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Thunder-Lakers Preview

AP - Sports

Knowing what is at stake, the Los Angeles Lakers don't seem too concerned about playing back-to-back games in an already grueling Western Conference semifinal series with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers look to continue their home playoff dominance of the Thunder franchise and try to even the series Saturday night in Game 4 at Staples Center.

Needing a win to avoid falling behind 3-0 in this best-of-7 series, Los Angeles went 41 of 42 from the free-throw line and held Oklahoma City to a postseason-low 39.8 percent from the field in Friday's 99-96 home victory. Kobe Bryant made all 18 of his free throws and scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lakers get back in the series and earn some confidence heading into their first back-to-back playoff games since May 1999.

With the Lakers and Clippers still in the NBA playoffs, and the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL's Western Conference finals, Staples Center will be busy this weekend. The Clippers host San Antonio on Saturday afternoon with the Lakers and Thunder to follow in the evening. The Kings will try to eliminate Phoenix on Sunday afternoon.

It's been a physical series, but the Lakers don't mind getting back on the floor 24 hours after another intense contest.

"They'll be ready," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "They know what their responsibility is. We've got to keep giving multiple effort. We know that it is going to be a physical series and our guys brought their hard hats."

The Lakers have won 14 consecutive playoff home games over the Thunder franchise since a 108-107 loss to the then-Seattle SuperSonics on April 22, 1980.

"It's hard to win on the road in the regular season and it's very difficult to win in the playoffs," coach Scott Brooks told the Thunder's official website. "You have to play the game and give yourself a chance. How you do that is by execution and by competing every possession."

The Thunder scored the final nine points of their 77-75 victory in Game 2, but it was the Lakers who made a late push Friday to overcome a five-point deficit with 2:55 to play. Kevin Durant's potential game-tying 3-pointer didn't fall and Oklahoma City lost for the first time in seven playoff games this season.

"We're not going to win every game, but we're going to fight till the last second of every game," Brooks said.

"We have to come back Saturday night with the same type of effort."

Durant finished with 31 points while Russell Westbrook and James Harden each added 21, but the Thunder went 4 for 17 from 3-point range.

"It was a pretty good night for us defensively," Brown said. "We're going to need to continue stepping up."

Los Angeles' Andrew Bynum had 15 points with 11 rebounds while Pau Gasol also pulled down 11 boards and scored 12 as Los Angeles overcame a 38.6 percent field-goal shooting performance by coming through at the line.

According to Lakers team officials, their free-throw performance Friday was second-best in NBA playoff history for teams with more than 30 attempts. Dallas went 49 for 50 against San Antonio on May 19, 2003.

"We want to win this series and we're going to do whatever it takes," Gasol said. "We've got a lot of heart. The next game is going to be the most important one."

Bryant, who was held to 20 points in each of the first two games of the series, has averaged 33.0 in five home games this postseason.

Though he might be tired and his body is aching, Bryant has enjoyed the first three games of this series against the top seed in the West.

"It's fun, it's a challenge," Bryant said. "You've just got to win. It's plain and simple. Show up to work with your big boy pants on."

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