You know that is how
His Lakers face elimination after losing the last two games in Boston to trail the Celtics 3-2. One more loss and he will have lost a Finals to the Celtics for the second time in three years. But Bryant didn't become the league's hungriest star on that kind of negative thinking.
He is focused on winning the next two games, a comeback that will earn him a fifth championship and repay Boston for the 39-point beating in Game 6 of the Finals two years ago. "You just go into the next game," he said after the Lakers' 92-86 loss in Game 5 Sunday. "We let a couple opportunities slip away. 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."
There are reasons for worry.
That ineffectiveness convinced Bryant to attempt to take over Game 5 as he scored 23 straight Lakers points over 14 minutes of the second and third quarters. But the problem he needs to fix is at the defensive end, where the Celtics scored 35 points to pull away during his torrid streak on their way to shooting 56.3 percent overall. "They got all the hustle points in terms of loose balls and offensive rebounds down the stretch,'' said Bryant. "Defensively, we weren't very good at all. Last game it was the fourth quarter, this game it was the third quarter we didn't get any stops. They got layup after layup after layup. We're normally a great defensive team."
For their part, the Celtics will be seeking to build on their recent gains by
Above all, the Celtics will try to convince themselves that Game 6 is a must-win opportunity for them as well. "When they won Game 3," said coach
The Lakers responded to the '08 Finals loss by improving their toughness and grit. Now it's up to L.A. to treat Boston as the Lakers themselves were treated in Game 6 two years ago. Bryant does not plan on making any Rockne speeches.
"Just man up and play," he said. "What the hell is the big deal? If I have to say something to them, then we don't deserve to be champions. We're down 3� 2, go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that."