May 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) attempts a free throw basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of game three of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

NBA Playoffs 2012: Los Angeles Lakers Hold Down Home Court, Defeat Oklahoma City In Game 3


Final Score:

LAL – 99

OKC – 96

Top Stars:

LAL – Kobe Bryant: 36 Points, 7 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 2 Steals

OKC – Kevin Durant: 31 Points, 5 Rebounds, 1 Assists, 2 Steals, 1 Block

Recap:

Game 3 was a must win situation for the Lakers to avoid falling 3-0 to the surging Thunder. The score does not tell the story of this game. The field goal shooting and three point shooting was horrendous for both teams. This game was contested mostly from the free throw line. Both teams shot incredibly well from the free throw line. The Thunder shot 26-28 from the free throw line and the Lakers shot 41-42 from the free throw line. These free throws kept the score up, despite baskets not falling.

The tempo really accelerated dramatically in the fourth quarter. Both teams traded buckets, and the score remained within five or six points for the majority of the quarter. The Lakers scored, then the Thunder responded next possession by forcing turnovers and getting points off the break. James Harden’s pull up three pointer on a fast break was risky though he was able to knock it down. It seemed as if that was the turning point the trailing Thunder needed. That’s when Kobe Bryant decided to take over. He dominated his mismatch Derek Fisher several plays in a row before James Harden defended him again. Bryant was still able to exploit that matchup.

Andrew Bynum was again a limited factor offensively. He shot 2 of 13 from the field. He hit 11 of 12 free throws, so it shows that he was being aggressive. However, at 7-feet tall and over 280 lbs., he should be able to throw his size around a little more. His play has been sloppy and inconsistent. Kendrick Perkins, bulky in his own right, has prevented Bynum’s dominance. It will be necessary moving forward for Bynum to compete at the All Star level he displayed this season.

The Thunder lost this game because of poor late game execution. Of course, an entire game is not won in a play or two. Despite that, the end of the game was not the ideal way to approach a close game. Down three, to nobody’s surprise or dismay, Kevin Durant got the ball. However, no sufficient screens were set in such a way that he’d have a clearer path to a wider open shot. The shot, though miles long, was decent enough, but what ensued is the more frustrating part. Durant missed the shot wide left and then Serge Ibaka got the rebound. Rather than dishing out to Russell Westbrook, who was flashing to the corner, Ibaka decided to shoot AND MISS a layup blocked by Andrew Bynum.

Los Angeles will try to remain alive by winning Game 4, still in Los Angeles, while the Thunder hope to get one game closer to the Western Conference Championship. In order for each team to complete their goals, they’ll need to increase efficiency in their shooting. Additionally, the Lakers need more from the point guard position.

Tune in Saturday evening at 10:30 p.m. ET to catch Game 4 in Los Angeles in their back-to-back schedule.