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With less than a minute to go in the Lakers' pivotal Game 4 against the Thunder, Pau Gasol rolled from a screen to an open space about 16 feet from the rim, and Kobe Bryant fed him a nice pass. But instead of popping the soft midrange jumper he used to help the Lakers to two titles, Gasol looked up and tried to throw a cross-court pass to Metta World Peace; Kevin Durant intercepted it, and the turnover would lead to his game-winning three.
For all of this, Gasol got to be the recipient of Bryant's latest blast of criticism:
"Just a bad read on Pau's part," Bryant said.
"Pau's got to be more assertive," Bryant said. "He's the guy they're leaving [open]. When he's catching the ball, he's looking to pass. He's got to be aggressive. He's got to shoot the ball or drive the ball to the basket. He will be next game."
Kobe taking his teammates to task is nothing new: he famously ripped Andrew Bynum, pressuring Lakers management to get him out of town or bring help to the Los Angeles roster while struggling in the hinterland in the post-Shaquille O'Neal era. He's also criticized Gasol before, and indirectly criticized all of his teammates midway through the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs while praising World Peace. And Gasol has struggled against the Thunder this series, never topping 14 points in a game and posting an anemic 10 points and five rebounds in Game 4.
But Kobe doing that on the brink of elimination — against a team that the Lakers have faltered against twice in the clutch, blowing late leads in Game 2 and Game 4 — while struggling from the field (a woeful 37-for-96 in this series) is also clever legerdemain on his part. Why blame Kobe, always candid with the media if not always precisely honest, when he's designing a convenient narrative that doesn't require blaming him?
Trade Andrew Bynum? If the All-Star center ever wants to truly blossom, he needs teammates who won't ignore him in the fourth quarter of must-win games. He needs to get away from Kobe Bryant.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 21 fourth quarter points to help the Thunder erase a 13-point deficit and win Game 4 103-100. The win gives Oklahoma City a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
With the game tied at 98, Durant hit what ended up being the game winning 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds to play. The Thunder trailed by 13 points with 8:02 to play, but went on a 25-9 run to end the game and take a commanding lead in the series. Westbrook scored 23 points in the second half and finished with a team-high 37.
Los Angeles faded down the stretch, making just 7-of-22 shots in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant finished with a game-high 38 points but made just 2-of-10 shots in the fourth quarter. Andrew Bynum scored 18 points, but just four in the second half. It was a crucial loss for the Lakers who now must win three straight games to avoid elimination.
Tied at 98, Kevin Durant put the Thunder up three points with 13.7 seconds left in Game 4.
Matched up with Metta World Peace, Durant dribbled the ball at the top of the 3-point line before pulling up and draining the shot for the lead.
Kobe Bryant then missed a 3-point shot of his own and the Thunder will try to put the game away at the free throw line.
After trailing by double digits much of the second half, the Thunder were finally able to cut into the Laker lead and now trail by just two points with less than three minutes to play.
Russell Westbrook has scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to help bring the Thunder back. On the other side, the Lakers have been struggling to get good shots. They've instead been forced to rely on difficult shots with the shot clock ticking down.
Andrew Bynum, who scored 14 first half points, has just two points in the fourth quarter.
Metta World Peace has seven points in the first 3:16 of the fourth quarter to help Los Angeles extend the lead. If they Thunder are going to come back, they will now have to do it against a rested Kobe Bryant.
Despite looking as if he may have suffered a serious injury to end the first half, Russell Westbrook has shown no ill effects so far in the third quarter.
Westbrook slipped and fell at the end of the first half before eventually walking off the court. He has scored 11 points so far in the third quarter, making 4-of-7 shots. He now has 25 points in the game to lead the Thunder.
The Lakers took a 10-point lead into halftime against the Thunder, and one of the biggest reason is Los Angeles' strong play in the paint.
In the first half, the Lakers dominated points in the paint, outscoring the Thunder 34-16. Los Angeles also holds a big rebound advantage. With just over seven minutes to play in the third quarter, the Lakers hold a 27-19 rebound edge.
With 2.6 seconds to play in the first half, Russell Westbrook slipped running down the court and went down with an apparent hip or ankle injury.
Oklahoma City was inbounding the ball as Westbrook began to sprint down the sideline. As he attempted to plant his foot and come to a stop, he slipped and fell to the court. After laying on the court for several seconds, Westbrook got up and walked to the locker room on his own. Via @cjzero.
It was at least the fourth time a player slipped during the first half. This is the second game played in the Staples Center today and third in the last 24 hours, including ice hockey. Kobe Bryant and Ramon Sessions slipped earlier in the game while dribbling. Westbrook returned to the game for the start of the second half.
Bynum was especially effective in the first half, scoring 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Bynum did more than just score, however. He also had seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in the first half. Bryant is the leading scorer with 16 points. The Lakers held a 24-14 rebounding advantage over Oklahoma City in the first half.
The Thunder got 36 of their 46 points from their big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook scored 14 points in the first half to lead Oklahoma City. Durant finished the first half with 12 points and six rebounds. Harden came off the bench to score 10 points but struggled shooting, making 2-of-7 shot attempts.
The Thunder lead the best-of-seven game series 2-1.
The Lakers have not altered their lineup, which has led to some interesting defensive matchups including Pau Gasol guarding Fisher.
Coming off a 2-for-13 shooting performance in Game 3, Andrew Bynum is off to a much better start in Game 4.
Bynum made all five of his shots and finished the first quarter with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. Bynum's strong start helped the Lakers get out to a 29-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Los Angeles made six of their first 10 shots including a perfect 3-of-3 for Andrew Bynum. Oklahoma City has been even better making seven of their first nine shots.
We will see if the teams can keep up this pace or if fatigue begins to catch up.
The Lakers and Thunder will meet in Game 4 of their series on Saturday. Oklahoma City leads the series 2-1.