- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Los Angeles Lakers are facing elimination and after their most recent loss Saturday, Kobe Bryant pegged the Lakers' late-game problems on Pau Gasol, but coach Mike Brown insists the team isn't coming apart.
"They've played together too long," said Brown. "Pau knows how Kobe is. Kobe knows how Pau is and they'll do a good job of figuring each other out."
The Lakers head into Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing 3-1, but could just as easy be up 3-1 had it not been for poor execution down the stretch in Games 2 and 4.
Bryant did not speak to reporters after shootaround. Gasol did and focused on the team's predicament rather than any interpersonal relationships that may be fraying.
"We're thinking about winning this one and going from there," Gasol said. "Every game is obviously a different story, as we experienced throughout the playoffs. So, we're tuning in to this one and understanding that our life is on the line and to be able to stretch this out and give us an opportunity, we have to be able to win (Game 5) here in Oklahoma with all the momentum that they have right now."
Added Metta World Peace: "We're on the same page. Every now and then throughout a season you go through adversity, you go through a little bit of being indecisive or you might not be on the same page, but it's no reason for us to not move forward. ... We're here together."
Ever since the Lakers acquired Gasol in 2008, the team's last four seasons have ended in feast or famine fashion. From the elation of having their last game result in lifting the Larry O'Brien trophy end up in triumph as they did with back-to-back titles in 2009-10, to the nadir of being blown out by 36 points by Dallas in 2011 and by 39 points by Boston in 2008, the Lakers' season finales have been extreme to say the least.
World Peace said that the Dallas debacle should help L.A. overcome the obstacle it faces of needing three straight wins to get to the conference finals, however.
"I think anytime you make mistakes or you make errors or you fail (and) go through adversity, you can always get better from those non-success times or those failures or errors or whatever you want to call it," World Peace said.
Brown wasn't coaching the team when it fizzled out of the playoffs a year ago, but said he wouldn't go down without a fight on Monday.
"The biggest thing is we have to be the most physical team on both ends of the floor down the stretch, and right now, at least in the two close wins, the Thunder was the most physical team down the stretch," Brown said. "They're grabbing, they're holding, which is playoff basketball. We got to grab and hold back. They're setting illegal screens, we got to set illegal screens. Because, stuff is not going to be called. I think both teams need to do that, as opposed to just them doing it all the time and us doing it some of the time."
Only eight teams in NBA history have come back to win a series after trailing 3-1, including the Phoenix Suns when they beat the Lakers in 2006. The Suns won Game 7 by 31 points that year, another feast-or-famine result for the Lakers.
Brown is planning for his team to dig in this time.
"We are here to win to win the game," Brown said. "It's as simple as that. That's not being overconfident. That's just being what it is."
The Los Angeles Lakers are facing elimination and after their most recent loss Saturday, Kobe Bryant pegged the Lakers' late-game problems on Pau Gasol, but coach Mike Brown insists the team isn't coming apart.