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Monday, April 26, 2010

Thunder even series, confound naysayers

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) At this time last summer when Kevin Durant suggested the Oklahoma City Thunder should be shooting for the playoffs this season, it was considered an outlandish statement.

But look at them now.

Durant scored 22 points, Russell Westbrook added 18 points and eight rebounds, and the Thunder evened the first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 110-89 victory in Game 4 on Saturday night.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to be here and once we got here, people were saying we were going to get swept and a lot of different things," Durant said. "We knew what we were capable of and how hard we play every day and how hard we practice every day.

"With those attributes, I think that we can go far as a team. It's all on us. We control our own destiny at this point."

For the second straight game, the Thunder capitalized on a significant edge at the foul line and on the boards despite the presence of the Lakers' giant tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Oklahoma City never trailed after the opening five minutes and led by double digits for the final three quarters in a thorough dismantling.

"This is as big as a game can possibly be," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "You're playing against one of the best teams in the playoffs on your home floor. Like I told the guys after the game, the Lakers did a good job the first two games. They took care of their home court. We did the same thing."

"I was managing the game exactly how I wanted to. Unfortunately, it got away from us," Bryant said. "By them getting out in transition and getting those buckets, I wasn't able to do what I normally do at the end of the game and close games out."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson stood by Bryant's decision to wait nearly 15 minutes into the game — and until his team was down by 15 — to take his first shot, but said "It was a pretty good meltdown" in the second half.

"Our expectation is we wanted to win both of these games and be done with it. I think that's every team's mind set coming on the road being up 2-0," Bryant said. "It's not the reality of the situation. We've got a tough fight, and it should be fun."

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Trail Blazers 96, Suns 87

In Portland, Brandon Roy made a surprising return from knee surgery and scored 10 points, including a key 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, and the Blazers evened their playoff series with the Suns at two games apiece.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who unexpectedly activated Roy shortly before the game, eight days after he had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Magic 90, Bobcats 86

In Charlotte, Jameer Nelson scored 32 points and Orlando overcame Dwight Howard's continuing foul trouble and a loud, towel-waving crowd in Charlotte's return to the playoff stage to beat the Bobcats and take a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round series.

Howard played only 26 minutes and fouled out with 3:32 left. But Nelson had a key bucket down the stretch and backup center Marcin Gortat hit two free throws with 12 seconds left to put it away.

Bucks 107, Hawks 89

In Milwaukee, John Salmons scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and the Bucks never let up after a hot start in a victory over Atlanta in Game 3.

The Hawks still lead the series 2-1 after two double-digit victories at home, when the Bucks looked overmatched without their injured center Andrew Bogut.

But veteran Kurt Thomas had eight points, 13 rebounds and four stitches, rookie Brandon Jennings added 13 points and Milwaukee proved that the Hawks may have to "Fear the Deer" after all.



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