Kobe leads Lakers past Thunder in 99-96 thriller

Kobe leads Lakers past Thunder in 99-96 thriller

By GREG BEACHAM
Posted May 19 2012 6:12AM

LOS ANGELES (AP) With their Game 2 collapse still fresh in their minds, the Los Angeles Lakers avoided a sequel with the only game plan they’re confident will work against the younger, faster Oklahoma City Thunder.

They got slow. They got into the paint. And they got to the free-throw line 42 times, incredibly making all but one of those shots.

Kobe Bryant knows it isn’t pretty. He also knows it’s probably the only way the Lakers can pull the high-flying Thunder down to their level.

Bryant scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers rallied late for a 99-96 victory in Game 3 on Friday night, cutting the Thunder’s second-round series lead to 2-1.

“That’s two games in a row that we controlled the tempo,” said Bryant, who surpassed Gail Goodrich’s 1972 team record of 17 free throws without a miss.

“We did a good job of controlling the pace of the game and being physical,” Bryant added. “It’s not taxing, it’s fun. It’s a challenge, and we all enjoy that. I know I certainly do. You want to be against an opponent that you respect, and you know is going to bring it physically and emotionally.”

The Lakers were close to a historically insurmountable playoff deficit when the Thunder went ahead 92-87 with 3 minutes left. Instead, they finished on a 12-4 run, scoring six points on free throws in the final 33 seconds and earning the chance to even the series in Game 4 on Saturday night.

Metta World Peace swiped the ball from Kevin Durant and hit two free throws with 12.9 seconds left for the third-seeded Lakers. When Durant missed a potential tying 3-pointer before Andrew Bynum blocked Serge Ibaka’s shot at the buzzer, the Lakers’ frenzied crowd celebrated only their second victory in the last six playoff games.

Thunder at Lakers – May 18, 2012 – Game Preview, Play by Play, Scores and Recap on NBA.com.