From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Usually five games into an NBA finals, we have a pretty good idea who is going to get the finals MVP award. This finals? Good luck. You’d have an easier time naming all 11 starters on the Slovenian national soccer team. Really, the only consistently good player on both sides has been Kobe Bryant. The guy who tried to carry the Lakers to victory in Game 5 by himself during the third quarter. Win or lose, Kobe has been there, scoring 29 points or more in four of the five games. It has not always been efficient scoring, but he has been the one player who has attacked in each and every game.
From John Krolik, Pro Basketball Talk: Question: The classic Lakers chicken-or-egg question: Did Kobe Bryant take 15 more field goal attempts on Sunday because the Lakers had no other offensive activity, or did the Lakers have no other offensive activity because Kobe took 15 more field goals than anybody else? PBT’s answer: On Sunday, the Lakers’ lack of offense was definitely what forced Kobe into takeover mode. In the first half, when Kobe took 12 FGAs and accumulated all four of his assists, the Lakers managed to score 39 points. In the second half, when Kobe took 15 shots and made all seven of his free throws, the Lakers scored 47 points.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: This team’s back is against the wall. Los Angeles doesn’t have another loss to spare, if it wants to win a championship, and they have quite the task set out before them. Two wins in two games against a team that has won three of five against them over the last two weeks, a team that beat them in the 2008 NBA Finals, and a squad that more or less played them to a hilt during the regular season. If any team could pull off a Finals win, down 3-2, it’s these Lakers. But paper don’t play, and the defending champs still have to execute and follow through if it wants to win its latest ring.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: The team has set the stage with hard work, execution, trust, and talent. And though the Celtics are just one win away from the team’s second championship in three years, it still has quite the task ahead of it. Close it out in Los Angeles, against a fantastic team like the Lakers, with L.A. playing the cornered animal routine on its home court. That can’t be easy. And though the odds would seem to be in Boston’s favor, if you listen to Las Vegas, this is still Los Angeles’ series to lose. So here are five ways Boston can make this Los Angeles’ series to lose.
From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: Kobe Bryant’s third quarter in game five was truly amazing to watch. With that being said, I have to agree with Matt Moore who wrote at ProBasketballTalk that this run ruined any chance the Lakers had of winning. They Lakers played their best basketball and were most competitive when they were passing the ball around and having contributions from all players. However, where Moore blames Phil Jackson for this run (for essentially allowing Kobe to go off), I want to give the Celtics defense credit.
From Saurav A. Das, Silver Screen and Roll: “Listen, if you told me at the beginning of the year that we’ve got two games at home to win a championship, yeah, I’ll take that.” Those aren’t my words. Those are the words of one Kobe Bean Bryant, four-time champion, surefire Hall-of-Famer, 12-time All-Star, one of the greatest players to ever set foot on the hardwood and damn sure one of the most competitive. Is Kobe being passive in saying this? Hell no. In fact, he’s raising a good point. Ignore being on the brink of elimination for a second, and just think about this: we are two home games away from winning a championship. Ignore that if we lose even one game, we lose it all. If that happens, it happens, but thinking of it before that fact is just psychological strain.
From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: As it turned out, the Lakers averaged 37 points in the lane in L.A. thanks largely to a powerful 48-point performance in Game 1’s 102-89 win, while Boston came in at 33 paint points on the other end. L.A.’s average might have been considerably higher had Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum not combined to take 25 free throws in Game 2, making 20, while Boston’s bigs attempted only nine foul shots. But in Beantown, it was an entirely different story, the Celtics averaging 50 points in the paint through three games, and L.A. only 34.7.
From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: he wall their backs are up against would make anyone stand up and take notice, yet chills running up and down their spines are not what the Lakers are feeling. They see the light, the one that someone leaves on for you when you’re coming home. It feels good. “We’re in a good situation,” Pau Gasol said. “As tough as it is losing these last two games, we’re going to fight for a championship at home. We’re in a position that I think we would all be happy to be in at the beginning of the season.” It’s a curious position, for sure.
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: Uh-oh. It’s a Game 6 between the Lakers and Boston Celtics. Lakers fans hate to go there based on recent history, but it’s hard to avoid, seeing as how the teams have basically reverted to two years ago, when the Celtics’ physically charged 131-92 victory ended the NBA Finals and was either the best or worst game of 2008, depending on perspective. The Lakers returned home Monday afternoon, which might have been the best news for them on a designated travel day where no Lakers coaches or players spoke to the media.
From Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times: An NBA title is just 48 minutes away, a fact the Boston Celtics cannot deny. “The moment that is before us, it’s starting to rear its head in,” guard Ray Allen said. The Celtics, who lead the NBA Finals series three games to two, need to defeat the Lakers one more time, which can come Tuesday night or, if the series goes to a Game 7, on Thursday. But no matter what, it will have to happen on the road, at Staples Center. The Celtics are 1-7 in close-out road games in the playoffs over the last three seasons, and have lost two such games this season, in Miami and Orlando. In fact, the last time their starting five finished a road playoff series came in the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.
From Elliot Teaford, Los Angeles Daily News: The Lakers’ task is simple. It’s not easy, of course, but it has been clarified thanks to their loss to the Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday in Boston. They simply cannot lose tonight in Game 6 if they expect to win their second consecutive championship. The Lakers cannot be outscored, outrebounded or outhustled. And if they win tonight, they have to do it all over again Thursday in Game 7. “I’m not very confident at all,” Kobe Bryant said Sunday. Then he laughed, indicating he was joking.
From Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: With all those trailers run during the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics series, it’s hard to keep “The Karate Kid” out of your head these days. One of my favorite scenes in the original movie comes during the climactic tournament. Daniel LaRusso is in the trainer’s room suffering from an illegal kick to his knee. Despite the injury, he wants to keep fighting. Mr. Miyagi tells him it’s not necessary; his performance made it clear he could have won. He has nothing left to prove.
From Chris Broussard, ESPN.com: One thing and one thing only should be on the Lakers’ minds Tuesday: winning Game 6. Don’t think about Game 7, about how hard it will be to beat Boston twice. Don’t think about history, about how a Finals loss to the hated Celtics would be worse than a loss to any other team. Don’t think about the potential death of your potential dynasty, about how Phil Jackson might coach his last game for the Lakers. Just think about avoiding elimination and leave the thoughts of what else is at stake to us. Because there is indeed a lot more than the 2010 NBA title on the line. First of all, there’s poor Ron Artest. He’s already destined to go down as a woeful underachiever.
From Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: f history, as it is often said, is a living, breathing entity, then that’s more than a half-century of a hot, ugly, gruesome past the Lakers can now feel panting on their necks. This is not just Paul Pierce slinging in elbow jumpers or Rajon Rondo hustling for offensive rebounds and converting put-back buckets. It is Don Nelson’s jumper kicking high off the back iron and falling straight down through the hoop and Sam Jones’ stumbling shot dancing around the rim as if it were a Tibetan prayer wheel before finding the bottom of the net.
From Art Garcia, NBA.com: We’ve all heard the stat: Phil Jackson is undefeated (47-0) in series when his teams win the first game. That run of playoff success is unmatched and, frankly, pretty awesome. Well, what about this stat? Jackson squads are 1-5 when trailing 3-2. History is going to give this week, as either the Ten Master keeps perfection alive or the Lakers fall by The Finals wayside. The defending champs return to Los Angeles after losing the last two in Boston, losing control of the series in the process. Jackson has always been the ultimate frontrunner, as that Game 1 stat illustrates. Jackson prefers to be ahead of the pack, and above the fray, watching as others respond and counter and adjust. Many accuse Jackson of being arrogant and condescending. Winners usually get that rap.
From Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com: The question has hung over the series like the feel of seven Long Island Iced Teas the morning after: When is Kobe Bryant going to have a Kobe Bryant game? He finally had it in Game 5. And he left the TD Garden — and Boston — with nothing to show for it. Which begs the next question: Have we seen the Kobe Bryant yet that we all felt would be the difference in this series? Or better: Where’s that Kobe at?