Kobe Bryant scored 39 points, carrying the Lakers in the fourth quarter when they lost the lead three times, and host Los Angeles beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 95-92, last night to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.
Bryant was 13 of 15 from the free throw line, but just 12 of 28 from the floor in front of his dad Joe, who sat next to the Lakers’ bench.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 32 points and Russell Westbrook added 19, making all eight of his free throws.
Pau Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum had 6 points and 10 boards for the Lakers, who failed to sustain their strong start for the second straight game.
Game 3 is tomorrow in Oklahoma City. The Lakers are 39-1 all time when winning first two games of a best-of-seven series.
The Thunder’s defense kept them in the game, with 17 blocked shots.
Bryant scored 15 points in the fourth, but sent the crowd into an anguished groan when he missed the first of two free throws with 15 seconds left. He made the second to keep Los Angeles ahead, 94-92.
Durant missed a 3-pointer and Gasol got fouled, but he also missed the first with seven seconds left. Gasol hit the second, and then Jeff Green, who had 12 points, missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
Hawks 96, Bucks 86 — With Joe Johnson and high-flying Josh Smith leading the way, Atlanta avoided another Game 2 letdown.
Johnson took control in the fourth quarter to finish off a 27-point effort, Smith finished one assist shy of a triple-double and the Hawks ran away from the pesky but outmanned Bucks at Atlanta.
Atlanta was mindful of last season, when it blew out Miami in its playoff opener — then lost at home and had to go seven games.
This time, the Hawks took care of business on their home court. They’ll head to Milwaukee Saturday night with a 2-0 lead, the first time they’ve won the first two in a best-of-seven series since 1970.
Smith had 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 9 assists — not to mention 2 steals and 2 blocks. He had the crowd on its feet with four thunderous dunks and a couple more above-the-rim lay-ins. Al Horford was nearly as dominant, scoring 20 points, snatching 10 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots.
Suns 119, Trail Blazers 90 — Jason Richardson scored 29 points, Grant Hill made 10-of-11 shots for 20 poinrts, and host Phoenix rediscovered its high-energy style in a rout of Portland to square the first-round playoff series at one game apiece.
Unlike Game 1, Steve Nash pushed the Suns to their preferred tempo from the start and finished with 13 points and 16 assists. Amare Stoudemire scored 18. None of the Suns’ starters played in the fourth quarter.
Martell Webster led the Blazers with 16 points. Andre Miller was limited to 12 after getting 31 in Portland’s 105-100 victory Sunday night. Nicolas Batum also scored 12 before leaving because of a right shoulder strain at the end of the third quarter.