Durant's Heroics Leave Lakers Thunder-Struck
NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant struck for 22 points, five coming in a game-ending 9-0 run, as Oklahoma City stunned the Los Angeles Lakers 77-75 in the NBA playoffs on Wednesday.
The Thunder, unbeaten in six playoff games, seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series, which shifts to Los Angeles for games three and four on Friday and Saturday.
"We kept our composure," Durant said. "Their defense was unbelievable tonight. We stuck with it and I was able to make some big shots. A win is a win in the playoffs. We've got to be prepared for game three."
On the verge of pulling even in the series, the Lakers return home in need of a victory on Friday to avoid being on the edge of elimination.
"We're pretty disappointed," Lakers guard Steve Blake said. "We worked hard to get that lead. They took it from us but we gave it away at the same time."
The Lakers' defense shut down the NBA's most potent playoff scoring attack most of the game and took a 75-68 lead on a hook shot by Andrew Bynum with 2:08 to play in the fourth quarter. But Los Angeles would not score again.
James Harden, voted the NBA's top reserve player, snapped a four-minute Oklahoma City scoring drought on a layup with 1:59 remaining to pull the Thunder within 75-70.
Durant followed with a steal and a fast-break slam dunk to trim the Lakers' lead to 75-72 and Harden produced a driving layup to pull the hosts within a single point with 56 seconds remaining.
After a Kobe Bryant miss for the Lakers, a double-covered Durant made a clutch baseline jump shot with 18.6 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a 76-75 advantage.
"Big shot, big steal," Lakers coach Mike Brown said of Durant's late-game heroics. "Give them credit -- big plays down the stretch for OKC."
With the game on the line, the Lakers had an inbounds opportunity on the sideline in the offensive zone. They tried to set up a play for Bryant but the Thunder's Russell Westbrook left Blake unguarded in the corner and Metta World Peace tossed him the ball for an uncontested 3-point attempt.
"Kobe was wide open on the back side," Brown said. "Metta saw Steve and Steve was open so Metta passed it to him."
Blake's shot bounced off the rim and the Thunder recovered, setting the stage for a final free throw by Durant
"I was there to be an outlet for (the inbounds pass)," Blake said. "My man ran away from me. I got a good look. I made a good shot. It just didn't go in."
Durant deliberately missed his second free throw but the ball barely touched the bottom of the netting, giving the Lakers a last-gasp possession with 0.3 of a second remaining, but they could not execute a play for a shot attempt.
As most of the crowd of 18,203 cheered and the Thunder celebrated, the Lakers could only wonder how they let a seemingly secure victory slip away.
"We will be all right," World Peace said. "We had a lot of good things that happened tonight. We will be better when we get in that position again."
World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, was not ready to lay the blame at the feet of Bryant for missed shots and a late turnover.
"If one person turned it over, we all turned it over," World Peace said. "At the end of the game we all lost."
Bryant and Bynum each finished with 20 points while Spaniard Pau Gasol added 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
Westbrook scored 15 points and Harden added 13 points for the Thunder.