The Los Angeles Lakers were seconds away from facing an insurmountable 3-0 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. Now their 48 minutes away from tying the series in a rare back-to-back postseason contest.
That's how quickly things can turn in the NBA playoffs.
With both the Lakers and Clippers still in the NBA postseason, and the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL's Western Conference finals, Staples Center has a full slate this weekend.
Last night's Lakers win started things. The Clippers host San Antonio on Saturday afternoon with the Lake-show and Thunder to follow. The Kings will then try to eliminate Phoenix on Sunday afternoon before the Spurs and Clips tangle again Sunday night.
Kobe Bryant scored eight of his team's final 10 points on Friday as the Lakers willed their way to a 99-96 win over the Thunder in Game 3 of their set.
Bryant finished with 36 points on 9-of-25 shooting and made all 18 of his free throws, including a pair with 33.8 seconds left which put Los Angeles on top for good.
As a team the Lakers, who were blown out in the series opener and fell in Game 2 despite holding a lead in the final minutes, made an amazing 41-of-42 foul shots, the second-best performance in NBA playoff history for teams with more than 30 attempts. Dallas went 49 for 50 against San Antonio on May 19, 2003.
"We fouled too many times. It's hard to win on the opponents floor when they make 41 free throws. We have to defend without fouling," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
Andrew Bynum added 15 points and 11 rebounds and Pau Gasol chipped in 12 and 11. Steve Blake, who missed a potential game-winning three-pointer in Game 2, had 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Lakers have now won 14 consecutive playoff home games over the Oklahoma City franchise, dating back to a 108-107 setback to the then-Seattle SuperSonics on April 22, 1980.
"You have to do what it takes to win. Tonight we were aggressive defensively. We got to the free-throw line," said Bryant. "We have to slow the game down and play our tempo."
The Thunder suffered their first loss of this postseason after sweeping the defending NBA-champion Mavericks in the first round. Kevin Durant had 31 points in the setback but missed a potential tying three-pointer on the game's final possession.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden both had 21 points for Oklahoma City.
"It's hard to win on the road in the regular season and it's very difficult to win in the playoffs," Brooks said. "You have to play the game and give yourself a chance. How you do that is by execution and by competing every possession."
L.A. is still fighting an uphill battle here, however. The Lakers are just 2-17 all-time when falling behind 0-2 in a best-of-seven series. Meanwhile, OKC is younger, deeper and more athletic which should bode well in a back-to- back situation.
"They'll be ready," Lakers coach Mike Brown said of his team. "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."
These teams are very familiar with each other, having played three times during the regular season. Oklahoma City won the first two contests by 15 points (at Chesapeake Energy Arena) and nine (Staples Center) before the Lakers rebounded to win the final meeting in Hollywood by eight in double- overtime.
In the playoffs this rivalry dates back to 1978 when the Oklahoma City franchise was known as the SuperSonics. The Sonics beat the Lakers in 1978 and '79 when they reached the NBA Finals in both years. The franchise hasn't beaten them since, losing in 1980, '87, '89, '95 and '98 as well as 2010 as the Thunder.
Game 5 of the set is scheduled for Monday in Oklahoma City.