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Lakers-Thunder Game 3: L.A. wins free throw contest by a lot, wins game by 3

May 19, 2012, 3:15 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Three

Forty-two free throws is a lot of free throw attempts. Forty-one free throws made is a lot of makes. The Lakers got one, made the other, and walked out of Staples with a win in Game 4, 99-96.

We can talk about a lot of things. The way that the Lakers attacked the Thunder defensively, once again doing damage to Russell Westbrook who has been unable to find his jumper since Game 1. We can talk about Pau Gasol giving more effort even if he wasn’t that assertive offensively. We can talk about Kobe Bryant hitting one clutch shot late (and missing two with a turnover), and all his free throws. We can talk about a Lakers defense that on two key plays forced the ball out of Kevin Druant’s hands and into Serge Ibaka‘s, and then forced a tough 30-foot three-pointer.

These were all part of it.

But really? It was the free throws, a 42-28 advantage for the Lakeshow.

Good, bad, ugly, they were what they were. You can argue that the league hates small markets and that the Lakers won because David Stern pushed some magical button. You’ll be an idiot, but you can say that. You can argue that the Lakers were more aggressive and earned those calls. But considering the Lakers drew six shooting fouls in the second half to create 27 free throws and that the Thunder drew six shooting fouls to create 14, it doesn’t really hold up. You can argue it was the Lakers’ size advantage, but the fact don’t bear that out, nor do they bear out that they were all bad fouls.

The officials lost control of this game early, during an early game scuffle between Russell Westbrook and, you guessed it, Metta World Peace, and spent the rest of it trying to gain control. And when that happens, ticky-tack perimeter fouls are called. And the Thunder were working for open shots, while the Lakers were driving to draw contact. It worked. Kobe Bryant absolutely worked over James Harden in drawing fouls on routine contact in a playoff game.

You can’t say the officials decided the game, but you can definitely look at them as the biggest weapon used.

The Lakers did get a number of things to go their way Friday night. Ramon Sessions finally contributed. Steve Blake hit two huge shots in the second half. Metta World Peace played terrific defense. Andrew Bynum was a defensive force, even if he went 0-6 in the second half from the field. They played well enough to win, when Kevin Durant‘s desperation three wouldn’t go down. And they hit 41 of 42 free throws, which is just nuts and takes a world of mental discipline.

So now what? Now we get Game 4 on a back to back. Will the Lakers have the energy to keep up with the young Thunder on a back to back? Will playing two games on the road wear on the Thunder? Will the disappointment of this game, one they could have had if they had just fouled slightly less, haunt OKC into a sluggish performance? The Lakers are only down 2-1 with a chance to tie the series at home. They looked dead in the water just hours ago. But it’s funny what a few dozen trips to the line will do for you.

All of a sudden, the Lakers are getting the breaks those great Lakers teams get. And they’re taking advantage of them. Game 4 is Saturday.

  1. nightrain42 - May 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    You want some cheese with ur wine? Anyone who saw the game cld see that early, Harden got all calls. As for MWP, that was all Westbrook. He cut MWP’s legs underneath him, that’s why he got a knee. Freakin Laker haters.

  2. adamthompson24 - May 19, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    I don’t wanna hear it from people crediting the refs for this win. The Thunder shot 28 free throws, and that’s a very healthy number in its own right. Look at how many times Pau is straight held down low when getting rebound position to negate his length, never getting a call. Home teams naturally get some favorable calls due to the crowd, but I didn’t see anything egregious about the officiating. IMO the Thunder get away with an awful lot on a nightly basis because they’re so fast and aggressive. It shouldn’t be a surprise when a night like this happens once in a while, especially against an aggressive, desperate Lakers team.

  3. jimeejohnson - May 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    Only an IDIOT doesn’t realize that refs have an effect on the game. I like the above comment, though, that credits the Lakers with making just about all their FREE throws. In the end, it’s all about who makes more shots: always has been, always will be. Those that think the NBA is rigged need to grow a pair and man up to the fact that all sports are effected by officiating, but it’s the team that makes the most of those opportunities that wins. Finally, the Lakers protected their home court and if they do so again, this series is far from over. Thunder must keep their composure and play their style of basketball in order to win.

  4. gopokes0714 - May 19, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    OKC in 5. The Lakers fans know its over. That’s why they have to brag about this one game so much. Its their only chance to cheer. Keep your heads up Lakers fans, yes you are entering a stretch of mediocrity but you have great history with your franchise.

    • Foul Dwimmerlaik - May 19, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      Ahhh… yes… one of those Blunder fans like Mr. Progress who claimed that this series would be a sweep…

      Now it’s going to be a 5-game series? LOL!

      Then what? A 6-game series? LMAO! Sure! I agree!

      … with the Lakers moving on to its 40th WCF appearance (winning 30).

  5. deshackle - May 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Who wants to see a game featuring 70 free throws? Is that basketball? I’d rather see Lakers play the Thunder at the YMCA, where the players make their own calls.

    The NBA sucks.

  6. jolink653 - May 19, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    is it possible for kobe bryant to take a shot and miss without it having been influenced by a “foul”? i couldn’t believe all the garbage calls every time kobe went up and missed the refs just assumed it must have been a foul…i understand if they called the same fouls both ways but i mean that was just ridiculous that kobe was on the line as much as he was…thunder will bring the hammer down tonight and end this in 5

  7. seahawksbmx - May 19, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    How about the ’93 WCF Game 7. To ensure a Barkley/Jordan Finals, the Suns were sent to the charity stripe 64 TIMES (compared to 36 for the Sonics). OKC can’t claim favoritism, though. They wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have Stern in their back pocket. Go Lakers.

  8. furio2929 - May 21, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Lakers suck. Bynum sucks. Gasol sucks. Kobe kicks but.

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