"We fought pretty hard to get back in the game," he said an hour after the Lakers' Game 2 loss Sunday in Los Angeles. "And then we let the game slip away."
"I asked you about the homecourt issue," a reporter reminded him.
"Well,'' said Bryant quietly, "we've just got to go into Boston and win."
Six months of work vested in earning homecourt advantage had been ceded in the last 48 minutes, of which Bryant had played 34. Was he thinking about the foul troubles that limited him to 21 points? Was he wounded that his rival shooting guard
"The key factor is turnovers," said Bryant distractedly. "We'll continue to pound the ball inside, but we can't give them easy baskets in transition."
"That's it?" another reporter asked.
"That's it," said Bryant.
But that can't be all of it as Bryant looks ahead to Game 3 here Tuesday. The Lakers have developed their strength around the basket by playing through 7-footers
But the Lakers lost ground in all other areas. The Celtics managed to outrebound them (thanks to
Now the Lakers' simplest goal is to win at least one of the next three games in Boston to force a Game 6 (and potentially a Game 7) in Los Angeles. As hard as it is to imagine the Celtics sweeping the next three games, the Lakers won't win a road game without responding to one or more of these crucial issues:
Will they realize better production from
Most important of all, will Bryant return to his Game 1 form of 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 39 minutes? Or was his Game 2 decline the beginning of a trend the Celtics will exploit to box in Bryant, and ultimately his team?
All of these questions seemed to be swirling about him late Sunday night in Los Angeles.
"You've just got to be careful," said Bryant of the five fouls he gathered over the course of Game 2. "I don't expect to be picking up five fouls the next game. You're trying to stay even keel. You don't get too high, don't get too low after a win or a loss. You just go into the next one and take care of business."
Even as he spoke about this lost game, his thoughts appeared to be drifting ahead to the next one. No more reaching fouls. Quicker side-to-side ball movement. The necessary discipline was beginning to show in his reaction now. He was not going to appear defeated after one loss.
"It's the most important game," he said of the next one. "Game 1 was the most important. Game 2 was the most important. Now it's Game 3. It's just the next game, simple as that."
Can Bryant play the next game as simply and productively as he and his Lakers played Game 1? That was the unanswerable question as he looked ahead to Tuesday night.