Late surge gives Thunder a 2-0 series lead

Oklahoma City outlasts Lakers 77-75 Wednesday night

Author: By The Sports Xchange
Published On: May 17 2012 09:32:47 AM EDT   Updated On: May 17 2012 01:03:45 PM EDT

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Lakers gave everything they had, and it still wasn't enough.

The Oklahoma City Thunder outlasted the Lakers 77-75 in a hard-fought, defensive battle in Game 2 on Wednesday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

It was a much better showing by the Lakers after they got trounced by 29 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series. But the Thunder was simply too good down the stretch. Oklahoma City ended the game on a 9-0 run to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

Game 3 is Friday in Los Angeles.

"I thought we did a great job throughout the game, just not the last two minutes," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "We came out the last two minutes and did not do a good job offensively and defensively. That was the difference in the ballgame. It is still a series. They did what they were supposed to do. They protected their home court. They got two wins. Now we have to do the same. But I feel like there is a lot of basketball left in our team."

Thunder forward Kevin Durant hit a baseline runner for the go-ahead bucket with 18.6 seconds to go, then made a foul shot with 0.3 seconds remaining for the game's final margin.

Durant scored five of the Thunder's final nine points to help Oklahoma City erase a 75-68 deficit with two minutes remaining. The spurt came as a shock seeing as how the Lakers had held the Thunder to 20 second-half points up until the final two minutes.

"It's a tough loss, but the biggest thing for us was that we found some things out defensively that we feel we can do that's effective," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "They did a great job. It was a great comeback by them in the last two minutes. They got themselves a gritty win."

Los Angeles guard Steve Blake missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the right corner in the waning seconds.

"I wish it was my magical words," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said when asked what he told his team to ignite the game-clinching run. "But all I told them was, 'Guys, we are down seven. You don't have to play perfect basketball, but we are going to be pretty close. You have to be solid. You have to really get focused on the defensive end.'"

Durant finished with a game-high 22 points and added seven rebounds and five assists. Teammate Russell Westbrook added 15 points, and James Harden scored 13 off the bench for the Thunder.

Bryant and Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 20 points apiece. Pau Gasol chipped in 14 points and 11 rebounds.

After scoring 119 points in Game 1, the Thunder tied a season low in points Wednesday night.

"They defended us well," Thunder forward Nick Collison said. "They didn't give us anything easy. We struggled offensively."

The Lakers started the third quarter on a 6-0 run, erasing a three-point halftime deficit and taking a 51-45 lead 4 minutes, 10 seconds into the period. Los Angeles benefited again from working the ball inside to its big men for high-percentage shots. Gasol finished a feed from Bryant with a dunk, Bynum connected on a jump hook off a dish from Metta World Peace, and Gasol made a short runner to cap the quick spurt.

Durant ended the run with a fast-break dunk after Lakers guard Ramon Sessions missed a dunk at the other end. But the Thunder was hounded by a barrage of missed shots and more turnovers.

Oklahoma City shot just 4-for-15 in the third quarter and turned it over five times. It helped the Lakers come out of the period with a 63-60 lead.

Kendrick Perkins remained in his role as the Thunder's starting center despite re-injuring his ailing right hip early in the third quarter of Game 1. Perkins was listed as a game-time decision, but Brooks announced 90 minutes prior to tip-off that Perkins would suit up and would not be under any restrictions.

Perkins battled Bynum valiantly, but Bynum was too much inside early on. Los Angeles' big man scored 10 of his 12 first-half points in the first quarter and added five rebounds before the break.

Still, the Thunder took a 48-45 lead at halftime after shooting 51.4 percent, the second time in as many games that Oklahoma City has connected on at least 50 percent of its shots in the opening half. The Thunder got 12 points from Westbrook and 10 points from Durant, who made all four of his shots in the half.

Bryant added 10 points for the Lakers, but was just 4-for-11 in the first half, which contributed to Los Angeles' 42.5 percent shooting.

Unlike Game 1, when the Thunder raced to a 15-point halftime lead, Oklahoma City couldn't run away from a more determined Lakers team early on. The Thunder's biggest lead in the first half was just seven points.

Much of that had to do with turnovers. After turning it over just four times in Game 1, the Thunder registered its fourth turnover with 1:52 remaining in the opening quarter. Oklahoma City had five turnovers, leading to eight Lakers points, by halftime.

NOTES: Bynum and Lakers forward Devin Ebanks were both fined by the league Wednesday. Bynum was fined $15,000 for failing to make himself available to the media following the Lakers' practice Tuesday. Ebanks was fined $25,000 for his actions following his ejection from the Lakers' 119-90 loss to the Thunder in Game 1. ... Bryant passed Shaquille O'Neal and moved into sole possession of third place on the all-time list of playoff games. Wednesday night was Bryant's 217th career playoff game. ... A combined 24 fouls were called in the first half, with 16 fouls being called in the second quarter alone.