(CBS/AP) OKLAHOMA CITY - Down in desperation time, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks called on Kevin Durant to show that he's more than just a three-time scoring champion. And that meant guarding one of the NBA's all-time best.
Durant was up to the challenge, keeping Kobe Bryant from excelling as usual in his closer's role while sparking the Thunder's rally for a 77-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
Durant scored 22 points and rattled in the go-ahead basket on a baseline runner with 18 seconds left as Oklahoma City scored the final nine points. He also had a crucial steal from Bryant to fuel the rally.
"People talk about how I score the ball," said Durant, one of only seven players to lead the NBA in scoring three straight seasons.
"They don't look at me when we go on the other end. I think this whole playoff run, I've been picking it up on the defensive end."
Oklahoma City trailed by seven with 2 minutes left before surging back with a series of defensive stops by its stars to rally from that deficit in the closing stages of a game for the second time this postseason. The Thunder also were down by seven with 2½ minutes left in Game 1 of the first round against defending NBA champion Dallas.
"They won't quit. That's not in their DNA," Brooks said. "They're not wired that way and if they were, they wouldn't be here. We're not going to win every game, but we're going to fight to the last second of the game and we did that tonight.
"If we would have gotten down on ourselves with 2 minutes to go, we would have lost by 12 and we would go to L.A. 1-1."
Instead, Oklahoma City takes a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on Friday night at Staples Center.
CBSSports.com's Royce Young says the young Thunder team has grown up this year.
"They're tough as nails. To find it within to pull out games like these, while somewhat disconcerting see as, say, the Spurs won't be as forgiving, still is extraordinarily impressive," Young writes. "They've built up pressure equity, where they believe as a group they can pull it off no matter the circumstance. They know someone is going to make a play."
Bryant and Andrew Bynum scored 20 points apiece for the Lakers, who came up empty on their last six possessions after Bynum's hook shot made it 75-68 with 2:09 remaining.
Struggling throughout the second half and missing 20 of their first 27 shots, the Thunder came alive after Brooks called a timeout when Bynum's basket gave Los Angeles its largest lead of the game.
James Harden drove for a layup before Durant used his height advantage to reach up and tip away a pass from Bryant. He then ran out for a right-handed dunk at the other end.
Brooks had switched Durant onto Bryant with about 5 minutes left, after Bryant had hit a pair of jumpers as the Lakers started to inch away.
"That wasn't the game plan going in, but there was a moment when I thought Kobe was starting to fill it and I thought Kevin's length would bother him," Brooks said.
That's exactly how it played out with the 6-foot-9 Durant using his wingspan to come up with an energizing steal and fast-break chance.
Celtics top 76ers 107-91 in Game 3 for 2-1 lead
PHILADELPHIA - Kevin Garnett yapped his way down the court after big baskets and clearly enjoyed taking it to the 76ers.
Rajon Rondo pushed the ball and relentlessly attacked the lane.
Paul Pierce gutted out a knee injury and grinded his way to the free throw line.
Boston hears the whispers that it's too weary and too old to win another championship. By the time they forced Sixers fans to flee their seats, the Celtics proved it's still too early to count them out.
Garnett scored 27 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and used a dominant second quarter to help the Celtics beat the 76ers 107-91 on Wednesday night and take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Whistled for a costly illegal pick late in a Game 2 loss, Garnett crushed the Sixers early and never let them think about a fourth-quarter rally.
Garnett scored 13 of Boston's 32 points in the second quarter and the Celtics became the first team to win by double digits. Game 1 and Game 2 were each decided by one point.
Rondo had 23 points and 14 assists. Pierce, playing with a banged-up knee, had 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Game 4 is Friday in Philadelphia.
"We just wanted to come out and establish who we are as a team," Pierce said.
That started with making Garnett a focal point.
Garnett had somehow become forgotten in Boston's offense in Game 2 until the fourth quarter. Coach Doc Rivers said the Celtics simply weren't going to the 16-year veteran because they had established an offensive presence in the low post.
The Celtics wouldn't let that happen again.
They needed Garnett at his best in Philadelphia, where the Sixers had won their last four postseason games.
So much for that minor streak. Garnett made 12 of 17 shots and helped the Celtics outrebound the Sixers by 11 on the defensive boards. He buried those 10 to 16 footers with ease in the second quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a 13-point lead.
"He got the ball in his spots," Rondo said. "He hit a couple of fadeaways. A lot of those guys are smaller than him, so he was just able to turn around and shoot over them."