Lose to a team that is far superior than you. Lose on a last second shot. Lose with your pride on your sleeve and determination on your face. Don’t lose like this; not when the opposing team is shooting 35%. Not when the opponent’s best players are sitting on the bench. Not when you’ve got a chance to put a stranglehold on a difficult series. But the Lakers did just that and now the series sits even at two games apiece.
The first quarter was indicative of how most of this game would look — sloppy, choppy and just downright ugly basketball. The Celtics were missing layups and the Lakers couldn’t take advantage on their end. The Lakers shot 35% and the Celtics were no better shooting 36%. The score at the end of 12 min? 16-19.
The second period fared better for the Lakers. Reserves Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown came in and contributed eight points, while Lamar Odom appeared (emphasis on appeared) aggressive on the boards and drove to the basket to score.
Kobe Bryant scored eight straight points on back-to-back three-pointers (he’d do it again in the second half) and a mid-range jumper. He finished with 33 points on 10-22 (6-11 from downtown), seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. He played the entire second half and the fatigue, though he said after the game that he felt none, might have contributed to his seven turnovers.
A second quarter where they went 9-15 from the field saw the Lakers lead by as many as eight points. After Pau Gasol blocked Ray Allen’s attempt at a three-pointer, and no rotated quick enough to his defensive assignment, Kevin Garnett hit a buzzer-beating jumper (2 of his 13 points) to end the second quarter and the Celtic’s deficit was cut to three.
The Lakers began the third quarter with Lamar Odom in the line-up and Andrew Bynum in the locker room getting treatment for a knee that swelled up during halftime. He checked into the game for a few minutes but couldn’t deny the discomfort and pain. In effect, Odom was charged to take his place for the rest of the game and his absence was sorely missed by the Lakers.
Both teams played their defense well in their third quarter. Both found it difficult to score and by the end of the third 12 minutes of play, the Lakers and Celtics, collectively only scored 35 points.
The two-point Laker lead going into the 4th quarter would again increase to up to five points, but bit by bit, the Celtics chipped away at every Laker bucket by getting stops in the ensuing possessions. Kobe Bryant did what he does and hit difficult shots a-plenty to keep the home team at bay, but the energy and effort of Celtics reserves Glenn Davis and Nate Robinson pushed the home team over the hump. Though the lead would see-saw a few more times in the final period, it was obvious who wanted this game more and it wasn’t the players in the purple and gold uniforms.
We could use the excuse that without Andrew Bynum on the floor, the Lakers were a lot smaller and therefore unable to sustain the physicality and brute strength of someone like Big Baby Davis. It was not Bynum’s length, however, that the Lakers missed. It was his effort and his drive on the floor.
Lamar Odom, yet to redeem himself for the part he played (or didn’t play) in the 2008 series, has played one productive game (Game 3). Considered the emotional center of this Laker team, tonight Odom showed anything but.
“I thought Lamar was [going to] sit this one out,” Phil Jackson said in his post-game interview. What a shameful sentiment for a coach to say about one of his players, as if he should be allowed such a choice.
“We can’t just stand around and watch,” Lamar Odom said in a post-game interview, which is odd because that’s exactly what he did.
If Lamar Odom wanted to have 20 rebounds, he could have them (he was 11th in the league in the regular season with 14.9 rpg and tonight he had seven). If he wanted to score 15 points, he could have those too (tonight he had 10). If he was waiting for a moment to pick his team up, being the emotional core of this squad, he missed a chance because they really needed it tonight, and he chose to keep it to himself.
The Boston Celtics were the more desperate team tonight. There was no way they could go into Game 5 down 3-1. Somewhere in Lakerland, however, there was a hope that after such an inspiring win in Game 3, the desire and determination would be there to win Game 4 too. Yes, the Lakers were supposed to lose some time on this trip to Boston, but did they have to lose in this fashion — appearing more disinterested than aggressive, maintaining a lead throughout the game and then giving it away in the end through sheer lack of trying?
The Lakers were beaten in all of the hustle stats: second chance points (20-7), points in the paint (54-34) and rebounds (41-34). The Lakers were the second best rebounding team in the league in the regular season averaging 44.3 rpg and tonight, could not put in the work to fight for those boards.
Andrew Bynum was asked in a post-game interview, how he would go on with the series, having to sometimes limp and drag around his injured knee on the court. He replied, “That’s what I’m [going to] have to do. I’m prepared to do it.” Hopefully the Lakers (especially Odom) can bottle up some of their youngest player’s drive and use it on Sunday.
Norm Nixon said that only two constants in basketball are intensity and effort, and the rest will take care of itself. The Celtics clearly owned both constants and they won Game 4 because of it. On Sunday, the Lakers need to take it back from their opponents. Otherwise, it will be a long quiet journey back to Los Angeles.
Pre-Game Thoughts: By now, how many more adjustments can the teams make? It’ll be a fight for sure, with the Lakers fighting to get an even bigger 3-1 advantage in the series and the Celtics fighting to get their first at home.
Half-Time Thoughts: Choppy offense for both teams, as evident in the low-scoring half, 45-42, Lakers.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Where and with whom to begin? Kobe and Pau for tainting their great offensive game (54 points on 16-18!) with their 11 turnovers. Phil Jackson for not using someone like DJ Mbenga to bang around with Big Baby instead of the waif thin Pau or the lazy Lamar. Lamar Odom, for waiting until the 4th quarter to start being aggressive at the hoop and for failing to fill in with mere effort.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Glenn “Big Baby” Davis for helping his team win the game by giving everything that most of the Lakers (starters and bench) did not — drive, desire, and sheer effort.