It didn’t come easy, but after a tough fight with the young, talented Oklahoma City Thunder, the No. 1 seeded Los Angeles Lakers advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs and are still alive in the quest to defend their NBA Championship.
Lakers star forward Pau Gasol tipped in a missed jump-shot by Kobe Bryant in the final seconds of Game 6 on April 30 to give the Lakers a 95-94 win and a 4-2 series victory against Kevin Durant and the No. 8 seed Oklahoma City.
“This is the playoffs. This is what it's about,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson told reporters. “When you have teams that have won 50 games in the course of a season like this Thunder team did, they have a sense of pride about them. They can play a game that's obviously not far off of what our mark is or was this season. We said it was going to be tough, and it was a tough series.”
Jackson may have expected the series to be tough, but many basketball critics predicted Oklahoma City to go down easily, or be swept by Los Angeles. But it was great performances by Washington, D.C. native Durant and his teammate, Russell Westbrook, that extended the series longer than projected. Durant led the Thunder with 26 points in Game 6, while Westbrook followed with 21 points and nine assists, but it simply wasn’t enough to pull out the win.
“I'm a competitor. I want to win every game I play,” Durant said after the game. “I want to be a champion, and stuff like this hurts. I work so hard, we work so hard as a group, that I think that every time we step on the floor we should win.”
But if anybody works as hard as Durant, it’s Los Angeles star Kobe Bryant, who led the game with 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists despite a sore knee, bum ankle and broken index finger. He won’t have much time to rest and heal before starting a second round match up against the Utah Jazz. Game 1 will air on TNT on Tuesday, May 4.