LOS ANGELES – The last time, Wednesday in Oklahoma City, was a shot right through the Lakers’ heart, an agonizing missed chance to win the game on the road and perhaps change the course of the entire series. This, though, was the legs.
It wasn’t just another Los Angeles loss Sunday night at Staples Center. It was stopping the momentum and cutting any comeback hopes out from under the Lakers. And it was the second fourth-quarter falter – the last three tries in the real sign of trouble for a veteran club with championship experience, yet suddenly with a pattern of being unable to close out games.
The Lakers got outscored by the Thunder 32-20 in the final period while L.A. shot 31.8 percent and Oklahoma City was 66.7 percent from the field, with a critical bad pass by Pau Gasol tossed in as the underlining moment of offensive inefficiency that led to the visitors winning 103-100 to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“I wish I could sit up here and say how that happened,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “But it just happened. Our guys really did a good job of fighting and not giving up and just making basketball-winning plays.”
Good news, though. The Lakers will soon have a lot of time on their hands to figure out why this keeps happening.
“It comes down to those guys scoring 32 points in the fourth quarter,” coach Mike Brown said. “I felt like they scored those 32 points very easily. That’s what disappoints me more than anything else. We’ll go back and we’ll watch the tape and we’ll see why the ball became stagnant.”
Other than the defense going bad and the offense stalling, it was a great finish for the Lakers. It was such a great finish that it continued all the way to Kobe Bryant reprising his dig at Gasol from after Game 6 at Denver in the first round.
“Pau’s got to be more assertive,” Bryant said of his enigmatic teammate.
There’s a good chance Bryant delivers the message first hand, but just in case, reporters will be glad to get word to Gasol sometime before Monday night’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City, as questions of Gasol’s determination move back to the forefront. Saturday, with the season likely hanging in the balance given the very long odds of the Lakers being able to overcome a 3-1 deficit, he took three shots in the second half and none in the fourth quarter.