LOS ANGELES – The Lakers and Thunder, after playing 2 hours 43 minutes without overtime Friday night, return to Staples Center tonight for Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals and the rarity of a postseason back-to-back.
It is a particular challenge for the older Lakers at a time they need a win to avoid what would be a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 deficit as the series shifts back to Oklahoma City.
“It’s going to take a mental commitment on our part in order to fight through the fatigue we might feel (Saturday),” Pau Gasol said after the Lakers grinded out a victory in Game 3. “It’s going to be all will and desire and effort. Just pushing ourselves through everything and anything that we might be feeling or going on out there.”
The Lakers are playing on consecutive days in the playoffs for the first time since May 22-23, 1999, in the second round against the Spurs.
“It’ll be a little different,” Steve Blake said of a back-to-back in the regular season compared to the playoffs. “The intensity. A back-to-back during the regular season, sometimes the first quarter can be a little bit lull. But I don’t think it’ll be that way tomorrow night.”
Other topics heading into Game 4:
*The Thunder will be watching Kendrick Perkins closely to see how he responds to the back-to-back in the wake of missing parts of two of the last four games because of a strained hip muscle. He played 31 minutes Friday, and coach Scott Brooks said there are no time restrictions for the starting center.
*There is no indication the Lakers are considering a change in the opening lineup, but coach Mike Brown clearly prefers Blake over starter Ramon Sessions at point guard at the end of close games now. It has happened twice in a row, the wrenching defeat Wednesday and the victory Friday, as Sessions is down to 38.4 percent from the field in the playoffs with just 3.5 assists.
“Obviously Ramon’s been struggling a little bit for us to put the ball in the hole,” Brown said. “I thought (Friday) he did a better job. Even defensively he’s been pretty good for us the last couple games, because Russell Westbrook is no easy task. We’ve just got to try to keep making him work as best we can, and that’s what our guys are doing.”
Brown loves Blake’s toughness. As in, it’s something he is not getting from Sessions.