OKLAHOMA CITY – A seven-point lead with two minutes to play and one of the greatest closers in the game wasn’t enough to save the Los Angeles Lakers, not with the Oklahoma City Thunder lurking in the final minutes on their home floor.
Six points from James Harden, two critical turnovers from the Lakers and a Kevin Durant baseline runner with 18.6 seconds to play and a sure-fire, series-equalizing win for the Lakers turned into another shocking comeback win for the Thunder. More amazing is that OKC struggled through its worst game this postseason, yet still stole Game 2 in the final minutes at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant’s free throw with 0.3 seconds left capped a 9-0 run for the Thunder, who won Games 1 and 2 in their first-round series against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks by a combined four points. That might explain why they didn’t panic in those final two minutes.
“I’ve been around these guys four years, and one thing about them is they won’t quit,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “They’re not wired that way. It’s not in their DNA. If it was, they wouldn’t be here.”
The Lakers led 75-68 with two minutes to play with the game seemingly in hand. But instead of the veteran Lakers salting this one away with Kobe Bryant finishing the deal, the Lakers lost control of the game and basically gave it away.
“We’re better than Santa Claus giving out gifts,” said Lakers center Andrew Bynum. “We like giving out gifts. We give out games, contracts and rings.”
The Lakers got sloppy with the ball, opened the door with their turnovers (both of which involved Bryant) and watched the Thunder kick it open at crunch time. Bryant missed a 3-pointer that set the stage for Durant’s go-ahead basket and he missed all five of his shots in the final five minutes of the game.
Durant, conversely, was fantastic down the stretch.
“He’s a great player,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said of Durant. “That’s what great players do. He played a great game, especially the last two minutes of the game on both ends of the floor. Big shot. Big steal. Great presence down the stretch for OKC.”
The Lakers face a brutal back-to-back set in Games 3 and 4 Friday and Saturday night at Staples Center just to keep their season alive. The Lakers are 1-7 when trailing 2-0 in a series with Bryant on the roster.
They had one last shot at snatching this one. But Steve Blake‘s corner 3-pointer with 2.3 to play was wide right and bounced off the back of the rim right into the hands of Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha.
That final play was run for Bryant. When Lakers forward Metta World Peace saw Blake slide behind Russell Westbrook and into the corner for a wide open look, though, he didn’t hesitate to pass to Blake.
“Once I let it go I kind of knew it was to the right a little bit,” Blake said. “I felt comfortable shooting it, but I knew it was to the right. I was wide open … and you gotta take it and make it.”
The Lakers had everything in their favor, holding the Thunder to their lowest point total in a win since they’ve been in OKC. And they still couldn’t get it done.
“The last few minutes there they just made gambles and … just flat-out risks defensively,” Bryant said. “Durant did it. Westbrook did it. We’ll make our adjustments in Game 3. But they did a great job.”
An unbelievable job in the final two minutes.