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Kobe says controlling the pace will be key for Lakers in Game 4 vs. Thunder

May 19, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

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The Lakers’ Game 3 win over the Thunder on Friday was gritty, hard-fought, and earned largely at the free throw line. With the game slowed and the clock stopped is where L.A. did most of its damage offensively, scoring 41 of the team’s 99 points from the foul line on 42 attempts.

The free throw percentage of 97.6 was the second best in NBA playoff history, with a minimum of 30 attempts. It’s unlikely that the Lakers will get that many tries again in Game 4, but if nothing else, they’ll try to recreate the offensive stylings that helped get them to that point in Game 3.

“It’s two games in a row now where we’ve controlled the tempo,” said Kobe Bryant after Game 3. “We’ve done a pretty good job controlling the pace of the game being physical. But as you see, even tonight there were stretches where, (with) their explosiveness, they just go on runs quickly. In 45 seconds to a minute they can go on a 7-0, 8-0 run. So we’ve got to be careful with the ball and keep them out of transition.”

Bryant wasn’t kidding about the Thunder’s explosiveness. One such run came in a 36-second span midway through the fourth quarter, where OKC was able to score seven straight points in the blink of an eye. He was also dead-on about the turnovers.

The Lakers played excellent halfcourt defense for the second straight game, and really only struggled for extended periods when they were careless with the ball and allowed the Thunder to get out in transition for easier looks.

It truly is all about pace and tempo for the Lakers in this series, especially with such a short turnaround time between Games 3 and 4. The first back-to-back set of these playoffs will have these teams back at Staples Center for tip-off less than 24 hours after Game 3 was in the books.

That would appear to favor the youth and energy of this Thunder team, and Bryant knows if his team doesn’t play with the same discipline it has in the past two games, the Lakers will be in serious trouble.

“No, not if it’s an up-and-down game, no. We don’t have a shot,” Bryant said, when asked if the Lakers could play with a more energetic Thunder team in Game 4. “We could both be extremely well-rested and not have a shot. Just slow the game down, play our pace and play our tempo, and we’ll be fine. Whether it’s back-to-back or three nights in a row, it doesn’t matter. If we control the pace, we’ll give ourselves a great opportunity.”

The opportunity will indeed be there for the Lakers to even the series if they can execute their plan to perfection. They’ll need to take full advantage of it, too. Because as exhilarating as beating the Thunder to get back into the series was on Friday, all will be lost if they can’t repeat the performance on Saturday, and the team has to head back to Oklahoma City on the wrong end of a three-games-to-one series deficit.

  1. allball23 - May 19, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Lakers will be way to gased this game. Thunder will again make key plays down the stretch. Thunder in 5.

  2. deshackle - May 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    He meant controlling the referees.

    • avermaver - May 19, 2012 at 8:02 PM

      watching that game made me hate the Lakers all over again, reminiscent of when the refs gave them the series against Webber’s Kings way back when, Thunder are a much better team and they will overcome this setback

  3. Justin - May 19, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Should be 3-0 right now. Just pitiful.

    • jwreck - May 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      I assume you mean the Thunder should be 3-0. This is far and away the worst officiating the sport of basketball has ever seen. If the refs weren’t clearly trying their hardest to keep Harden out of the game with fouls and Kobe and Artest weren’t sent to the line every time a Thunder player breathed on them, every game in the would have been as big of a blowout as game one. I hate it more than anybody when refs get soft and start calling those unnecessary “stop picking on the little guy” fouls, especially in the playoffs. But the way the Lakers are consistently abusing Harden is just disgraceful. If David Stern gives a damn about the professionalism of the NBA, every official in this series should be fired tonight.

      But hey, I guess Harden and the Thunder really brought this upon themselves with that vicious headbutt to the backside of Artest’s elbow at the end of the regular season.

  4. addict2sport - May 19, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    3-0? Could just as easily be 1-2.

  5. edgarh21 - May 19, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Haha at @Justin

    @addictsport is so on point. But justin Is to dumb to realize that

    • Justin - May 20, 2012 at 1:21 AM

      Well now it is 3-1. You Faker fans amuse me.

    • Justin - May 20, 2012 at 1:30 AM

      and how is he “on point.” Yeah maybe if the Refs chose sides while in OKC like they did in LA it would have been 1-2 before tonight but they didn’t. Even Kurt who writes this site and is from LA had to go out and say they were terrible calls. Kobe travels? No call. Kobe shot blocked? Oh shooting foul. Another Kobe shot blocked? Shooting foul.

      At least Kobe keeps stuffing the stat sheet and getting his points even though he has an awful shooting percentage all series and all playoffs really. Keep shooting more shots than Gasol and Bynum combined. It has worked against the thunder so far.

  6. therealhtj - May 19, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Losers complain about the refs. You should be better than that Thunder fans. If you manage to win the series, somehow get by the Spurs, and then beat whoever manages to get out of a diminished east, bask in that moment. Enjoy it. Asterisk or no, an NBA championship is a championship.

    Then resign yourself to the pathetic reality that you’ll still wake up in Oklahoma City.

  7. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    When NBA teams like the Blunders are gunning for their DREAM of an NBA Championship, the LAkers are playing for a CONTINUED LEGACY.

    So dream on Blunder fans. You have every right to do so.

    But don’t even act as if you won the series, much less got that ticket to the promised land. Funny how you whippersnappers smell blood, frenzy and all, while dissing a team and the franchise that’s been there, done that, got the bloody shirt to prove than many NBA teams combined.

    • jwreck - May 20, 2012 at 12:29 AM

      A continued legacy? Really? Let’s say the Lakers win the championship this year. Great, good for them, and good story for ESPN: a band of skilled veterans came together and showed that they were the best team in the NBA. Then there’s the trophy, the big party in LA, the parade, the rings ceremony next Fall, yada yada yada, Mike Brown keeps his job (to be fair, I think he keeps his job regardless), but where does the legacy go from there?
      Sure Kobe, Pau, Ron can still ball with the best of ‘em, but they’re all over thirty, and all undeniably on the back side of their careers. But, as “Foul D-something” said above, LA is a continuing legacy: and luckily for the franchise, coming up right on the heels of LA’s future Hall-of-Famers (and also Ron Artest) is an overwhelming surge of young developing Laker talent, including players like Andrew Bynum, Jordan Hill, and…uh…?
      Lake fans can be as salty as they want: they know their decade long dynasty is in its twilight. And while LA’s been resting on the talent of their proven winners, other teams in the West have developed young, up-and-coming stars to supplant their marquee guys once they decide its time to hang up the Adidas, so these teams can dominate the West over the next decade like LA did over the last one.
      Even if the officials just throw the next few games and eject Harden every time Gasol shoves him in the back or Artest tackles him at halfcourt, and the Lakers take the series, LA won’t beat the Spurs this year. And they won’t beat them in the next year, or the year after, because despite San Antonio’s ancient, yet still dominating, core of Parker, Duncan, and Manu, they have a full squad of talented young guys ready to control the West for the for the forseeable future.
      So you can talk about “Blunder” fans and their dreaming, but even if they lose this series, they have nowhere to go but up, while the Lakers have nowhere to go from here but down. Bynum may develop into the best scoring 5 in the NBA, but it won’t matter after the rest of the team goes. By the time Durant and Westbrook are as old as Kobe is now, LA’s entire starting five, minus Bynum, will be retired. Whatever happens in this series, it’s a pretty good bet that by 2022, this OKC team will have their hands on at least one “bloody shirt”, as you put it. For the record, you are aware that teams generally prove their success with rings, not bloody shirts, right? Talking about a player “having the rings to prove it” is really a very common phrase in the sports world. Generally, the only thing that bloody shirts prove is guilt in a homicide investigation.
      For the record, I’m not a fan of either team, just a fan of good basketball: and what we’re seeing right now is not good basketball. We’re seeing a very good team past its glory days steal wins from an exciting young team due to schizophrenic officiating.

  8. connaniii - May 19, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    I watched the whole freaking game and I´ll just say this: the refs decided the contest from the very start, Kobe got his shot rejected at least in three opportunities and he got the benefit of the doubt when there shouldn´t have been any. I was totally unfair to the effort put forth by Oklahoma…OKC in four!

    • therealhtj - May 19, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Little late for OKC in 4, dontcha think Hoss?

      • connaniii - May 19, 2012 at 7:19 PM

        Sorry, I meant FIVE!

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 2:12 AM

        So conan the barbarian, you still think the refs rigged the game eh?

        LOL! So typical of Laker haters… poor you.

    • avermaver - May 19, 2012 at 8:04 PM

      yup, Kobe looked so lethargic out there against the Thunder’s young guns but the refs and occasionally overenthusiastic defenders kept putting him on the line. Kobe was just going through the motions but his motions are still good for 30 points when the refs oblige him

      • avermaver - May 19, 2012 at 8:07 PM

        I’ll just say that in OKC the Lakers might have lost by ten, that was home-court plus David Stern’s favorite team advantage at its finest

  9. gopokes0714 - May 19, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    LA must be great, ready for a championship, that’s why Fisher stayed! …. Oh wait. He came to OKC to compete for a championship. sucks LA not all its cracked up to be.

    makes since, I have been all over southern Cali and LA is by far the worst part. straight trash. homeless everywhere. the houses are shacks. pathetic

    • therealhtj - May 19, 2012 at 7:58 PM

      Yep, keep toting the wonders of your great plains! Please, that armpit you call home you can keep.

      There’s a reason people from all over the globe flock to Los Angeles. Knock it all you want, but it’s an amazing city you small town simpletons could never handle.

      When all your prime FAs abandon that cow town after they’ve gotten their big pay days, just remember this moment. It won’t last once Harden and Ibaka abandon ship.

    • therealhtj - May 19, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      And Fisher you can have. Just another example of a guy who couldn’t hack it in the big city. Do us a favor and have him guard Kobe all game tonight.

      • jwreck - May 20, 2012 at 12:42 AM

        True, that’s why Fisher is such a remarkable player. He’s actually the only player in NBA history who, despite being unable to “hack it in the big city”, still managed to start for a big city team for thirteen years and win five rings: a truly inspirational story for all the aspiring basketball players out there who just can’t “hack it”.

      • Justin - May 20, 2012 at 1:23 AM

        Kobe’s rings without Fisher? 0! Just sayin’

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 1:55 AM

        Hey Bieber! Your point being? LOL! Nice one, sonny boy!

  10. gopokes0714 - May 19, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    “bloody shirt” is right. Lakers only know how to play dirty. Or is that only when you are out matched and struggling to compete?

    • mrpostman985 - May 19, 2012 at 7:22 PM

      @//gopokes0714. Dude u suck stop commenting !!!!

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 1:42 AM

      Oh… NOW we’re dirty… (and they say that the LAkers were soft)…

      Great retort sonny boy… LOL!

  11. gopokes0714 - May 19, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    The refs already blowing calls. The Lakers must be desperate

  12. jagwar73 - May 20, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Controlling the pace means the refs stopping the clock for my teams free throws. Wonder what the FT discrepancy will be tonight?

  13. gopokes0714 - May 20, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    3-1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tough day to be in LA. Its been a great series, and its becoming a great rivalry. Think of it this way, the Lakers will get some extra time to game plan for next season.

    • Justin - May 20, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      Ha maybe Mike Brown will use the down time to learn how to run an NBA offense.

  14. Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    LOL! Provincial roaches coming out of the woodwork.

    gopokes, How many banners your team got? You remind me of those Cavs fans when the Queen was still there.

    All those bravado.

    Barely proven themselves.

    What you got, punk?

    NADA. ZILCH. KAPUT.

    Oh, and for the sake of argument, SHOULD the Blunders take a banner (though I think the Spurs have better ideas) TALK TO US AGAIN WHEN YOU GET BACK TO BACK.

  15. gopokes0714 - May 20, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    I dont really care how good the Fakers USED to be. While your sitting around staring at your banners we will be playing basketball.

    Lets be real since the Thunder have become a franchise we are taking over. The Fakers have been measured, weighed, and been found wanting.

    Come on now, the Faker fans didn’t really think they had a chance did they? After the slaughter of game one, we realized we only need to play two minutes a game to win.

    And hey, I definitely think the Spurs match up will be the first real competition for both teams. That match-up is a coin flip and I hope for the best. But I dont understand how that would help the Faker fans? LOL, what is the mind set? We were to weak and inept to defeat them, can you please do it?

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 2:05 AM

      A typical whippersnapper champion-wannabe who thinks their time has finally arrived.

      If there is any team that deserves the term FAKER, it would be TEAMS like yours, out-house dweller.

      You HAVEN’T PROVEN ANYTHING YET.

      Geez, you sure you’re not a Cavs fan during those LeBron days? LOL!

      • gopokes0714 - May 20, 2012 at 2:14 AM

        Pretty sure we just proved we were are much better than the Fakers. So in your head the fakers get dominated in the series but your still the real winner?

        I have never claimed we have “arrived”. The Spurs will be very very tough for us. But since you bring it up, back to back western conference finals aren’t bad for franchise thats what, 4 years old?

        The more I think about it I guess you are right, we have arrived. Clearly you have proven the Fakers are the greatest team ever, and we just dominated them in every way. so ya, the way you figure it I guess we have. Thanks

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 2:28 AM

        Should the Spurs own you (assuming you do win this series), the OKC BLUNDERS truly suits you.

        Fakers? LOL! What’s so fake with 16 championships and lots of Finals appearances?

        Exactly.

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 2:40 AM

        Oh, by the way, it’s NOT the GREATEST TEAM EVER.

        It’s the GREATEST FRANCHISE EVER.

        So, figure that one out, out-house dweller.

        Coz obviously even if you do win this one, your franchise is STILL and WILL ALWAYS BE light-years behind ours. :p

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 20, 2012 at 2:23 AM

      What you don’t understand is that I’m NOT a SEASONAL Lakers fan. I don’t live by the season. With that, I’m very much satisfied that the Lakers have been the most consistent franchise through the decades EVEN UP TO NOW. Just take a look at the last four years. I can afford to still be happy.

      When you guys are still chasing DREAMS, we play for LEGACIES.

      As it is, I’m very much happy where the franchise is in THE GRANDER SCHEME of things.

      When everything has been said and done, not even your grandchild will see your team having 16 banners in your rafters.

      Granted, just in case you get a banner this time to join that dusty banner from when? ’79? Enjoy the three-four months of temporary bliss.

      THEY DON’T MEAN JACK IN THE LONG RUN.

      Likely, another one of those ONE-HIT WONDERS. LMAO!!!

  16. gopokes0714 - May 20, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    That one hit, KO’ed the Fakers.

    Ya the Fakers have been very good in the past, and I am sure it is pretty easy to be a fan given all those banners. I will give it to them, the Fakers had one of the best coaches of all time, if not the best. But now he is gone, and for all intents and purposes, so are the Fakers.

    So how does the “Legacy” continue with aging super stars, mediocre coaches, and a dysfunctional locker room? I think we have the answer, it doesn’t. The wand has been passed. Its great your a fan for the long haul. There should be plenty of seats in the Staples Center to choose from soon.

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