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Phillip Barnett —  February 28, 2011

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: It was a terrific all around game for El Spaniard, who was key in helping the Lakers remain in the game after the Thunder got off to a hot start. 13 points and six rebounds, with baskets coming from inside, outside and all points in between. He finished the game with 18 points and 11 boards, five of which came on the offensive glass. His impact was also felt on the defensive end. Shots were contested all night, and he drew a massively important charge against Russell Westbrook under the rim with 17 seconds left in regulation.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: When Kobe Bryant passed Hakeem Olajuwon last January on the all-time scoring list, it wasn’t just a climb up the ladder. It marked the start of quest to slay giants. With the exception of a certain two-guard compared to Bryant roughly every six seconds, the remaining targets are all big men. Kareem. Malone (Karl). Wilt. Shaq. Malone (Moses). And now Elvin Hayes, brushed aside by a floater banked off glass at Nick Collison’s expense. Two all-time greats, with commonalities beyond their ability to fill up a bucket. Like Bryant, Hayes was no stranger to controversy over the course of his career, and according to his NBA.com bio, several issues ran parallel with problems plaguing Kobe at some point.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: It felt like last April all over again. The Lakers were in town, the arena was beyond loud and there was just another level of intensity on the floor. The officials swallowed their whistles for most the game, it was extremely physical and just in a general sense, it felt like a playoff game. Even down to the halftime show, things felt the same as Peter Rabbit returned (he performed twice at halftime during the playoffs). But just like last year, the Thunder came up juuuuuuuust a little short. Down three with 10 seconds left, Oklahoma City had two shots to tie, with both 3s — one from Kevin Durant and one from James Harden — rimming out. Hey, at least it wasn’t a Pau Gasol tip this time, right? Right?

From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: With 9.8 seconds left, the Oklahoma City Thunder trailed the Los Angeles Lakers by three points with the ball on the side.  The Thunder ran a decent play, but a heads up play by Pau Gasol allowed him to challenge the shot, preventing Kevin Durant from hitting the three. The play starts with a staggered screen for James Harden.  Gasol is positioned way off of his man, Nick Collison.  This is a very smart decision.  With the Thunder needing a three pointer, Collison isn’t a threat, so Gasol playing off of him doesn’t hurt the Lakers.  Also, it prevents the area where the staggered screen is being set from getting too crowded.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Wow, it’s kind of bright in here all of a sudden. Everything was dim and shadowy just a few minutes ago, but now there’s illumination to spare. It’s like someone has caused energy to flow through the metal filament in a small glass bulb hanging from the ceiling. Maybe – I mean, hypothetically – they did so by toggling a small, plastic, wall-mounted component available in fine hardware stores everywhere. It’s almost like someone…. flipped a switch? Perhaps that’s taking it a smidge too far. It’s still too early to say the Lakers have overcome their pre-All Star difficulties. But the break appears to have done them a world of good. They’ve roared into the regular-season homestretch with four straight impressive wins, the latest a closely fought 90 to 87 road victory in Oklahoma City.

From Jeff Laztke, OC Register: The Lakers aren’t sure what to expect when they see the Oklahoma City Thunder with playoff nemesis Kendrick Perkins in the lineup next time. Until then, they’re doing their best to build up a cushion in the Western Conference standings. Pau Gasol had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Kobe Bryant scored 17 points and the Lakers firmed up their grasp on third place in the West by beating the Thunder, 90-87, Sunday. “They’re a dangerous team now, they’re a very good team now and probably Perkins is going to help them, especially in the playoffs,” Gasol said. “But we’ll see. That has to be seen and proven.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers made late-game plays in their 90-87 victory Sunday over Oklahoma City. That sentiment may not have lasted had the Thunder converted on their last possession. After Lamar Odom missed two free throws with 10 seconds remaining, the Thunder immediately called timeout when Kevin Durant grabbed the rebound with nine seconds remaining. On the next play, Durant caught a pass curling off a screen, but Ron Artest and Pau Gasol closely contested his three-point attempt. Thunder center Nick Collison tipped the missed shot to the top of the key to James Harden, whose trey hit off the back iron. But credit the Lakers’ defensive effort in forcing OKC into making tough shots at the end and many possessions before that.

From Royce Young, Eye On Basketball: For the first time since Pau Gasol broke Thunder fans’ hearts, the Lakers returned to the scene of the crime. They returned to the daunting arena that claimed them twice in the playoffs last April and a place where they escaped from by the skins of their teeth in a classic opening round Game 6. And just like the last time these two teams hooked up in Oklahoma City Arena, it came down to the final buzzer. The Thunder missed two game-tying 3-point attempts with 10 seconds left as the Lakers slid past OKC 90-87 in a playoff-like atmosphere. Kevin Durant got a pretty clean look after curling off a Nick Collison screen, but his attempt rimmed in-and-out. Collison tipped the ball back out again with it ending up in James Harden’s hands. But Harden’s 3 went begging just long.

Phillip Barnett

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