The Lakers are like a spread-the-field passing team. Once they build a lead, they don't know how to run out the clock.
In this case, the lead was an NFL-ish 24 points in the first half, and a concrete 20 with 19 minutes to go. The visiting Celtics lacked
Boston 97, Los Angeles 91: The one stat the Lakers still can't get their heads around.
Even with their 3-1 lead, the Celtics can't be called a sure thing because more than half of their starting lineup is hurt, and who knows how close Pierce -- the presumptive Finals MVP -- is to further damaging his knee. Every evening, thus far, has come down to the final minutes; and as much as the Lakers may console themselves with the finite margins, they must acknowledge enormous deficits in terms of defense, toughness and capable playmakers under pressure. Apart from Bryant and coach
It's one thing for Odom to be exploding for 13 points and five boards in his perfect (6-for-6) first quarter. But where was he in the fourth (1-for-3 with one rebound)?
The biggest difference between these teams is that one is driven by pessimists, and it isn't the Lakers. The Lakers (Bryant excluded) are so young that they let
When you're Allen, Pierce and Garnett and you've earned your pessimism by playing 35 long regular seasons before ever getting this far, you're not giving up the night just because the Lakers have you beat 45-21 in the second quarter. The fear of wasting this chance turns into strength of will, which leads Pierce at halftime to approach coach
"Paul came to me and said, 'I want to guard Kobe,''' said Rivers. '"Let me guard him. I'm foul-less. I can commit some fouls, be physical with him.'''
And so it is written. A difficult night for Bryant became more difficult. Through three quarters (2-of-11 for seven points), his fellow starters were all outscoring him, and he finished with 17 points on 19 attempts to go with a highly impressive 10 assists, as he tried to develop his teammates' confidence to carry them through the fourth. "They were determined to not let me beat them tonight,'' said Bryant. "I saw three, four bodies every time I touched the ball.''
This is why nobody who wants to see the Lakers win should complain about Bryant yelling at his teammates. He needs to capture their attention. Desperately. They cannot be looking forward to a better day tomorrow. Or, in their case, next season.
The Celtics went small, spreading the floor with House and
Having outscored their hosts 21-3 to end the third quarter, and having absorbed a 10-point, three-assist fourth quarter from Bryant to run neck-and-neck with the Lakers into the final minutes, Allen made three sensational drives to puncture Bryant's hopes. Bryant is the only Laker who desperately needs to win this Finals to satisfy career goals that are as yet beyond his teammates' understanding, and imagine how he felt watching Allen lose his balance before hopping back up like
That one brought the Celtics within a point of the Lakers (81-80) at 5:25 and counting. Two minutes later, Odom and the so-so Gasol (a line of 17 points and 10 rebounds that had Lakers fans pleading with him for more) had botched successive possessions out of the post when Allen made a double-play of instinct: a heady offensive rebound followed by a dramatic baseline reverse drive jammed in with spin off the glass.
The Lakers were still within 94-91 as Allen dribbled out the final half-minute above the keytop against
But the Lakers couldn't even get a hand on him. He drove to his right around Vujacic, who yelled hopelessly over his shoulder to Gasol. But Jackson had told his players to stay home after the Posey three, and Allen skipped through for a layup that never should be so easy on the decisive play in a swing game of the NBA Finals.
"I thought that he was going to keep him in front of him,'' said Gasol. "I saw the shot clock going down and went to make sure I put a body on Garnett for the rebound, but I probably should have helped him, react to the penetration. I just wasn't expecting it.''
That's all right, you'll get them in Game 5 Sunday. Maybe. OK, probably not.