LA Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder Game 5: Running Diary, Live Score, & Analysis
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.
So what happens with the Lakers going forward?
The long-term outlook is bleak for Mike Brown's team. Aside from a few unwieldy contracts, turmoil and dissension rules the front office and lockerroom with power struggles everywhere.
Jim Buss, who knows less about basketball than Mitch Kupchak forgets in a week, has taken the reins of personnel over from Kupchak, handcuffing his savvy GM from improving the team. Buss' refusal to consider trading Andrew Bynum has baffled many within the organization, even though Bynum is the team's most obvious trade piece.
Kobe Bryant, who turns 34 this summer, and Pau Gasol are under contract for two more seasons while Bynum enters the final guaranteed year of his deal. Ramon Sessions, the jitterbug guard who was supposed to shore up the Laker point guard deficiency, can opt out of his contract. Jordan Hill, the sensational trade deadline acquisition, can leave unrestricted as a free agent. The payroll is under water, limiting the front office's flexibility to quickly improve the team this summer.
The Lakers, more than ever, are at a crossroads, with their title-contending days fading quickly in the rear view, and gradual decline ahead.
Facts and tidbits:
- The Thunder's 106 points included only three double-figure scorers. The trio of Durant-Westbrook-Harden put up 70, which is right within the team's optimal range for success.
- The Thunder outscored the Lakers in transition by a whopping 98-33 in the series.
- OKC averaged just nine turnovers per game in the series after leading the league with 16.3 per game during the season.
- The Thunder bench consistently dominated while the starters were on the bench, putting up 153 points in five games, or 30.6 per game (!!!!!). That potent bench will tangle with the NBA's best bench during the year in San Antonio.
- The Lakers were playing on borrowed time as they kept Game 5 close, because of the uncharacteristic rebounding disparity, the OKC transition onslaught, Andrew Bynum's transience and their over-reliance on Kobe Bryant to score. It was a matter of when, not if, the Thunder went on a run to put the nail in the Laker coffin.
- Ramon Sessions was a complete atrocity on both ends of the court. He put up a 1-6 shooting night with three assists and six turnovers while getting repeatedly torched by Russell Westbrook. His total meltdown is a big reason why OKC was able to separate starting in the third quarter.
- The Thunder is growing up before our eyes. Their maturation is showing in how they've learned to play under control and limit turnovers, while not stifling their frenetic, explosive style. Tonight's 20 assists to 11 turnovers is a testament to that fact.
Game 5 goes final with the Oklahoma City Thunder eliminating the LA Lakers 106-90 in convincing fashion.
Russell Westbrook (28 points), Kevin Durant (25) and James Harden (17) were typically brilliant, and their best tonight was more than enough to overcome the Lakers.
Kendrick Perkins' 11 rebounds and two blocks were huge as the Thunder pulled away from the Lakers, as was his stout defense on Andrew Bynum (10 points on 4-10 shooting with four rebounds).
The prolonged run that the Lakers fought off all series long has surfaced in this fourth quarter, leaving no doubt about the fate of this game.
When the Thunder find the right level of momentum, the entire game comes together in synergy: jumpshots that they missed start falling, rebounds are decisive, steals crop up in a hurry and the defense is tight and physical.
I am fascinated to see that synergy hit full speed against the mastery and cohesiveness of the Spurs in the next round.
Watching Kobe's performance tonight, even in sure defeat, is electrifying. He's got 40, yes, 40, points on 17-30 shooting with only two turnovers.
Kobe's heart and competitiveness jumps off the screen, but his teammates consistently underwhelm as they fail to match him. One can only wonder the heights to which the Lakers could ascend if every player matched Kobe's intensity and focus.
Oklahoma City led the league in turnovers during the season, but have committed just nine tonight while compiling 14 points off Laker turnovers and 30 fast break points total.
When the Thunder curb turnovers and get 30 points in transition, no one has a prayer to beat them. Gregg Popovich's Spurs will certainly game plan to eliminate fast break chances for the blistering trio that runs OKC's break in the West Finals.
Nick Collison again comes through on a tip-in with no Laker boxout in sight. He's got four rebounds for the quarter and sports a game-best plus-11.
Nick Collison is wreaking non-scoring havoc, drawing charges, finding open shooters and crashing the glass with his signature effort.
Kobe has re-entered the game, but it's too late. The Thunder's 10-0 run to start the quarter has extended the lead to an insurmountable 16 points.
Game 5, and this series, are over barring a miracle for LA.
Sure enough, the Thunder hit two quick jumpers to extend the lead to 11, followed immediately by a Laker timeout.
I am pre-emptively handing this game to OKC because of how the Lakers will try to come back: Kobe shooting a lot, shooting some more, and OKC giving him nothing easy. Bynum and Gasol will not get the touches down low that the Lakers need to stay in this game.
The Lakers will have to out-Thunder the Thunder in this final quarter to stay alive.
Kobe Bryant (34 points) sits to begin the fourth, while the Durant-Westbrook-Harden trio all play.
If OKC extends this lead above 10 early, which looks inevitable, Kobe Bryant will be back very quickly.
That too-late tip by Gasol to end the third quarter is the second basket the Lakers have converted after the buzzer so far.
They trail by six at the end of three, and those missed four are a huge loss at this point.
OKC has all the momentum heading into the fourth after the Lakers seized it to begin the half. Andrew Bynum looks terrible, slowed by foul trouble that completely inhibited his game flow early on.
A sure sign that the Lakers are coming unglued: Kobe has taken 23 field goals while his teammates have begun their late-game ritual of standing and watching.
After Kobe hits one of two at the line, Durant gets absolutely bailed out on a driving move on the other end.
Not only does Ramon Sessions have four turnovers and only three assists, he's allowed Russell Westbrook to erupt for ten third-quarter points and an untold measure of confidence.
Make it twelve in the quarter for Westbrook. Steve Blake has come on to try anything to slow him down as the Thunder methodically begin to pull away from the Lakers with under a minute remaining in the third.
If this series has taught us anything, it's that the Lakers have at least one meltdown in them per game, usually in the middle of the fourth quarter.
It looks like that meltdown could come sometime in this third quarter, though that Ron Peace three-pointer REALLY stunted OKC's momentum.
Did Reggie Miller just classify reading the passing lanes as "UCLA instinct"?
I'm glad he's here.
Ramon Sessions continues his choke artistry on a soft pass and then open-court foul on Russell Westbrook, who hopelessly flings the ball off the backboard and in for a three-point play.
Things got out of control for the Lakers VERY quickly. In a minute's span, a 70-66 lead turned into a 72-70 deficit after an easy layup, tip-dunk and Sessions' weak play.
I think all questions about why Sessions was a backup at each previous stop have been answered. He's just not consistent or tough enough to play starter's minutes, and he can't shoot for his life.
Russell Westbrook just put his team in the penalty with 5:27 left in the third on a foolish foul. The Lakers need to attack the rim aggressively and make the free throw stripe a decided advantage as they have done the last few games.
Lakers lead, 70-68.
The Lakers are shooting 52 percent to the Thunder's 42. OKC is 1-8 from beyond the arc and are clearly off their mark thus far.
Durant and Westbrook have scored six of the last eight for OKC from the field, so that shooting percentage might be on the rise. If the Thunder can keep the score close while shooting so poorly as a team, they've got a good shot to pull away once they start converting.
Kobe looks headed for an historic playoff performance. After a step-back jumper with the foul, Kobe is shooting 12-20 for 28 points.
Lakers took the lead on that play, but Durant starts to heat up with a little fading shot to tie it at 66.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are really struggling from the perimeter, combining for an 8-25 performance so far. Durant's missed breakaway layup a moment ago is indicative of he and Westbrook's night of wide-open misses.
There's no doubt that Durant will start making some of the same shots he's missing, while Westbrook finds a way to get a driving layup or two to get him going.
Right on cue, Durant knocks down an 18-footer to give OKC the one-point lead.
Andrew Bynum reaches in and stupidly picks up his fourth foul, but stays on the court and quickly scores with the left hook.
Second half keys:
- SLOW DOWN THE PACE and force the Thunder to play in the half court.
- Win the rebounding battle
- Keep Harden, Westbrook and Durant out of the lane. Force them to get their shots on jumpers only.
- Don't stop working the post offensively, especially as Gasol has it going.
- Score as quickly as possible in the shot clock.
- Don't let the Lakers get second chances on the glass as they have so far in the series.
- Try to deepen Andrew Bynum's and Jordan Hill's foul trouble by drawing an early foul.
We've reached the half with Oklahoma City on top, 54-51, after a terrible sequence for the refs.
The big disparity in the first half is seen in fast break points, with the Thunder dominating 18-4. Amazingly, OKC is shooting just 39 percent even with all those layups and dunks. That's a testament to the Laker defense in spite of giving up all those TEN offensive boards.
This has not followed the Games 2-4 script; the Lakers are fortunate to be in this game, instead of dictating the pace and the glass.
The refs predictably give Ron Peace a reputation flagrant on a beautifully played, though hard, transition foul. Peace immediately loses his mind and picks up a technical foul, followed by Kobe Bryant picking up a ridiculous tech as well.
Four free throws later, the Thunder leads by three and gets the ball. That sequence is an absolute embarrassment to David Stern and his officers.
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