Although the Lakers lost Game Three, they have many reasons to feel optimistic. Kobe had one of his worst second halves in recent memory and yet the Lakers were still in it.
The luster of L.A.’s first two victories has been dulled now, but they are still up 2-1 heading into Game Four and in good position to take commanding control of the series if these things happen:
Kobe must play like Kobe
This isn't breaking news, Kobe Bryant has to play well for the Lakers to win. He doesn’t have to score 40 points or anything nuts, but he surely can’t shoot 5-10 on his free throws, give up balls during crucial plays, and jack up hurried shots late in the game.
At times I think Kobe is a victim of his own greatness. I can only imagine the internal turmoil that must go through Kobe’s mind after having such a prodigious first half, he must feel like he could do anything. Well, that’s not always so, and like all players, he needs to trust his offense and let the game come to him.
Lamar Odom must show up
Odom who was praised for his inspired play several games ago, has once again gone missing. While Dwight Howard is Superman, it is Odom who often runs into a phone booth during the playoffs to turn back into pedestrian Clark Kent.
Some people might label Odom an X-factor. I’m going much further than that. I’m going to go as far as to say Odom is a key to the Lakers winning. Odom has the unique length, speed, and agility to help defend against Orlando’s tall lineup.
And despite Orlando’s reputation for shooting, they have players who just love to penetrate at a moment’s notice. Odom’s shot blocking or shot contesting is an important supplement to Gasol’s slow-footed defense and Andrew Bynum’s uninspired play.
Starters must rebound better
As a team, they Lakers did a decent job on the boards in Game Three, but their main players did not. Gasol, Bynum, and Odom only managed nine rebounds combined. The way this series is going, L.A. needs these guys on the court, and if they are going to be out there, they need to clean the glass effectively.
Pau Gasol must be involved in the offense
Gasol is too good to be merely a bystander to the Kobe Bryant Show. Gasol is a great post player and passer. His presence in the paint and even in the midrange area demands attention.
As long as Kobe takes too much ball time and does too much (no matter how dramatically he can score) it takes away from the team’s ability to utilize Gasol’s playmaking ability in the post which in turn creates more high percentage scoring opportunities for the rest of the team including Bryant.
Also, having Gasol bang around the post a bit can help draw out Howard’s defense which can only be a good thing if they can manage to draw him into a couple defensive fouls. This is Orlando’s biggest fear, because Howard represents the Magic’s first, last, and only frontcourt presence.