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Durant powers Thunder past Lakers in OK City playoff debut

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The Sports Network
4/23/2010 2:12:13 AM
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Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) - Kevin Durant scored 29 points and pulled down 19 rebounds, pacing Oklahoma City to a 101-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

On a night Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks was handed the award as the league's top head coach, the Thunder garnered their first playoff win as a franchise since moving from Seattle. The last postseason triumph came in 2005 when the SuperSonics played San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.

Russell Westbrook tallied 27 points and eight rebounds in the win. He and Durant combined for 22 of Oklahoma City's final 23 points, and the Thunder defense held superstar Kobe Bryant to 2-of-10 shooting in the last period.

Durant had a lot to do with that, guarding Bryant for most of that fourth quarter.

"He missed some shots he'd normally hit," Durant said. "I was praying they'd bounce off the rim. I just tried to play my hardest, use my length to disturb his shot. My teammates did a great job helping me out."

James Harden scored 18 points off the bench for the eighth-seeded Thunder.

Bryant had 24 points and eight assists, but went just 10-of-29 from the field for the defending NBA champions, who still hold a 2-1 series lead. Pau Gasol ended with 17 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out. Derek Fisher also scored 17 for the Lakers, who went 10-of-31 from beyond the arc.

Bryant (4,465) passed Jerry West (4,457) for first on the Lakers' all-time playoff scoring list.

The Lakers sent Oklahoma City to the 34 times (27 makes), while the Lakers converted 10-of-12 at the charity stripe.

"The key factor is the free throws," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They shot 41 percent, but we even shot better than they did. But you can't beat a team when you stick them on the line 34 times. That has to go with their aggressiveness.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night, again at the Ford Center.

The Lakers led 64-53 after Gasol's short running shot midway through the third quarter, but the Thunder surged thanks to sharp shooting and aggressive play later in the period. Westbrook slammed, and then Harden and Durant hit back- to-back three-pointers to even the game at 74 in the final minute.

Gasol's free throw ended the period with the Lakers ahead by a point, but Westbrook and Durant were catalysts in the fourth. Westbrook sank a jumper, Durant hit a floater shot and then made a step-back shot to move the Thunder to a commanding 90-82 lead with 4 1/2 minutes left. That capped a 10-2 spurt.

Three-pointers from Fisher and Lamar Odom kept LA in striking distance and the Lakers closed within a pair on two occasions, the last time at 98-96 on a Bryant driving layup with 13.5 seconds left.

But Durant made two free throws to essentially seal the victory.

Early on, it appeared the Lakers would blow the Thunder right out of the building. They scored the first 10 points, highlighted by an Andrew Bynum alley-oop jam off a feed from Bryant. The lead grew to 15-3 after a Bryant three-pointer, but by the end of the quarter the Thunder stared at just a 27-22 deficit.

The Lakers continued to play front-runner in the second, pushing the advantage to as many as nine late before Westbrook's layup cut it to 50-43 at the half.

Game Notes: Jeff Green had 10 points for the Thunder...Durant missed just one of his 13 foul shots...Bynum tallied 13 points and seven boards, while Ron Artest scored 11 in defeat.

Kevin Durant (Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)
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