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Legler on D&C: Kobe ‘trusts his teammates less and less’

06.15.10 at 11:20 am ET
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ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler discussed the NBA finals Tuesday morning with the Dennis & Callahan show and among the topics of conversation was Kobe Bryant‘€™s lack of trust in his teammates late in games.

‘€œI think for Kobe Bryant, the problem right now is as the game goes on and the Celtics make a run in the second half, Kobe trusts his teammates less and less and less. And that’€™s a big problem for the Lakers,’€ Legler said. ‘€œYou can see the frustration in the body language and the gestures he made towards some of his teammates and he frustration he showed in a couple of those huddles late in that game. He doesn’€™t necessarily feel he’€™s got the guys to with the intestinal fortitude to withstand a team as tough mentally as the Boston Celtics.’€

As for the Celtics, Legler noted that, ‘€œThey trust each other completely. That to me is one of the biggest differences between these two teams.’€

Below are some of the highlights from that interview. To hear the entire interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

There could be two things to worry about headed into Game 5. One is the refs changing the tone, and a lot of Celtics get in foul trouble early. The other is this whole mentality of, ‘€œWe have two chances to win one game?’€ If you were Doc Rivers, would those bother you?

I don’€™t think that they’€™re necessarily thinking that way. I just believe they’€™re trying to say the right things rather than, ‘€œWe’€™re going to go back there. We’€™re going to close this out in six.’€ I think they’€™re just trying to be PC on this one, but I think their mentality is absolutely they’€™re going to go back there tonight and win the series. And I think they’€™re very confident they can do that based on how they played against them the last couple games. I think Doc Rivers and that team feel like they now defensively have got this team figured out to the point where they’€™re not that the Lakers could go off and get into over 100 points. I think that that’€™s what Doc Rivers’€™ mindset with this team is right now. He’€™s very comfortable with the series.

As far as the officiating, it makes sense from a Celtics’€™ standpoint to be worried about that because they let them play the last couple games. They’€™re pretty physical. They haven’€™t called as many touch fouls. They’€™ve let them bang a little bit more in the paint. That’€™s obviously going to benefit Boston because they’€™ve got more guys up front, they’€™ve got more depth up front. The Lakers have, with Andrew Bynum limited, basically Pau Gasol taking on the entire front line by himself because Lamar Odom is a perimeter player. So you’€™ve got Pau Gasol up against four guys up front for the Celtics. That’€™s definitely going to benefit Boston if they continue to let them play like that. We all know that these series take weird twists and turns with the officiating so I think we’€™ll all have to just sit back and see what’€™s going to happen. The first quarter, I think that’€™s going to setthe tone for the entire game.

Can the Lakers win with just plus-plus performances from Kobe Bryant and Gasol?

No, they can’€™t. They need more than that. I think the Lakers are going to play obviously with a sense of desperation. That’€™s kind of how Boston played the last two games, and I think now that desperation shifts to the Lakers. You’€™re going to see them come out with a little bit more energy, a little bit more adrenaline than anything else. If you’€™re Phil Jackson, you’€™re just, ‘€œSomebody, please give me something that I don’€™t expect tonight.’€ Whether it’€™s Shannon Brown who comes in and gives you 10 points or [Ron] Artest has a better game defensively, but somebody has to do more because Kobe Bryant is not going to beat this team by himself.

And Pau Gasol is not a guy, as great as he’€™s been in the postseason and as much as he’€™s involved as a player, he’€™s not a guy I look at if I’€™m a Lakers fan and say, ‘€œI completely trust that Pau Gasol is going to show up tonight and have a great game.’€ He just doesn’€™t come off that way, particularly in a physical game. If you’€™re Phil Jackson, you hope you can get it from somewhere because I don’€™t care what Kobe Bryant does tonight, it’€™s not going to be enough unless he gets some more balance across the board.

In the last few minutes of Game 5, we saw Paul Pierce and Bryant duking it out for a ball because both had to have it. Does the last two minutes provide a scintilla of an edge for am player?

Both of those guys know that that’€™s their time. I think for Kobe Bryant, the problem right now is as the game goes on and the Celtics make a run in the second half, Kobe trusts his teammates less and less and less. And that’€™s a big problem for the Lakers. You can see the frustration in the body language and the gestures he made towards some of his teammates and he frustration he showed in a couple of those huddles late in that game. He doesn’€™t necessarily feel he’€™s got the guys to with the intestinal fortitude to withstand a team as tough mentally as the Boston Celtics.

Paul Pierce, as he good as he individually one-on-one in those situations, if he’€™s double-teamed or he’€™s having a tough time creating a shot for himself, he has no issue whatsoever throwing the ball to Kevin Garnett or [Rajon] Rondo or Ray Allen or Rasheed Wallace or Nate Robinson, whoever’€™s out there. They trust each other completely. That to me is one of the biggest differences between these two teams.

If you were a player in this series, what would you rather have on your side? Phil Jackson’€™s 47-0 record in seven-game series after winning Game 1 or in the previous 25 times in the finals, the team that won Game 5 after being tied 2-2 has won 19 of those times? Which stat makes you feel  better?

Oh, the second one, without question, because now you’€™re deep into the series. And now that we’€™re at that moment, definitely you want two of that number. I think the Celtics feel that they’€™ve shifted the momentum of the series completely around now, and I don’€™t think they care that they have to go to LA. If for whatever reason they don’€™t win tonight, I’€™m still very confident that they can win a Game 7 on the road. I know the numbers in that situation are against the road team. I think it’€™s something between 80 and 85 percent of the time the home team wins Game 7 so that’€™s another number to put out there. But I think this could be the year the Boston Celtics prove to be the exception to that.

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