kobe bryant

With their Game 2 collapse still fresh in their minds, the Los Angeles Lakers avoided a sequel with the only game plan they’re confident will work against the younger, faster Oklahoma City Thunder.

They got slow. They got into the paint. And they got to the free-throw line 42 times, incredibly making all but one of those shots.

Kobe Bryant knows it isn’t pretty. He also knows it’s probably the only way the Lakers can pull the high-flying Thunder down to their level.

Bryant scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers rallied late for a 99-96 victory in Game 3 on Friday night, cutting the Thunder’s second-round series lead to 2-1…

The Lakers were close to a historically insurmountable playoff deficit when the Thunder went ahead 92-87 with 3 minutes left. Instead, they finished on a 12-4 run, scoring six points on free throws in the final 33 seconds and earning the chance to even the series in Game 4 on Saturday night…

”We continued to work, even when they got the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter,” said Pau Gasol, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists…

Durant scored 31 points before missing his last shot for Oklahoma City, which seemed poised to move to the brink of its second straight trip to the Western Conference finals. Instead, the Thunder lost for the first time in the postseason - but they didn’t exactly appear shaken by their late struggles…

Westbrook and James Harden scored 21 points apiece for the Thunder, who couldn’t match the Lakers’ late-game execution after soundly out-executing the Lakers in Game 2…

Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who got 12 points apiece from Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake. The Lakers still got uncomfortably close to an 0-3 deficit, which has never been overcome in NBA history.

– Reported by the Associated Press