LOS ANGELES -- The obvious fix for the Lakers will be to restore
Thus their need for the 6-foot-10 Odom. He needs to create mismatches against the Celtics with his perimeter shooting as well as by driving to the basket. This season, he was a playmaker who averaged 3.5 assists per game, but during the Finals he has totaled three assists and two turnovers. He has been in foul trouble both nights while providing 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds, well short of his season averages of 14.2 and 10.6, respectively.
"Lamar got confused out there,'' Lakers coach
So aggressive and confident are the Celtics of being able to protect the paint that they've been able to swarm on Odom while holding
The Celtics left Boston pleased to have established their superiority inside. But both teams know the Lakers had chances to steal each of the opening games, and they'll try to turn the corner by realizing better production from mainstays like Odom,
The Lakers also will be expecting to earn more free-throw attempts after Jackson and others complained about the Celtics' 38-10 advantage in Game 2. This was an unexpected gain for Boston, which had been operating at a free-throw deficit in most games this postseason.
Can the Lakers convert their dramatic fourth quarter in Game 2 into something lasting and real? To do so, they must incorporate Odom in order to increase the production of their front line. They can't expect to win the NBA Finals solely from the perimeter.
Bryant sounded confident before boarding the Lakers' charter home for Game 3.
"We did a much better job in getting to the rim and moving the ball well and hitting my shooters and them knocking their shots down,'' he said. "We have to get those loose balls. We've got to get timely rebounds, and we have to stop them in transition [from] knocking down those threes.''
And then? "We'll be fine,'' he said. "A free throw or two wouldn't hurt.''