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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.

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What they’re saying about Celtics-Lakers at 2:19 pm ET
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Despite Kobe Bryant's heroic 38 point peformance Sunday night, the Celtics won Game 5, 92-86, and the media would not let Bryant hear the end of it. (AP)

Despite Kobe Bryant's heroic 38-point performance for the Lakers Sunday night, the Celtics won Game 5, 92-86, and the media would not let Bryant hear the end of it. (AP)

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 “really 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 “spectator to the Kobe Bryant show.” According to The Associated Press, Gasol wouldn’t “get 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 “the 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.
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Former Celtic Walker ordered to trial 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.

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Title wave will be a Green energy transfer 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.”

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Why Game 6 is still just another game at 2:12 am ET
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Kobe Bryant kept his emotions in check during the postgame press conference after Game 5. (AP)

Kobe Bryant kept his emotions in check during the postgame press conference after Game 5. (AP)

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.”

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Doc: I like our focus 06.13.10 at 7:57 pm ET
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Every coach likes his team to be focused on the task at hand.

Doc Rivers believes his team spent Sunday in just the right frame of mind, not worried about the fact that win or lose, this will be their final game on the ‘Red Auerbach Parquet’ floor.

“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.]

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Doc: We won’t change game plan for Kobe, Bynum at 7:42 pm ET
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Doc Rivers knows Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum can be game-changers for the Lakers, but that doesn’t mean he is going to change the Celtics game plan because of them.

Bynum, who had his right knee drained after Game 4, will play in Game 5. He played just 12 minutes on Thursday, and while there is the possibility that his minutes could be limited, Rivers is not going to bank on the big man being on the bench.

“We’re going to play the game,” he said. “Andrew is not going to change how we play. Again, usually the last six or seven minutes of the game Andrew is not on the floor. It’s usually Gasol and Odom for the most part. That’s what they’ve done all year and they’ve done it in the series. But he is a factor, his size is a factor, and offensively we do change things when he’s on the floor to try to get the size out of the paint. But other than that, there’s not two game plans.”

Bryant remains a constant concern for the Celtics on defense. Even though Bryant has credited the Celtics D for limiting him offensively, the C’s know he is capable of scoring at will on any night. But they can’t plan their whole strategy around that threat.

“You don’t worry about it. I mean, hell, he’s Kobe Bryant,” said Rivers. “We’ve talked about it before. We are going to have to win a game eventually in this series where he goes off for a big number. But that number, whatever it is, it’s still not the final number. Other people still have to score for them. So as far as we’re concerned, we’re just going to do our best.

“What we can’t do is overreact to it, and I think that’s where the great players get you, the LeBrons and the Wades and who we’ve already faced. They have that big game and everybody overreacts and wants to change the defense and wants to change things. No, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

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