Yahoo! Sports: On his way into the losing locker room, the most angry man in the Garden was heard to bellow a spontaneous stream of curses into the ears of his Los Angeles Lakers. As the door slammed behind them, a witness heard Kobe Bryant(notes) screaming that he needed some-bleeping-one to make a stand with him.
The Lakers have been pushed to the edge and Bryant to the brink. Here it was, the most important night of these NBA Finals, a Game 5 with everything even, and it felt like the post-Shaq Lakers with Bryant left to fend for himself. Bryant had gone for 38 points at the Garden, one tough shot after another, a great Celtics defense daring him to make baskets from one more odd angle, one more contested circumstance.
The loneliest Laker had to be Bryant, watching one breakdown after another, a procession of Celtics getting baskets and rebounds and loose balls when they most needed them. He needed someone to grab a defensive rebound, stop Paul Pierce(notes) and get between Rajon Rondo(notes) and the rim.
A little more than an hour after the 92-86 loss, the surliness was gone, replaced with pursed lips and a glare gone to Game 6 now. Bryant wore unlaced high-tops for an ankle that had been hurt again as he walked to a waiting bus on the loading dock.
“We’ve regressed since Game 1,” Bryant confessed to Yahoo! Sports. “Our defense belongs on milk cartons in the last two games.”