May 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) moves the ball against the defense of Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (13) during the second half of game three of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Game 4 Preview

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally lost a game in these playoffs 99-96 last night to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3.

The Thunder were 6-0 before last night and while every loss hurts, losing at least once was inevitable for this Thunder team in the playoffs.

Kobe Bryant shot 18 free throws in Game 3 and made them all. Lakers fans will describe this as Kobe relentlessly attacking the rim while Thunder fans see it as Kobe getting way too many calls.

The game was called tight throughout with a lot of ticky tacky calls being made out on the perimeter. At the end of the game those calls were going more toward the Lakers’ favor which was unfortunate for the Thunder and also has to do with their style of play.

When a game is being called close on the plays where players are jockeying for position, it favors the team that plays more with their back to the basket.

The Thunder were all pick-and-roll down the stretch with James Harden a lot and Kevin Durant some too. They got their fair share of calls in the game but not when they needed them.

The Lakers would wind up shooting 41-for-42 free throws in the game and only made 11 field goals in the entire second half.

Kobe finished with 36 points to lead the team.

Andrew Bynum who has some success in the first two games scoring down low was only 2-of-13 last night but 11-of-12 at the line for his 15 points.

If the Lakers are going to win tonight they will need better efficiency from the field from Bynum and Pau Gasol.

The Thunder are going to need more from Russell Westbrook to turn this series back around and heavily in favor of Oklahoma City.

Westbrook holds the biggest matchup advantage against the Lakers and needs to get his midrange shot going early on tonight. He tried that in Game 3 but over aggressiveness found him an early seat on the bench.

Westbrook was really nowhere to be seen down the stretch too and while that sometimes feels good because it means more Harden and Durant, against the Lakers the Thunder are going to need more from him like in Game 1.

It is unlikely that the game tonight will be called as closely as Game 3. We’re not going to see 70 free throw attempts again.

The Lakers have their confidence back now though. It shouldn’t matter though because at the end of the day, talent always wins out and that’s good news for the Thunder.

Tags: Andrew Bynum Game 4 James Harden Kevin Durant Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers NBA Playoffs Oklahoma City Thunder Pau Gasol Russell Westbrook Western Conference Semifinals

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