"We're still optimistic that he's going to give it a shot and see how he does,'' said Lakers coach
Game 5 is typically the breakthrough event in a tight series. The Celtics must win Sunday to avoid traveling back to Los Angeles in need of victories in both Games 6 and 7. The Lakers may be able to survive a loss in Game 5 with hope of holding home court for the final two games, though Bynum's health will influence their confidence.
Through the first three games, Bynum had averaged an impressive 13.3 points to go with the far more important 7.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. He and fellow 7-footer
Bynum missed the last month of the regular season after suffering a meniscus tear that limited him in the Western Conference finals. The knee was drained before the Finals, liberating him to play a career postseason best 39 minutes in Game 2. But he felt a twinge while coming to a hard stop in the third quarter of Game 3 that prevented him from playing eight minutes in the fourth quarter. He managed to play only 12 minutes with no blocks in the Lakers' Game 4 loss Thursday.
The procedure worked before, so the Lakers are hoping for similar results as they approach a span that could bring three championship-deciding games over five days with a cross-country flight in between.
"It was either not play or do the draining,'' said Bynum. "Just too much swelling in there ... But I'm doing OK. The draining worked, and on Sunday I'm going to be ready to go.''
In Bynum's absence, the Celtics suffered no more than three blocked shots while attacking the basket for a 20-point advantage in the paint and a 20-10 lead in second-chance points. The Lakers' short bench grew even shorter, leaving Jackson to note that his starters looked fatigued by game's end.
The most important aspect of Game 5 -- one that will be impacted by Bynum's readiness -- is rebounding. Boston won that category 41-34 as a half-dozen Celtics grabbed at least five rebounds, a team effort that will be crucial against the Lakers.
Whether or not the Celtics are faced with Bynum in the paint, they must respond to the all-or-nothing nature of Game 5 by attacking the basket through Rondo, Pierce and