Police and NBA security investigating Twitter threats to Steve Blake, family

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

The Twitter threats to Steve Blake, his wife and their three young sons have been reported to police authorities and NBA security officials for further investigation, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told this newspaper before Game 3 on Friday night.

Blake’s wife, Kristen, reported she had blocked 500 Twitter accounts after receiving profane threats after Blake missed what would have been the go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the Lakers’ loss in Game 2 on Wednesday.

The insults continued Thursday and Friday, however.

“That gets me emotional right now,” Lakers coach Mike Brown. “I feel bad for his family, for him. That shouldn’t be a part of life. To have somebody do stuff like that, to attack your family, your kids. No. I don’t like that. I feel bad for him.

“You understand the passion and the love people have for this team. I respect that. I respect you guys (reporters) saying what you say about me and Steve. That’s your job and you respect people saying that. But golly, everybody has families.

“You hate to say it, but he’s just got to get himself ready for the game. When I saw it, it’s a shame, it’s a doggone shame. You want to say something about me or him, that’s fine. But the wife and the kids? Come on, give me a break.”

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Lakers 99, Thunder 96

They’re nothing if not resilient, these Lakers.

Pretty good at the free-throw line, too.

Some how, some way, the Lakers found a way to scratch out a 99-96 victory over the younger and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night at Staples Center.

The Lakers made 41 of 42 from the line, including two each from Metta World Peace and Kobe Bryant to hold off the Thunder in the closing seconds and narrow their deficit in the best-of-7 series to 2-1. Game 4 is tonight at Staples Center.

Bryant scored a team-leading 36 points, making 18 of 18 from the line. Andrew Bynum added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake each added 12 points for the Lakers.

Kevin Durant scored 31 for the Thunder, but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the score at 99-all inside the final three seconds.

The Thunder led 92-87 with 2:41 remaining and the Lakers clinging to life. The Lakers had erased a five-point deficit for an 83-all tie moments earlier only to see the Thunder surge in front again. Then the Lakers fought back to within 88-87.

Kendrick Perkins sank two free throws and Russell Westbrook stole the ball from Bryant and scored on a dunk to make it 92-87. The Lakers rallied one more time, taking a 93-93 after Bryant sank two free throws with 1:09 remaining.

Kevin Durant responded with a jumper to put the Thunder back in front.
Bryant gave the Lakers 95-94 lead with two free throws with 33.8 seconds left.

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Lakers’ Pau Gasol wins citizenship award

Lakers power forward/center Pau Gasol was named the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given annually to the player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community. “Gasol has been a tireless worker on behalf of various UNICEF causes,” the NBA said in a news release Friday morning.

Gasol has been a UNICEF ambassador for seven years.

The award is voted on by members of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Other finalists this season for the award were Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks and J.J. Redick of the Orlando Magic.

Metta World Peace, Gasol’s Lakers teammate, won the award last season for his work in promoting the treatment and diagnosis of mental illness. Samuel Dalembert won the award in 2009-10 for helping the relief efforts in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in his homeland.

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Family of Lakers’ Steve Blake receives Twitter threats

Steve Blake missed what would have been the go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds of Game 2 on Wednesday night, which was difficult enough for him to swallow. Then came a string of threats to him, his wife and their three young sons via Twitter.

Blake’s wife, Kristen, tweeted that she had to block 500 accounts after the game, including several profanity-laced threats against the veteran player, his wife and their three young sons. Blake said he didn’t read them, but his wife made him aware of them.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Blake said Thursday. “There’s a lot of hateful people out there, you know? I just don’t appreciate it when it’s toward my family. You can come at me all you want, but when you say things about my wife and kids, that makes me upset.”

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NBA commissioner Davis Stern set to attend Game 3, but he’s not talking

NBA commissioner David Stern will attend Game 3 on Friday night, but is not scheduled to speak with reporters, two league sources told this newspaper. Stern often holds a pregame news conference during the playoffs with Lakers beat reporters.

There are a number of issues open for discussion, particularly Stern’s decision to block the Lakers’ multi-player and multi-team trade that would have netted them point guard Chris Paul back in December. Stern has never fully explained his reasons.

Stern did have a prolonged discussion about the vetoed Paul trade with veteran NBA reporter Chris Sheridan during a news conference during the All-Star Weekend, but answered few of Sheridan’s questions substantively.

Stern also has made headlines recently for suggesting he would like to see the league shorten the regular season to 66 games from the current 82. He said he liked the idea of beginning the season on Christmas Day.

In addition, he said he would consider adopting the goaltending rules used in international play, in which a player can handle the ball immediately after it hits the rim, which is currently outlawed in the NBA rulebook.

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NBA fines Lakers’ Andrew Bynum and Devin Ebanks for being bad

OKLAHOMA CITY — Andrew Bynum skipped Tuesday’ afternoon’s media session and was fined $15,000 by the NBA for skipping out the moment the Lakers’ practice ended. He made up for it by speaking after Wednesday’s morning shootaround. The 7-foot Bynum has stopped speaking to reporters before games.

Devin Ebanks received a $25,000 fine from the league for what the NBA said were his “actions prior to and following his ejection” from the Lakers’ 29-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 on Monday night. Ebanks was ejected for shoving the Thunder’s Royal Ivey during a minor scuffle on the court and then punched a chair on the Lakers’ bench and removed his jersey as he went to the locker room.

Stu Jackson, the NBA’s punishment czar, has been busy handing out fines and suspensions to the Lakers lately. Metta World Peace got things going with an elbow to the head of Oklahoma City’s James Harden in an April 22 game at Staples Center, drawing a seven-game suspension from the league.

Earlier in the season, Lakers coach Mike Brown was suspended for one game for making contact with referee Zach Zarba during a game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. Brown blamed himself for the ejection and has been unwilling to criticize his players for their transgressions because of his own suspension.

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Lakers focused on improved defensive play for Game 2

Tomorrow’s story today …

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Lakers said all the right things Tuesday after getting picked-and-rolled to pieces during their 29-point loss Monday to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

Game 2 is Wednesday, and the Lakers said they must play with a greater understanding of the oldest play in the game if they hope to steal a victory and send the series to Staples Center with something resembling momentum.

Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Lakers haven’t rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series since storming back to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the 2004 conference semifinals. The last time they were down 2-0, the Dallas Mavericks swept them last May.

“We’re all pretty edgy, but still pretty loose at the same time,” Kobe Bryant said after Tuesday’s film session and workout. “We’re just looking forward to our next opportunity. We’re a team that doesn’t get down when we get blown out.

“We’ve been blown out a bunch of times.”

In fact, the Denver Nuggets smoked them by 17 points in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals last week only to see them regroup to win Game 7 and advance to the next round. The Thunder should not be confused with the Nuggets, however.

Oklahoma City picked apart the Lakers’ lackluster defense, exploiting their breakdowns and making them pay by sinking 44 of 83 shots (53 percent). Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant seemed to have acres of open space for their shots.

Westbrook scored 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting and added nine assists.

Durant had 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.

Bryant wouldn’t say whether he would guard Westbrook from the start of Wednesday’s game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, but his “no comment” was accompanied with a wide smile, which indicated that it was likely.

“We’ve got to address that and not give him those pot shots,” Bryant said of trying to keep Westbrook from breaking free on the pick-and-roll to shoot jump shots. “It’s something he’s worked on. It’s not a weakness anymore, it’s a strength.”

Bryant slowed Westbrook during the Lakers’ victory over the Thunder in the conference quarterfinals in 2010, and they used it as a springboard to a second consecutive NBA championship. Times have changed, though.

The Lakers were favorites then, but underdogs now.

Westbrook, a former UCLA standout, showed precisely why in Game 1, running the pick-and-roll to perfection.

“Historically, for whatever reason, we have not been a good defensive screen-and-roll team,” Bryant said. “We talked about that a little bit (Tuesday), things we have to do differently, things we have to do a little better. It’s not a one-on-one type of thing.”

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Magic Johnson: Lakers will fire Mike Brown if they lose Game 7 (updated)

Here’s what Magic Johnson said Friday on ESPN about Mike Brown’s future: “Mike Brown will not be coaching the Lakers if they lose this game (Game 7 tonight against the Denver Nuggets). There would be so much pressure on (Lakers executive vice president of player personnel) Jim Buss and the Lakers organization to get rid of him.”

UPDATE: The Lakers responded with a written statement Saturday afternoon.

“The opinion expressed yesterday by Magic Johnson regarding Mike Brown was his personal opinion and was made in his role as a TV analyst,” the email read. “His words were not made on behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers, and in no way do they reflect the feelings or position of team ownership or management. We are fully committed to and supportive of Mike Brown as coach of the Lakers.”

Last May, on the eve of the Lakers’ loss to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, Johnson called for team owner Jerry Buss to “blow up this team.” The Lakers’ moves since Johnson’s comment last May have been more subtle. However, they did attempt to trade Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to get Chris Paul, a deal that never went through.

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Kobe Bryant, suffering from a stomach ailment, skips Lakers’ shootaround

DENVER — Kobe Bryant did not attend the Lakers’ morning shootaround because of a stomach ailment. The Lakers said they would update Bryant’s condition 90 minutes before tonight’s tipoff of Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers lead the best-of-7 Western Conference quarterfinal series 3-2. Bryant leads the Lakers with an average of 31.2 points during the series and is coming off a 43-point game during the Lakers’ loss to the Nuggets in Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Bryant came down with food poisoning after eating a room service meal of a cheeseburger and cheesecake the night before Game 2 of the Lakers’ 2002 conference finals series against the Sacramento Kings.

“He was doubled over like a shrimp,” Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti said rather famously at the time.

Bryant played in the game, but the Lakers lost en route to a seven-game victory over the Kings they used as a springboard to their third consecutive title.

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Lakers try to get it right in Game 6

Tomorrow’s notebook today …

Closing time: the sequel.

The Lakers got it all wrong in Game 5 on Tuesday at Staples Center, which is why they must play a Game 6 on Thursday night in Denver as they make a second attempt to close out the Nuggets in their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Since they are still ahead 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, they have a margin for error.

It’s a small consolation, however.

The Lakers’ frustration was evident after they stormed back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter only to fall short in the closing seconds, tumbling 102-99 to the Nuggets and setting up match point No. 2 Thursday night.

Game 7, if necessary, would be Saturday at Staples Center, but the Lakers weren’t thinking about a winner-take-all game after squandering their first try at eliminating the Nuggets and advancing to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the next round.

“They’re just not going to lay down for you, so hopefully, we learned a lesson,” Lakers power forward Pau Gasol said late Tuesday night. “We made it tougher for ourselves, but now we have to go up to Denver and try to win Game 6.”

For openers, the Lakers need to shoot better than the 33.3 percent (15 of 45) they shot during the first half of Game 5, when they didn’t take advantage of the Nuggets’ 41.3 percent shooting (19 of 46) and trailed by 49-43.

What’s more, the Lakers must ditch their customary languid style of play in favor of a more frenetic approach to Game 6. The Nuggets have won twice in this series just by outhustling the Lakers to rebounds and loose balls.

“I feel these guys are champions,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “I feel these guys are winners and I feel that we had an opportunity (Tuesday) and we let it get away from us. The one thing our guys have to understand, though, is we’re still up 3-2.

“We’re still in control of the series. We just have to go on the road and get a win.”

It isn’t as if the Lakers haven’t closed-out the Nuggets in Denver. The Lakers did it during a 4-2 victory in the conference finals in 2009 and in a four-game sweep in the opening round in 2008. This is a different Nuggets team, however.

Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith play for the New York Knicks now and Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin are with the Clippers. Nene plays for the Washington Wizards and Chris Andersen sits on the Denver bench.

These Nuggets are faster, younger and more energetic.

“The running of the game, the tempo of the game, and the pace we play, they’re getting tired of hearing it … but our only chance to beat them is to run them and play with tremendous energy and intensity,” Denver coach George Karl said.

“I think it’s hard to win (a close-out game). I’ve been blessed to win a few series and it’s hard to win the next game. It’s the hardest thing in the world to win the fourth game. I don’t care who you’re playing, it’s hard to win that fourth game.”

World Peace update

Thursday, Metta World Peace will serve the seventh and final game of his suspension for elbowing James Harden of the Thunder in the head during the Lakers’ double-overtime victory over Oklahoma City on April 22.

World Peace (the former Ron Artest) will be eligible to play if there is a Game 7 on Saturday or in Game 1 against the Thunder if the Lakers defeat the Nuggets tonight. He has been practicing with the team, but can’t be in the arena during games.

Small forward follies

Devin Ebanks is averaging 4.6 points as World Peace’s replacement, making 10 of 23 shots (43.5 percent). Matt Barnes, who is Ebanks’ backup, is averaging five points on 11-for-40 shooting (27.5 percent), including 2 of 20 from 3-point range (10 percent).

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