and convert big shots down the stretch. The way they've played most of the minutes, you could argue that instead of trailing 3-1 in the series, the Lakers should be leading by that same count. That's how close this series has been.
Monday's Game 5 features a desperate and bickering Laker team that, though suffering that major deficit, strangely feels like it has found the recipe for success against OKC. For roughly three quarters in each of the last three games, the Lakers have carved out leads, only to see them disappear when it matters most—in the fourth.
Oklahoma City arrives home supremely confident in their chances of closing the Lakers out. In the minds of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co., it's only a matter of how soon they complete that thought.
Bearing down to finish the Lakers as soon as possible is in the Thunder's best interest, because the longer the Lakers hang around, the more momentum they will build.
Stay tuned to this space for live scoring updates, thoughts and analysis for Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals.