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For Lakers: Looks can be deceiving

06.14.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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It was a fascinating study in the way a team handles pressure and accepts defeat on Sunday night at TD Garden.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics protecting their five-point lead in the final minute, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce went for a missed shot in the lane. Bryant appeared to have the angle on the ball before Pierce came in like a hawk and grabbed right away.

Bryant then threw up both arms in frustration and then Pierce was fouled with the ball and the Lakers superstar began shaking his head in disgust and disbelief.

The sense of a chance getting away from the Lakers was written all over the ultra-competitive star’s face.

“They just got to every ball,” Bryant said. “Again, they played with more tenacity than we did in that stretch, and we have to do a much better job Game 6. we’re knocking at the door there a couple times and just couldn’t get through.

“Again tonight they got all the hustle points in terms of loose balls and offensive rebounds down the stretch. We didn’t convert.”

Then there’s Lamar Odom, the calm, cool, collected and still cocky Laker forward. After his team failed to take advantage of a legendary third-quarter performance by Kobe Bryant on Sunday night, Odom was asked why he seemed so confident heading back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday.

“We love playing in the Staples,” Odom said of L.A.’s home court. “We know we can win on the road but it’s our turn to go back home.”

But with the Celtics just needing to repeat once what they did in Game 2 on the same court, don’t the Celtics have the advantage since L.A. needs two wins?

“That’s tough to say,” Odom said. “That’s a great question. That’s tough to say but I think the home team always has the advantage and the energy switches a little bit, helps you, laying in your own bed.

“We’ll respond. Our energy is still up as a team. Our confidence is still there. The series is not over.” Odom said.

Bryant summed up what’s in front of these Lakers if they want to avoid the same feeling they had two years ago against the Celtics.

“We have a challenge obviously down 3-2,” Bryant said. “We let a couple opportunities slip away. But it is what it is. Now you go home, you’ve got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.”

Then Kobe was asked if he were still confident the Lakers can beat their arch-rival twice in three nights.

“I’m not very confident at all,” Bryant said with a sincere laugh.

Sarcasm might be the only trait Bryant, Odom and the Lakers share right now when it comes to playing the Celtics.

Read More: Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom

What they’re saying about Celtics-Lakers

06.14.10 at 2:19 pm ET
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Fueled by a raucous TD Garden crowd, a bench that wouldn’€™t quit and an apparent lack of serious competition, the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Lakers Sunday night with their 92-86 win. The storylines have stayed the same throughout the series. The C’€™s have stepped up and played as a team with a new leader emerging every game, while the Lakers have been inconsistent and led by one strong player, usually Kobe Bryant. Game 5 was just more of the same, and the national headlines the day after have told the same tale.

Los Angeles:

  • Most of the criticism against Kobe and the Lakers originates from LA:
    —  T.J. Simers of the LA Times writes the harshest criticism by refusing to call him by name, opting for Our Ball Hog instead.
    — Mark Medina from the Times’€™ Lakers Blog places the blame on the rest of the Lakers for not supporting their leader.
    — The LA Daily News’€™ Vincent Bonsignore discusses how calm and quiet Kobe was during the postgame press conference. Alongside that, Bonsignore says that the captain ‘€œreally isn’t interested in prodding his teammates along with some fiery speech over the next few days.’€
  • Bill Plaschke believes that this 2010 series is starting to resemble the 2008 series and it seems as though the Lakers are throwing in the towel.
  • The Lakers’€™ big men ‘€“ Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum ‘€“ have been largely ineffective and just taking up space on the court, writes Mike Bresnahan.
  • Meanwhile, the Daily News’€™ Elliot Teaford reports that Lamar Odom hasn’€™t been acting like his normal, bubbly self in and around the Lakers’€™ clubhouse this series because of his poor play.

National:

  • Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today chalks up the C’€™s Game 5 victory to their big four starters: Pierce, Rondo, Allen and Garnett.
  • Also from USA Today, Michael Falgoust noticed that Bryant’€™s shooting percentage for the series is down to 42.5 percent, his lowest since the first round against Oklahoma City when he had swollen knee problems.
  • Pau Gasol has been nothing more than a ‘€œspectator to the Kobe Bryant show.‘€ According to The Associated Press, Gasol wouldn’€™t ‘€œget himself involved or the Lakers wouldn’t involve him’€ in Game 5.
  • Kevin Garnett is noncommittal about his immediate future, but he is definitely glad he decided to leave Minnesota and come to Boston, writes Bill Lee of the Providence Journal.
  • ESPN’€™s Daily Dime covers topics such as ‘€œthe better team won Game 5,’€ Kobe Bryant needing some serious help on the court and Boston’€™s bench keeping the energy up every game.
  • And finally, the ratings for Game 5 are slowly trickling in and it appears that it was the most watched game of the series so far and the most watched event of the night again. The 2010 finals have been the highest watched finals since the 2004 matchup between the Lakers and the Pistons.
Read More: Celtics, finals, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant

Former Celtic Walker ordered to trial

06.14.10 at 1:39 pm ET
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Former Celtics forward Antoine Walker appeared in a Las Vegas court Monday and was ordered to face trial on felony bad check charges that he failed to repay almost $1 million in gambling debts to three Vegas casinos. The judge noted that Walker had yet to make any progress repaying some $770,000 he agreed to pay in restitution, court fees and penalties.

Walker filed for bankruptcy last month in Florida, and the Las Vegas prosecutor indicated that he is working with Walker’s lawyer on a deal that would avoid forcing Walker to serve jail time.

To read more, click here.

Read More: Antoine Walker, Celtics,

Title wave will be a Green energy transfer

06.14.10 at 12:06 pm ET
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Now comes the hard part.

The Celtics, after dropping Game 3 on their home court, have crept to within one win of their 18th title by taking advantage of the incredible energy inside TD Garden. But if they are to raise yet another banner to the rafters in the fall, they’re going to have to get it done in the hostile environment of Staples Center.

Kendrick Perkins said the key to transferring the momentum and energy of the TD Garden crowd to Los Angeles will be mental toughness.

“It’s all mental,” Perkins said. “I think we have to go out there and take their crowd out of it early. We can’t let them get energy going in the building. I think it’s got to be all mental. There are going to be times where they make runs and their crowd may get involved in the game and it may get loud in there. But we have to make sure we have to keep our composure and just keep going, keep attacking.”

While their 24-17 regular season home record was tied with Miami and Chicago as worst among the 16 playoff teams, the playoffs have been a different story.

The Celtics won six of their first seven at the Garden in the opening three rounds, and went 7-2 at home to advance to the NBA finals. They dropped Game 3, 91-84 to the Lakers but came back to win Games 4 and 5 to finish 9-3 at home in the playoffs.

While it was not the 13-1 mark they had on the parquet in their 2008 title run, the energy in TD Garden the last two games clearly helped the Celtics. And they were quick to point that out after the game.

“The energy in the building really feeds our defensive intensity,” Tony Allen said. “We all feel it.”

Now, the Celtics need to find a way to replace that energy with focus.

“Mental toughness,” Allen added. “Guys staying together and knowing what our goal is and everybody knowing what their role is when we get down there. And I think that’ll get the win.”

Ray Allen remembered 2008 after Game 5 Sunday night. Those finals ended with a celebration on the parquet. But if the Celtics can win once more, this celebration will be just as sweet.

“That’s the beautiful thing about this whole situation,” Allen said. “The circumstances that have been before us all playoffs long. We never had home court advantage except for the first round. We had to win on the other team’s floor. We talked about what team we’re going to play in the first round. I remember sitting in the locker room and we’re watching Miami and Milwaukee play and we’re talking about where we want to go.

“It seemed like so long ago. At the same time, we had to beat Miami on their home floor, we had to beat everybody on their floor in order for us to advance. We’ve been in this position before. I think the guys mentally are ready for it. We’ll get prepared and get ready to get it done.”

Read More: Celtics, going mental, Kendrick Perkins, Lakers

The captain comes through

06.14.10 at 2:53 am ET
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On a night when Kobe Bryant scored 38 points, Paul Pierce had his own breakout performance with 27, including 11 in the third quarter, which helped offset Bryant’s 19. That was only a part of Pierce’s night.

“Paul was terrific,” Doc Rivers said. “He attacked all night. He did it through the offense, he did it through [isolation plays], he did it in pick and rolls, he made big shots for us.”

Pierce’s biggest play didn’t come on a shot, however. It was on a pass to Rajon Rondo for a layup off a long inbound play from Kevin Garnett.

“I was just showing off my Randy Moss and Tom Brady in one play, that’s all,” Pierce said. “Going up to catch it, then I went to my Brady mode when I was falling out of bounds to find Rondo on the receiving end.”

Pierce could afford to joke after the fact, but he admitted he was a little nervous when Rondo went in for the layup. The two had an eventful night. At the end of the first half, Pierce essentially walked away from a play after Rondo didn’t get him the ball.

“Oh, it was nothing,” Pierce said. The two talked it over at halftime and went about their business in the third quarter, which for Pierce meant providing an answer for Bryant’s scoring.

“I wasn’t in a personal duel with [Bryant],” Pierce said. “I really didn’t even take notice that we were going, I guess, back and forth at the time. He makes tough shots and he’s a proven winner. I’m not in a one-on-one deal with Kobe at all.”

Things just seem to happen to Pierce during the finals. He was overheard saying late in Game 2 that the Celtics weren’t going back to Los Angeles, but here they are, and Pierce will have an opportunity to win a title in his hometown.

“It hasn’t crossed [my mind],” Pierce said. “That would be great. I’m not going to jinx it right now. We’ve got to win one game, that’s the goal. But it would be amazing if we get it done.”

Read More: Paul Pierce,

Why Game 6 is still just another game

06.14.10 at 2:12 am ET
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One team is a game away from a championship, the other could be 48 minutes away from the end of its season.

The Celtics and Lakers know what’s at stake in Game 6 of the NBA finals, but neither team is getting distracted by the consequences of it.

Following the Celtics’ Game 5 victory, Kobe Bryant had a steady focus looking ahead to Tuesday’s matchup.

“We have a challenge, obviously, down 3-2,” he said. “We let a couple of opportunities slip away. But it is what it is. Now you go home, you’ve got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.”

The Celtics also are staying even-keeled. They won’t let themselves look too far ahead and look past the keys to getting a clinching win.

“You have the tendency to look ahead,” Ray Allen said. “But for us it’s like you have to mentally block it out. All day tomorrow, you have to think about what you need to do, how you need to rest, the small things you need to do to start the game off. … To achieve that we want, it’s going to take everybody to do the things they do. We can’t leave any stone unturned, we can’t take any shortcuts.”

Read More: Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Ray Allen

Artest on Rondo push: ‘Did what he had to do’

06.14.10 at 1:59 am ET
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Rajon Rondo received a technical foul at the 4:42 mark of the second quarter of Game 5 for pushing Ron Artest following a hard foul from the Lakers forward to Kevin Garnett. Artest, though, had no problem with Rondo when asked about the altercation in a postgame interview.

“That’s his teammate, his teammate hit the floor,” Artest said. “And he didn’t like it. He did what he had to do. Part of the game, I don’t care. He pushed me, I’m not going to push him back. I gave a hard foul, he pushed me, the ref called a tech. Next possession, you know? Move on.”

Rondo was asked the incident in his postgame press conference.

“Pretty self-explanatory,” Rondo said. “I felt that Artest pushed Kevin. It wasn’t just a regular foul, and we weren’t going anywhere, so in Kevin’s defense I pushed him back.”

Artest nearly fell down following the shove, which ABC color analyst Jeff Van Gundy found hard to believe, given the size difference between the two players.

“Oh, he didn’t even shove him,” Van Gundy said while watching the replay. “Oh, come on. He didn’t push him, he put his hand on him. This is another sell job. This guy [Rondo] weighs 112 pounds, and Artest weighs 280 pounds.”

Rondo was asked if he felt that Artest had “flopped” on the push.

“I’m not that strong,” Rondo said. “He sold it a little bit. He’s probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I’ve been lifting a little bit, but other than that I didn’t push him that hard.”

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