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Lakers-Thunder Game 4: Kevin Durant and a new era dawning

May 20, 2012, 3:17 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant AP

Things change. It’s inevitable. And on Saturday night, you have to wonder if the guard changed officially in the Western Conference, and the NBA. 103-100, Thunder over Lakers.

Kobe Bryant was the closer. The dagger. The Black Mamba. As recently as Friday night, he was the ultimate clutch weapon (as long as we’re only talking about free throws and disregarding any and all other plays). And nothing that happened 24 hours later can change, alter, or diminish his legacy of playoff greatness. He is one of the top-five NBA players of all time, and for forty-four minutes Saturday night, he was the best player on the floor. He was aggressive in driving to the rim, he was hitting absurd shots consistently, he was passing the ball to Andrew Bynum, he was rebounding, he was destroying Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, anyone guarding him.

Then the final four minutes came. Then Kevin Durant guarded him. Then the Thunder made their comeback. Then it all changed.

Bryant was 1-6 in the final four minutes, his final bucket coming on a meaningless jumper as time ran out down 5. He shot often, he shot early, he shot Kobe shots. “Tough shots” as he described them after the game. He took rolling three-pointers. He took off-balance leaners. He took every shot that you think of as a Kobe shot. But alas, they would not fall. There will be no joy on Rodeo Drive, Mighty Kobe bricked out. Five times.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant? When Durant missed two free throws with 2:32 remaining down 2, it looked like Durant was setting up to become the latest superstar to fail in the clutch. Instead? Durant hit a tough turnaround floater to tie the game, then nailed a monster pull-up three for the win. Throw in a Pau Gasol late turnover that his him as the scapegoat and that’s how the Lakers are down 3-1.

Can the Lakers come back from 3-1? It’s possible. But they’ve now surrendered sizeable leads in two games in the series, and despite all the adjustments, all the key shots from Steve Blake, and a long stretch where Durant was largely invisible, the Thunder have won, again. They reached into the Lakers’ chest, and pulled out their still-beating heart Saturday night, and they did it the same way Bryant has in the past, while Bryant struggled to the finish. It may not have been a changing of the guard, but it was a pretty good impression.

Durant’s calm, cool demeanor and smiling face stands in contrast to the cold anger of Bryant. He admitted after the game that he was worried what people would say about the shot after it left his hand. Bryant, on the other hand, did a long feature interview talking about how he didn’t care, and that he thought his struggles in Game 2 were amusing. Something tells me this doesn’t sound as funny.

Bryant couldn’t have done anything else, though. This is who he is, and it has worked in the past and it was working on Saturday night. The shots just didn’t fall. For Durant, they did. And now Bryant watches as the next great clutch performer (if you believe in clutch) rises on the biggest stage, while defending Bryant at the same time.

Change is cruel. But it’s also unavoidable.

  1. 69jaredallen69 - May 20, 2012 at 3:26 AM

    So what is the Lakers excise Foul Dwimmerlaik? Let me guess that NBA conspired against Lakers by making them play back to back

    • davidly - May 20, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      No, last night was a relatively honest game. The league would have preferred the series lead to go back an forth, but Bryant threw away game 2 it messed things up a bit.

    • infectorman - May 20, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      A picture is worth a thousand words.
      And that picture says it all:

      KoME is DONE! D-O-N-E, Done!
      Your Faker “Dynasty” is OVAH!!!!!!
      With Love,
      Boston, MA

      • infectorman - May 20, 2012 at 9:37 AM

        KoME had a -9 and Euroboy had a -7 last nite.
        Talk about defensive freakin’ liabilities.

        No legs left. It’s Over, LA. It was a good run while it lasted, but it’s over….

      • drewzducks - May 20, 2012 at 10:58 AM

        What do you mean? Didn’t I see KobME finally make his buzzer beater ? Too funny! Blowzos must have gone back into his closet.

      • bozosforall - May 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        Five RINGS (not merely appearances) in the millennium. More of a Dynasty than that cheater Spygate thing that was perpetrated by the Pats. Certainly better that ha one-ans-done the Puh C’s had.

        And once again, I own drewsuckz…I am in his head. As for being in the closet, the only closeted ones I se here are you New England pooftahs.

      • drewzducks - May 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM

        Own me…Ha…Blowzos…a gypsy with no home…latches on to teams on opposite coasts cuz they win…the only thing you own is a life sized blow up doll of KobME in your favorite position…as far as cheaters…coming from a knee pad wearer of the NY Backacnees you would know cheating

    • infectorman - May 20, 2012 at 1:38 PM

      Yup, 5 rings :

      3 because of Shaq:
      1 because of the Refs – 2008

      and 1 legitimate one.

      He’s doin alright; 1 legit championship ties him with the Celtics of late.

  2. ddtla - May 20, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    No but the people can’t say anything about calls they didn’t get crap so I know longer want hear all the hater talk against the lakers thunder flop a lot. Wait a minute News flash people still hate the lakers luck runs out thunder need to realize that it will happen soon.

    • someidiotfromouthereintheprojects - May 20, 2012 at 9:41 AM

      buddy you shouldn’t bitch about the calls. that’s beyond absurd. the lakers got a lot of calls last night as they do every night. nothing is more irritating than fans of big time teams whining about officiating.

      • jimeejohnson - May 20, 2012 at 10:18 AM

        Stay clear of Lakers and Celtics fans. They love to whine and cry when they lose, as they have character flaws that cause them to say “wee-wee: it’s rigged”! It’s a crybaby fan festival when the teams play. At least the players don’t mirror their loser fans with claims that the games are rigged. Stay classy, Boston and Los Angeles. Your cities are some of the greatest in the world, so don’t disrespect them by being sore LOSERS!

      • cosanostra71 - May 20, 2012 at 1:45 PM

        I love when you speak in absolutes like that. Judging by the name, you’re either a Cowboys fan or a Miami fan, so I’m going to just go ahead and ignore everything you say.

  3. eaglesandravens - May 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    anyone else notice how slippery the floor was for the game? When Westbrook slipped, I thought he tore his acl. Kobe also slipped too.

  4. eaglesandravens - May 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    anyone else notice how slippery the floor was for the game? When Westbrook slipped, I thought he tore his acl. Kobe also slipped.

  5. turnmymicup - May 20, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    3-1? Hmmmm this is interesting. Just shows even a great like Kobe needs help sometimes. They better call Shaq.

    • jimeejohnson - May 20, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      That fat tub of lard couldn’t help. He’s the Big Shamrock, now.

      • 1historian - May 20, 2012 at 11:36 AM

        from the safety/anonymity of cyberspace you delight in calling down the thunder on Celtics fans (like me) or Lakers fans.

        Isn’t only fair that you fess up as to what team you support? or do you just get your rocks off doing what you’re doing?

  6. progress2011 - May 20, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Team Ball – Practices the “Fundamentals” of team play. Swinging the ball around the perimeter or inside-out, to the center or power forward, to gain an advantage.

    Hero Ball – One guy, foregoing the X’s and O’s and the game plan, in an attempt to ” Take Over ” the game, to the detriment of any kind of Team Chemistry or Rhythm.

    kobe has Single Handily lost two games, in this series because he tries to “Take Over ” the game.

    What’s worse is, the media, commentators etc. praise his bad fundamentals. So, we have a generation of young basketball players, thinking if you score 35 points, you are ” The Man “…..who cares if you had to take 28 shots(43%) and your team lost the game !

    We gotta teach kids how to play the right way, to continue the sport.

    Team Ball beats Hero Ball……10 out of 10 times, unless a guy named Michael Jordan graces the court.

    • drewzducks - May 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      Perfectly stated.

    • iknowzeroaboutsports - May 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Even Michael couldn’t win until he had the supporting cast around him and started distributing the ball.

  7. itsmammoth - May 20, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Space Jam 2, starring Kevin Durant.

  8. omniusprime - May 20, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    Clown Coach Mike Brown is the problem, not Kobe. Brown’s only clue to offense is give it to the star late in a game. The Lakers played Team Ball for 3.5 quarters then switched to that losing hero Ball for the final minutes with the inevitable result that the Lakers lost. Where was the ball and player movement late in the game that was so successful earlier? The Lakers lost game 4 due to a massive coaching failure, Clown Brown didn’t have the right players on the floor and he didn’t give them a team offensive plan.

    Kobe is past his prime sad to say but we have to face that reality and so does the clown coach. If the Lakers played Team Ball for 48 minutes they would be up 3 games to 1, not down. Plus the Lakers need a good bench, blame Kupcake for not brining in good personnel during the past offseason. Jordan Hill has been a nice surprise but where is McRoberts and Murphy who played the whole season but aren’t good enough for the playoffs. Plus get rid of Steve Flake and replace him with someone much better.

    At least this year the players are showing more heart and class going down in the second round. Go Kobe!!!! Go Lakers!!!

    • progress2011 - May 20, 2012 at 11:30 AM

      Hey Omnius,

      I don’t believe ANY coach has the support of Laker ownership to tell kobe to stop shooting and play within the game plan.

      Phil Jackson talked about all the issues he had with kobe in his book, before he left the first time.

      So, if a coach of Phil Jacksons stature and resume of winning the most championships EVER has the ability to tell kobe to stop jacking up all that garbage…..what the heck can Mike Brown tell him !

      Mike Brown is not the problem…..kobe is your problem.

      Historically, on EVERY team the lakers have had (during kobe’s era), the one issue with other players and team chemistry has ALWAYS been kobe.

  9. AlohaMrHand - May 20, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    The Lakers are turning into the eighties Celtics.Once great but now past their prime and holding onto something that isnt there.

    • patfic15 - May 20, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      Don’t insult the Celtics. That was a team of hall of famers….not a guy who isn’t even the best baller in his family, a nutcase, a child man, and an overrated bum whose status picked up only because the talent level was so weak in the early 2000s.

  10. iowahbr - May 20, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    At what point in his career and after how many game films is Kobe going to realize it is impossible to figure out what to do to be helpful to him as a teammate if he will not pass in the 4th quarter. Between the right spacing and getting good rebounding positions without drawing help to the middle you feel that the other four need to just sit and wait at the scorer’s table.

  11. tampajoey - May 20, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    That pull-up 3 by Durant.at the end was awesome!

  12. mogogo1 - May 20, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    The Lakers just don’t understand what style of play favors them. Just like Shaq and Barkley said at halftime, when Bynum gets it in the post it slows the game and keeps the Thunder from running, but they completely went away from that in the second half as Kobe took over the offense. How can they have Bynum shoot 9 for 15 and not get him over 20 points in that game?

  13. addict2sport - May 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Only one explanation for the way Kobe has played the Lakers out of this series. He put money on the Thunder. He needs cash to buy Vanessa more bling to win her back.

    • patfic15 - May 20, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      Again.

  14. addict2sport - May 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Only one explanation for the way Kobe has played the Lakers out of this series. He put money on the Thunder. He needs cash to buy Vanessa more bling to win her back.

  15. lemfax - May 20, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    That’s what I’m talking about. The story is different if they put Durant on Kobe in the 4th qtr of the game 3 (and a mistake of playing fisher on the 4 qtr guarding Kobe).
    Kobe’s hearth is unbeatable but not the legs…

  16. bigrele - May 20, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Where’s all dem Laker fans who was spouting all that BS after that gifted 41 free throw game 3 win? OH! They prepping the boats for the LakeShow when they “Go Fishing” right? Lmao!!!!! Hahahahaha! Get the rods & reels, lures, bait & tackle ready for them tired old legs of the Lakers cause they’ll be ready after game 5 trust me on that, stick a fork in it baby! The FakeShow will be “Gone Fishing” after game 5. I can’t wait to see Kenny Smith & the crew after game 5 in OKC with the “Gone Fishing” skit for the FakeShow, finally be rid of the stupid arrogant Laker fans spitting their useless venom on the message boards. Its a Spurs-OKC Western Conference Finals for sure! ;o)

  17. mungman69 - May 20, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    STOP whining about the refs. Ballplayers win and lose games.

  18. jolink653 - May 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    and another thing about kobe…can he stop throwing his teammates under the bus every time something goes wrong? he’s the star on the team he’s supposed to take the criticism when things go wrong but he never does anymore…he shoots 2 for 10 in the 4th quarter and then goes off on pau gasol to reporters after the game saying it was mainly gasol’s fault the lakers lost…either put the blame on yourself or keep your mouth shut but how does throwing your teammates under the bus help at all

  19. mrhonorama - May 20, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Top NBA players of all time:

    1. Michael Jordan
    2. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar
    3. Bill Russell
    4. Magic Johnson
    5. Larry Bird

    Kobe is close, but not quite Top 5. A good debate would be who is the better player all-time, Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant.

    • infectorman - May 21, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      1. Russell
      2. Jordan
      3. Jabaar
      4. Chamberlin
      5. M Johnson
      6. Bird
      7. Oscar Robertson
      8. Shaq
      9. Olajuwon

  20. 4thqtrsaint - May 20, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Again, I have no team here… But I first want to point out that Lakers fans were talking serious smack after the Freethrow Fest. Now, it seems there are a lot of excuses. Coaching? Really? From an outsider looking in, it seems to me the Lakers just got beat. That’s all. No shame in that, but sometimes its the hardest thing to admit. Lakers fans just have no respect for OKC. I think they’re a solid team. Just would like to see people give proper credit.

  21. addict2sport - May 20, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    All this talk of the refs handing the lakers a win is comical. Did the lakers get to the line with a few questionable calls, sure. But, the refs has nothing to do with all of the free throws going in the basket. Lakers still had to take advantage which they did. Just like the Thunder take advantage of the lakers p’ing away the last 3 games. Hats off to the Thunder. Lakers will be back. Time to reload and make another run. History has proven thats what they do. People hate winners. Lakers will provide more reason to hate soon. Obviously not this year.

  22. ddtla - May 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM

    I love all the fans who talk trash when their team sucks but hate on the lakers. It’s amazing how terrible some of these people are but its alright. If your not a lakers celtics spurs or bulls fan u really don’t need to talk at all. Oh I’m sorry u have nothing else better to do then b a hater.

    • girouxhasladyballs - May 21, 2012 at 9:41 AM

      says the team with 90 million in talent and cant win.

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