Thunder send Lakers packing with 106-90 victory in Game 5


In a thunderous arena before a leather-lunged sell-out audience, the Lakers fought for one more game, one more chance at postseason greatness, only to see it snuffed out by the newest Western Conference power: the Oklahoma City Thunder

The Lakers dispatched the Thunder in a tough six-game, first-round playoff series two seasons ago, but this season, the roles were reversed, and the Thunder dispatched the Lakers about as quickly as the pundits picked, four games to one, with a 106-90 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 5 on Monday night.

The second-seeded Thunder advance to the Western Conference finals, where the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs await. Game 1 of that series is Sunday at 5:30 PDT.

For the second consecutive season the Lakers’ postseason reached only as far as the second round. Dallas showed the Lakers the door last season on their way to the NBA championship against Miami.

Coming into the game, only eight NBA playoff teams out of 208 had ever come back from a 3-1 playoff series deficit.

The third-seeded Lakers didn’t join that exclusive group and its 3.8 percentile, and instead they fell to 0-4 this season at the notoriously noisy Chesapeake Energy Arena, but not because of one Kobe Bryant.

The 33-year-old concluded his 16th season with a 42-point performance in 40 minutes on 18-of-30 shooting, carrying his team for nearly all of the night.

But Oklahoma City rode its three horses -- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden -- to the win.

Those three combined for 70 points: Westbrook had 28, Durant 25, Harden 17.

Outside of Bryant, the Lakers didn’t get too much. Pau Gasol, whose future with the Lakers seems uncertain, had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Metta World Peace had 11 points and Andrew Bynum, who was saddled with foul trouble, had 10 points.

The Lakers received only five points off the bench.

Lakers basketball resumes with a preseason game Oct. 7 against Golden State in Fresno, but its roster is likely to be reconfigured, a process that will soon begin.

Thunder 83, Lakers 77 (end of the third quarter)

The light at the tunnel’s mouth is coming closer, brighter, fuller into view, and Kobe Bryant knows it. He can look away, shield his eyes or squint, but it is there, on an unstoppable approach. Yes, his Hall-of-Fame career is in its twilight, nearing its end, mostly because his creaky knees have a million minutes on the odometer and all the procedures in the world (and especially in Germany) can only turn back the clock so much.

Even Bryant knows that he can’t beat Father Time, who is still unbeaten, untied.

But all this makes Bryant’s performance in Game 5 against the Thunder all the more impressive.

There are moments when Bryant single-handedly wills his team toward a win, and he has been doing that for nearly the entirety of this back-and-forth contest.

He has 34 points, including 15 in the third quarter, on 14-of-23 shoting, plus he’s made five of seven free throws and a three-pointer. He also has four dunks, which is probably a personal best this season if you care about that sort of thing.

But Bryant hasn’t gotten that much help from his teammates. Andrew Bynum, for instance, picked up his fourth foul less than a minute into the second half and has been a non-factor.

As such, Oklahoma City was able to build some breathing room going into the fourth quarter, as it ended the third quarter on a 17-7 run.

Russell Westbrook has 20 points, 12 of them scored in the third, when he showcased that speed that the Lakers have struggled to stop each time these teams have met. Westbrook has received some help from Kevin Durant, who has 17 points, and James Harden, who has 15.

Thunder 54, Lakers 51 (halftime)

The Lakers are not going quietly into that good night.

They are not going down with one in the chamber.

*Another never-say-die cliché.*

But the Lakers’ tempers are burning hot and they’re burning through fouls, too, about as fast as an SUV burns through gasoline.

Of note, Metta World Peace was called for a highly questionable flagrant-one foul for a not-so-hard collision with Thabo Sefolosha at the basket with 31.9 seconds left.

World Peace was none too pleased with the call, which probably wouldn’t have been given to any other player, and his arguing led to a technical foul. Kobe Bryant, who has a game-high 19 points, was also upset with the whole thing, which led to another technical.

That led to a quick five points for Oklahoma City, which is why the score stands as is.

Speaking of fouls, Andrew Bynum has three of them. He scored his first points in the second quarter and had six before picking up his third.

Pau Gasol has already outscored his Game 4 performance with 10 first-half points and nine rebounds. He’s playing with that effort that Bryant publicly demanded and thereby deflecting any criticism of said effort after this game.

The Lakers are shooting 49% to Oklahoma City’s 39% while the Thunder is winning the rebounds battle, 29-23.

The Thunder’s speed makes its runs deadly. Oklahoma City seemingly can widen a lead to double digits with handful of lightning-fast breaks.

Despite that the Thunder have had a few of those quick-scoring chances, the Lakers have matched them nearly bucket for bucket.

James Harden leads the Thunder with 13 points. Kevin Durant has 12 points and Kendrick Perkins has eight rebounds.

Thunder 26, Lakers 21 (end of the first quarter)

The Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd in Oklahoma City looks like a raucous body of water, with a sell-out crowd wearing blue team-distributed shirts -- and the “Loud City” contingent has been screaming until its blue in the collective face early on.

Lakers star Kobe Bryant brought a hush over the crowd by scoring 15 of his team’s first 19 points, giving the Lakers an early lead and making it known that Bryant won’t disappear into the offseason because of someone else’s (read: Gasol, Pau) lack of aggressiveness.

Gasol has been a non-factor, along with the rest of the Lakers, who are two of 12 while Kobe is six of nine.

But more troubling for Lakers’ fans is that the Thunder is bullying the Lakers underneath.

A put-back slam dunk by the Thunder’s Serge Ibaka gave his team a 14-11 lead, and that rebound gave OKC seven offensive boards, which was more than the Lakers had (six) total at that point.

James Harden has seven points to lead Oklahoma City while Ibaka has six points and six rebounds.

Both teams started off with a case of the bricks, combining to shoot four of 16 from the floor shortly after tipoff.

Blame weary legs (for the Lakers, at least), but also situational jitters. For the Lakers in that they’re playing for their season, hoping to extend this series to a Game 6 at Staples Center on Wednesday; for the Thunder in that it’s trying to close out, by winning the series by a tidy mark of four games to one, a pesky and historical foe that knocked it out of the 2010 playoffs.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was hit with a technical foul with 7:28 left after arguing with official Scott Foster after a no-call. And Bryant and Andrew Bynum each have two fouls while Jordan Hill has three.


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