Lakers vs. Thunder Game 4 (final): Thunder 110, Lakers 89
The Lakers managed two difficult victories in the opening two games in L.A., but this Thunder team has seemed to gain confidence with each game since, tying the series at two games apiece. And Saturday's game was a mismatch almost from the start.
The Lakers had planned to pound the ball inside, but the swarming Thunder defense gave no quarter down low. This is a young team that appears to be coming of age, while the Lakers, at least in the last two games, simply seem to be showing theirs.
The game was such a rout that the fourth quarter was essentially played by the second units. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher remained on the bench in the final quarter. And the Thunder rested its starters as well.
Bryant, who didn't take a shot in the first quarter, finished with only 12 points. Andrew Bynum and Gasol had 13 points each and Fisher added 11. Bryant, who never seemed to feel comfortable (no Laker really did), left the bench for the locker room for treatment well before the game ended.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, as usual, were hugely effective for the Thunder. Westbrook scored 18 points, had eight rebounds and six assists. Durant scored 22. Jeff Green, who made three of four three-point shots, and James Harden each added 15 points.
Free throws were a huge part of the game. The Lakers couldn't find the rim early and were three of 12 from the line at one point, finishing 17 of 28. The Thunder, crashing the boards and driving with the quickness and growing aggressiveness the team has shown in the series, made 42 of 48.
By tying the series, the Thunder guaranteed that the series will return to Oklahoma City for a Game 6 on Friday. The conventional thinking, that the Lakers would probably dominate at home and do no worse than split on the road, is open for question now.
Photo: Lakers forward Luke Walton is sent flipping backward to the court after elevating above a stationary Eric Maynor of Oklahoma City in Game 4 on Saturday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times