Instant Analysis: Lakers 99, Thunder 96

LOS ANGELES -- Bouncing back from their collapse at the end of Game 2, the Lakers survived a hectic final two minutes in Game 3. For now, their season -- and Kobe Bryant's chase for a sixth championship -- have life.

Bryant had 36 points -- 14 in the fourth quarter -- as the Lakers beat the Thunder 99-96 Friday night to pull within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.

Game 4 is Saturday night at Staples Center in a rare playoff back-to-back due to the lockout-condensed season. The Lakers and Thunder will play at 7:30 PT at Staples after the Spurs and Clippers play Game 3 of their series at 12:30 PT.

The Lakers scored their final eight points from the foul line, where they were an incredible 41-for-42. Oklahoma City was 26-for-28 from the free-throw line.

After Kendrick Perkins cut the Lakers' lead to 97-96 on a layup off an inbounds play with 11.6 seconds left, Bryant made two more free throws to make it 99-96. Kevin Durant, who had 31 points, missed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle and Andrew Bynun blocked Serge Ibaka's putback attempt.

Bynum had 15 points and 11 rebounds, going 2-for-13 from the field but 11-for-12 from the line. Pau Gasol had 12 points and 11 rebounds. 

Durant, Russell Westbrook (21) and James Harden (21) totaled 73 of Oklahoma City's 96 points as the Thunder once again seemed comfortable playing at the Lakers' pace, mostly in the halfcourt. The Thunder outscored the Lakers in the paint 40-30.

The Lakers led by as many as 12 in the first half, which go chippy late in the second quarter when Westbrook and Metta World Peace got tangled up as World Peace tried to tie up the Thunder point guard for a jump ball. Westbrook, on the floor, started flailing his arms at World Peace's legs. A swipe to the back of World Peace's leg brought his knee down on Westbrook's thigh. It was correctly adjudicated as a double technical foul, and the Lakers led 50-47 at halftime.

In the third, Bryant seemed to be feeling the game out -- trying to find out who he could drag along with him on this hunt for a sixth championship. During a three-minute stretch, he ran a play for Gasol, who lost the pass out of bounds; passed to Gasol again on a pick-and-roll, only to have Gasol loft a weak, off-target lob pass for Bynum; and passed out of a double-team for World Peace, who missed from the top of the key. After both Gasol plays, Bryant turned around and walked away, without looking back.

Bynum was 2-for-11 through three quarters, and Gasol had only eight points and six rebounds. Bryant was 6-for-17 entering the fourth with the Thunder leading 70-69.

CBS Sports Insider

Ken Berger began covering the NBA when Kobe Bryant was a rookie. Somehow, he'll outlast him. Ken has multiple top-10 finishes in the APSE writing contest and one championship to his credit - the 2015 Metropolitan... Full Bio

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