|For Lakers: Looks can be deceiving||06.14.10 at 2:28 pm ET|
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.
|Title wave will be a Green energy transfer||06.14.10 at 12:06 pm ET|
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.”
|Doc: I like our focus||06.13.10 at 7:57 pm ET|
Every coach likes his team to be focused on the task at hand.
“Our guys haven’t talked about that a lot,” Rivers said. “I’ve heard it a lot. I think fans realize we don’t have Games 6 or 7 here so this is our final home game.
“Our guys really are just focused on THE game tonight and I like where our focus is, in this case, over the fans’ focus. I don’t know if players have the chance to look at big picture, or coaches in some ways, and that’s probably good.”
[Doc Rivers believes his team’s focus is where it needs to be.]
|Lakers never considered sending Bynum home||06.13.10 at 7:24 pm ET|
“No change since this morning,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson announced before the game. “You know, he’s ready to play the game and ready to go out there and perform.”
Jackson was also asked if the Lakers considered sending Bynum home to Los Angeles after Thursday’s Game 4 when the knee was drained so he could rest up for Games 6 and 7, if necessary. “Not even considered,” Jackson responded.
|Odom: ‘We have quickness and size’ to cover C’s||06.12.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
The Celtics do have Kevin Garnett but the they don’t use him like the Suns used Amar’e Stoudamire on the pick and roll.
And the Celtics don’t score between 110 and 120 points in every playoff game like the Suns.
In other words, Odom, despite Thursday’s loss in Game 4 at TD Garden, still likes his team’s chances for being able to cover everything the Celtics could throw at them.
“We have the quickness and the size to defend this team,” Odom said. “If we communicate, we’ll be alright. It wasn’t like they scored 125 points or anything like that.”
Time will tell if those words are enough to bring out more masks or spark more chants directed at his wife Khloe Kardashian.
Odom can’t control that but he, like Bynum before him, said the Lakers need to control Glen Davis and Nate Robinson better. The pair, before their Shrek and Donkey routine after Game 4, combined to score 30 points off the bench.
“Even with Glen Davis getting going and a couple of their other guys getting going, it wasn’t a barn-burner for them offensively,” Odom said.
|Lakers notes 6/12: Bynum ready after another drain||06.12.10 at 2:55 pm ET|
Lakers starting center Andrew Bynum had his troublesome right knee drained again immediately after Game 4 Thursday night before he met with reporters. He said he feels much better and will play in Game 5 Sunday night at TD Garden with the NBA finals tied, 2-2.
“I went through the process and thought about it and did it again,” Bynum said following Lakers practice on Saturday at TD Garden. “It really helped out this time.”
|TA: We need that focus for rest of series||06.11.10 at 11:34 am ET|
From the moment Tony Allen showed up at the Garden on Thursday he could sense the urgency. From captain Paul Pierce to Kevin Garnett to everyone on what turned out to be a great bench, the task was at hand was very, very clear.
Win or else.
Now, with the 96-89 win over the Lakers in Game 4 in the bank and the NBA finals tied, 2-2, Allen wants to see that urgency for the remainder of the series. And if he does, he thinks the Celtics could very well be hoisting he Larry O’Brien trophy when it’s awarded next week at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Earlier at shootaround it felt like a must-win game,” Allen said. “I was looking at everybody’s focus, guys were in there early, getting shots up, in getting treatment. Guys were pretty much focused. I like that side of those guys. We’re going to definitely need them to be focused for the rest of the series.”
Of course, leading the way in providing focus is captain Paul Pierce. He was the last remaining member of the ‘Big Three’ not to have a big game in the series so far. People were wondering if the Celtics stood a chance if he didn’t get his motor started in Game 4.
Pierce scored a team-high 19 points but it was the leadership he showed early in the game that impressed Allen. And Allen sensed Pierce was going to have something special in store well before tip-off.
“I think he had that vision in his mind,” Allen said. “He just came out and said, ‘I’m going to be Paul Pierce today no matter what the defense tries to do.’ He got the name ‘The Truth’ for being the truth. He definitely was big.
“He’s ‘The Truth.’ We’re definitely going to need him for the rest of the series. We’re going to need him to be The Truth for these three games. I’m glad he got it going and it showed why we won.”
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