As I write this with 8.9 seconds to go in Game 5, praying for a miracle but knowing the Lakers lost, I know I share the frustrations of the rest of the Lakers Nation. I am sure lots of hearts were broken Sunday night, where instead of looking for the closeout on Tuesday and planning on how to get a good view by Figueroa this weekend, the Lakers are facing elimination against the Boston Celtics. Again.
Let’s throw out the obvious points…
Apart from Kobe Bryant, the rest of the team was just atrocious, especially in the second half. The Lakers dug themselves a hole by shooting 39.7% in the field, compared to the Celtics’ 56.3%.
Seriously, you can’t rely on Kobe shooting 48% night in and night out against the Celtics’ chest-to-chest defense while the rest of the team chucks up 35% (Fisher and Artest, in particular, each going 2-9 at a time like this is just inexcusable); almost as ugly as Tony Allen‘s jumpshot.
The battle for points in the paint — Lakers 32 and Celtics 46.
Why? Because Pau got checked, Lamar took just six attempts, Andrew had his knee problems to deal with, and in the second half, the Laker bigs get out-hustled and out-rebounded. On paper, the Lakers got more offensive boards, but it was more from their effort in the first half.
Oh, and if you do the math, the nine free throws the Lakers missed could have come in handy in a game where they lose by six.
But the biggest discrepancy, the Lakers have a measly 3 fast break points against the Celtics’ 14. There were stretches where Rondo was absolutely threading the needle, and the Lakers’ interior defense slowly threw in the towel with all the frustration that they were accumulating.
It’s the strangest thing, to see a game in which the final score doesn’t really show how badly the Lakers were outplayed. One of the analysts noted, the Celtics’ defense (back in Game 4) is a defense that “pushes people out into the perimeter.” You could then imagine how frustrating it can be to be pushed out, with the time running down, and if you’re the Lakers, you have to take long two’s or three’s just to beat the clock.
In Game 5, you could see one play where Tony Allen goes body-to-body with Kobe, forcing him to drive left. If it weren’t for Mamba being as good as he is, the running shot he took would have been a forced, low percentage attempt for someone else.
For a team with such a high collective basketball IQ and a proven offense, it is really bizarre to see them play so stagnantly, with slow rotations and predictable people movement. Why is Lamar at times with Kobe at the top of the key? Why is Ron just waiting for a catch and shoot?
Which reminds me… Ron, where’s the promise you made back in ‘08 to Kobe? “This ain’t gonna happen no more.” Is this really what you meant? I mean, we love you and all, but you’ve really not made any significant impact in this series for a player of your stature. What’s up with that?!
Offensively, sure, it’s not as big a problem as making stops. Except the Lakers aren’t making stops. But I personally don’t understand why they would overload on the strong side while trying to post Pau up, instead of the guy in the corner (usually D-Fish) just clearing out to the other side. It lets the Celtics crowd the post man while covering the shooters.
In effect, Pau has to react to two people setting screens for each other (usually Kobe and Derek) while he has Garnett or Perkins on him. It’s a lot of traffic for such a small space, and with a tight defense like the Celtic’s, it would be hard for Pau to get a rhythm going when he’s expecting to kick it out. The problem is, there’s usually no double, so when he kicks it out it’s a turnover waiting to happen.
But, I digress.
As Bryant eluded to, it was a matter of getting defensive stops, which they were unable to do so. “They got layup after layup after layup… We can’t survive when that team shoots 56%…”
So, yes. They have a challenge here. NBA history shows 19 of the 25 teams that won Game 5 have gone on to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The good news for the Lakers? Since 1985, of the six teams that have led 3-2 and played on the road for Games 6 and 7, whenever they lose Game 6, they lose Game 7 as well.
This has happened twice.
I guess the one thing that could spell the difference from 2008, is the fact that our boys have home court advantage. Ideally, the Celtics only did their job by protecting their home floor. The Lakers now have to do the same.
In some respect, I still want to believe that should the Lakers’ role players falter in the next game, Kobe can put a Herculean effort so incredible that they still win.
But the fact is, they’re too good for Kobe to have to do that. It was once said that “adversity introduces a man to himself.” I am sure we’ll know what team we have by the way they play on tonight. And it could be a glimpse of a Dynasty, or a team in need of re-tooling this off-season.
As for the Lakers Nation, we should find hope in the fact that this was where we wanted our beloved team to be. We’re still alive.
There aren’t any fat ladies singing yet.