Two years ago, when the Los Angeles Lakers met the Boston Celtics in the NBA finals, Kobe Bryant stated in a post game interview that he felt that he and his teammates had wet the bed after blowing the largest first quarter lead in finals history and eventually losing Game Four of the series. The Celtics went on to win the series four games to two.
One has to wonder if Kobe has the same uneasy feeling he had two years ago.
No, the Lakers did not blow a huge lead in Game Five of the 2010 NBA finals tonight.
The Lakers did however blow a great opportunity to break the spirit of the Celtics. The Lakers had a 2-1 game lead going into Game Four.
Instead of winning one of the next two games to take a commanding 3-2 game lead in the series with the final two games being played in Los Angeles, the Lakers now find themselves a game down in the series.
The series is not over no matter what you might read from the Boston newspapers. The Lakers are definitely capable of winning the next two games in the Staples Center.
However, Los Angeles is going to have to step up their performance if they hope to repeat as NBA Champions.
All eyes will be on the Lakers' Captain, Kobe Bryant to lead his team to victory. However, laying blame at Kobe’s feet should they lose would be a mistake.
Bryant played about as well as he could tonight in scoring 38 points. Three-point shot beyond the arc, no problem. Off balance runner while switching hands, sure. Catch the ball with one hand behind the rim and make an acrobatic play, why not.
Kobe put on a show. Doubt it? Ask DeWayne Wade, who was sitting courtside and who was caught shaking his head in disbelief at what Bryant was doing on the floor.
But other than Bryand, the Lakers looked out of sync on the offensive end. Too often they were standing and not moving without the ball resulting in the team having to force ill conceived shots as the 24 second clock expired.
In the end, the Lakers not named Bryant shot only 35 percent from the field.
The real problem for the Lakers was not on the offensive end, but their effort on the defensive end.
The Celtics scored 46 points in the paint against Los Angeles.
One would assume that all of Boston points in the paint came from offensive rebounds and Boston pounding the glass. But, Boston only had seven offensive rebounds.
Boston got their points in the paint by being patient, cutting to the basket and using their speed.
Paul Pierce had been non-existent in the Finals until tonight. Pierce decided to be patient and maximize his pick and roll opportunities which resulted in him scoring many of his points around the rim.
Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics were patient in running their offense as well, and found themselves with decent shots around the basket. Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson took full advantage on their way to 12 assists between them.
The pass of the night in the half-court set for the Celtics occurred when Robinson turned down an open jumper to find a wide open Ray Allen under the basket in the fourth quarter.
The speed of the Celtics also resulted in several lay-ups in which the primary beneficiary was Rajon Rondo.
On a play in the fourth quarter in which Kevin Garnett’s help defense caused Bryant to lose control of the ball, Allen threw the ball into the Celtics front court as he fell out of bounds.The only player that had a chance on the ball was Rondo and he did not fail to take advantage of the opportunity as he went in for a lay-up.
The signature play of the night was a lay-up that Rondo made with 35 seconds left in the game, ensuring victory for the Celtics.
The Celtics led the game by the score of 89-82. Kevin Garnett had trouble in-bounding the ball and just before being called for a violation, Garnett tossed the ball down the sideline to Pierce.
Garnett’s pass was too close to the sideline and th e only play that Pierce had was to immediately pass the ball before he fell out of bounds. Pierce saw Rondo streaking for the basket and Rondo promptly scored before Ron Artest could put him on the line.
The Lakers need to regroup because the series is not over. Los Angeles can still beat Boston and repeat as NBA Champions.
If the Lakers are going to avoid their second “accident” in three years, Los Angeles is going to have to find more scoring from players other than Kobe.
Artest is going to have to return to his old defensive form and keep Pierce from being a scoring threat for the Celtics.
Bynum is going to have to heal quickly from his knee injury as they miss his length in the paint and his ability to redirect passes and shots.
Odom has not had a huge game in the series and it is time for him to make a statement.
Kobe can't beat the Celtics by himself and he must avoid the temptation to do it all.
The Lakers have their back up against the wall; they must win the next two games otherwise they will experience that same queasy feeling they felt two years ago.