Lakers avoid 0-3 hole

By Jahmal Corner, Reuters

Posted at May 19 2012 02:43 PM | Updated as of May 20 2012 07:39 PM

LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant refused to let a second straight game slip through his fingers as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-96 in a cliffhanger on Friday to avoid going 3-0 down in their NBA playoff series.

Bryant endured a tough 9-for-25 shooting night to score 36 points, including eight of his team's final 10, helping LA notch a crucial home win in the second-round West matchup.

The Lakers squandered a seven-point lead in the final two minutes to lose a heart-breaker in Game Two, but this time they clawed back from a five-point deficit in the final three minutes.

Bryant was a perfect 18 of 18 from the free throw line, while the Lakers were a combined 41 for 42 from the stripe in a clutch win.

Kevin Durant tallied 31 points, but missed a long potential game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds, while Russell Westbrook and James Harden each had 21 in the loss.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)