Lakers Live To Fight Another Day

Darius Soriano —  June 15, 2010

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Before game 6 there was a nervousness amongst us fans; there was an anxiety.  I mean, you never quite know how a team is going to respond in an elimination game.  Were the Lakers going to be tight?  Maybe they’d be too excited?  In what was sure to be an emotion filled game, would the Lakers be able to channel their those emotions into positive play?  I don’t think anyone was sure.  Well, after the Lakers beat the Celtics 89-67, I think we found out.  The Lakers weren’t tight.  They were ready.  Ready to compete; ready to give their all to ensure that there would not be any regrets.  Just as we asked before the contest, the Lakers left it all on the floor and gave 100% effort in trying to secure that fateful game 7.

And that was the story of this game.  The Lakers just had an….energy.  In an email to me after the game, Phillip described many of the ways that the Lakers’ energy helped carry them to this victory:

One of the main differences between Game 5 and Game 6 was the energy from the Lakers. They came out playing hard, and it carried throughout the course of the game. 48 minutes of energetic play from this Lakers team almost always leads to a win. They scrambled for all of the 50/50 balls, Jordan Farmar and Derek Fisher spent a considerable amount of time on the hardwood diving for loose balls, they actually boxed out – which led to a 52-39 rebound advantage. And as Games 1 through 5 went, the team that finished with more rebounds finished on top after the final buzzer sounded.

More importantly, the Lakers increased team effort made life much easier on Kobe Bryant. Getting some easy buckets early from offensive rebounds and steals got their collective confidence rising, which led to some shots going in for other guys. Lamar Odom was active, Jordan Farmar had some huge hustle plays, Shannon Brown put down a couple of building erupting dunks and the Kobe/Gasol contingent were able to have the games we’ve become accustomed to over the course of the past three years.

On top of their increased offensive efficiency because of increased activity, their defensive intensity was able to remain consistent for the full game. It was much easier for them to stay in tuned on the defensive end when they were feeling good about how they were operating offensively. This kind of effort would have been huge in both Games 4 and 5, but in this situation, it’s better late than never, and we have to be extremely happy with the overall team effort tonight.

And as Phillip mentioned, the energy really led to a much improved defense.  And what’s the motto?  That’s right, the Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.  Tonight, the Lakers defense was dominant and it took them right to a blowout victory.  The Lakers showed much better discipline on that side of the ball – rotating well, contesting shots, and helping each other at every turn.  In the comments, Zephid made an excellent point about how the Lakers responded to a play that repeatedly killed them in game 5 – Paul Pierce’s elbow jumper:

The one play (the Lakers) completely took away was the Paul Pierce drive to the paint. When Pierce drove, Artest funneled him to Gasol who was waiting for him at the top of the key, forcing Pierce to go toward the corner instead of toward the rim. Then Gasol and Artest would form an aggressive double, cutting off the passing lanes to the paint and across the court. This left the only outlet pass to be back up the side, which was in turn cut off by Kobe, Fisher, and Farmar all on separate occasions, leading to easy baskets or free throws on the other end. Given that the Paul Pierce isolation is one of the Celtics key plays, taking it away really destroyed the effectiveness of their offense.

As Zephid mentioned, I think a lot of credit must go to Artest for his initial defense on Pierce.  Artest consistently forced Pierce to his left hand and used his reach and quick hands to disrupt his dribble and keep Pierce off balance.  Pierce never really looked comfortable and most of his looks at the hoop were either out of rhythm or forced when trying to find it.  But Ron’s defense was only was aspect of his good night.  Ron also found his groove on offense.  He made 6 of his 11 shots (including 3 of 6 from three point land), scoring 15 points and finding the rhythm that he denied Pierce for most of the evening.  After the game, Phil talked about how the Lakers tried to get Ron the ball in position where he didn’t have to make as many reads within the sets and could just concentrate on shooting the ball.

But it wasn’t only Ron that stepped up from a support role.  The Lakers bench – as a whole – really raised their respective games.  Phillip already mentioned the hustle plays from Farmar and the fantastic dunks from Shannon, but even though those were big plays their nights were more than just some highlights we’ll see tonight on Sports Center.  They played with a poise and confidence that had been missing for most of this series and they were a big difference.  And it wasn’t just those two.  Sasha also stepped up big in this game by making shots and defending with effort but without fouling.  I’m not saying these guys played perfect as there were still some forced passes, missed reads, and a couple of ill advised shots.  But when it was all said and done, the Lakers trio of back up guards gave them strong play in the biggest game of the season and they deserve some recognition for their strong play on both ends of the floor.

Also stepping up from his bench role was Odom.  He may have only finished with 8 points on 9 shots, but that familiar bounce to his step was back.  He was rebounding the ball (10 collected caroms total) and pushing the pace.  He was organizing the Lakers sets, directing traffic, and giving his bench mates an earful when they did something that wasn’t beneficial to the team.  Odom the leader of the second unit was back tonight and it was much needed considering the sputtering health of Andrew Bynum.  Because as big ‘Drew could only find enough strength in his balky knee to play 16 minutes, it was Odom that stepped up and filled in in the manner that we all expect from him.

But, those support players could only play the role that they did because of the leadership from Kobe and Pau.  The two Laker stars controlled this game fully and put their stamp on this contest from the opening tip.  Kobe especially was masterful, balancing his scoring and playmaking like he has for so many other games in these playoffs.  He ended the night with 26 points on 9-19 shooting while making all 7 of his free throws.  The Lakers made some beautiful tweaks to their offense by using Kobe more off the ball, running him off screens, and sending him to the low post more often.  By using him in this manner, the Lakers were able to maximize his energy used and make his life a lot easier on the offensive end by not forcing him to constantly work in isolation at the top of the key where he had to use his dribble to break down the entire Celtic defense on his own.  But, his game was so much more than his excellence on offense.  Again, I’ll let Zephid do the honors:

Kobe Bryant was a leader in all facets of this game. Whether it was ripping down rebounds, getting steals, pushing the ball in the open court, getting his teammates wide open shots, or hitting his patented impossible jumpers, Kobe was everywhere and doing everything.

And then there was Pau.  After an admittedly poor showing in game 5, the big Spaniard had a real bounce back game 6.  He was the best player in the paint on both ends of the floor and showed what he could do when put in better positions to succeed.  Working most of his night from the elbow, Gasol controlled the action as a true fulcrum to the Lakers sets.  He was equal parts scorer and passer racking up 19 points and 9 assists all while dealing with a variety of C’s defenders.  He also hit the boards hard securing 13 rebounds (5 offensive) to leave him only 1 assist shy of a triple double.  You combine that with his 3 blocks, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers (a fantastic number considering how often the Lakers ran their sets through him) and you could easily argue that he was the player of the game despite the tremendous game from Kobe.  Really, Gasol was that good.

In the end, this was just a great game from the Lakers.  Facing elimination, they had their best defensive performance of the playoffs and brought back a level of execution to their offense that’d been missing for the past 3 games.  But, there is no time to celebrate.  This game did not clinch a title, it only gave them the chance to fight another day.  So while we can celebrate this win, it – like 14 other wins these playoffs – are now in the past.  The goal is to get to 16 wins and all that should be on the mind of the Lakers is repeating this level of performance on Thursday.  Because this is the level of performance it will take to win the championship in game 7.  The Lakers will need the same energy, the same intensity, and the same level of execution.  They’ll need to navigate a sure to be better Boston team that will also be playing with their backs against the wall for their playoff lives and the chance to win the title that they too covet.  And while the injuries to Bynum and the freshly banged up Perkins (who, I did not mention “sprained” a knee – though it looked much worse than a sprain) will likely impact what both teams can do on Thursday, no excuses will be made and nothing will be held back.  On Thursday, the Lakers and the Celtics will play a gamee 7 for the NBA Championship and it’s surely to be epic.  I can’t wait.

Darius Soriano

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47 responses to Lakers Live To Fight Another Day

  1. Good recap. No relaxation. In every game the Lakers played angry from the start they have won. You could see from the intensity level in the first half where there heads were. We have one huge battle left guys, the players, and the fans, cannot relax in any way. Expect a better performance from them on Thursday, so demand a better performance from our guys.

  2. What a game! To revive a cliche, the Lakers ran circles around the C’s tonight.

    The biggest question of all is, what – if anything – will Perkins be able to give Thursday night?

  3. One of the ABC courtside reporters commented that Kobe was magnificent tonight. He said it wasn’t his scoring that was so good (that is expected), but his defense and rebounding — he was everywhere something was needed this game.

    He said his effort in the 1st qtr really set the tone for the team and the 2nd unit.

    Kevin McHale really looked somewhat green around the gills on the NBA channel post game show. He commented that bad ankle sprains are usually worse the following two days and he would be surprised if Perkins played Thursday.

  4. This. Is. California. Baby!!!!

  5. Loved watching every second. LOVED IT.

    But it’s history now.

    Come Thursday, the greenshirts won’t miss so many layups. They won’t be intimidated by our crowd or the fact that their center is injured. These guys are gifted veterans. They’ve come back from an embarrassing defeat to the Cavs by obliterating them the next game. They’ve also followed up their losing effort in our own building by winning the next game in this very series. These guys are more than capable, so Lakers’ fans and players alike must forget this game and look forward to the final battle on Thursday. Just one more stand to defend our home turf and repeat. One mo.

  6. By game 7, you run out of things to say. It all seems superfluous. I’d like the Lakers to get out in front early. I’d like everyone to match Boston’s physicality. I’d like the refs to not screw it up. There are a lot of things I’d like. But it’s past all that. The basketball gods are watching. Everyone has to take responsibility. This game will be remembered for a long, long time. This game is the culmination of many lives and many careers – Buss, Jackson, Bryant, Gasol, Artest, Odom and on down the list. It sounds crazy but the game is even bigger than the 2010 championship. It is the climax of an era.

  7. http://polynorthamerica.com/WINS.jpg

    I wanna finish this on thursday night.

  8. Hey, welcome back Lakers! Where have you been? We’ve missed you guys.

    Just a reminder, there’s another game on Thursday, so feel free to show up there, too.

    Good to have you back.

  9. One mo’ gin. One mo’ gin.

  10. Maybe our Lakers were just making sure that Jackson earns his bonus, Buss earning his extra gate income so that the two can negotiate with much more willingness to compromise.

    I don’t believe in superstitions, but I’m not gonna say anything about game 7 ;)

    It’s going to be the mother of all high-risk/high-reward games, a game 7 against the Celtics for the NBA championship.

  11. Treasure these special, unique moments. I am very proud of the Laker effort tonight.

    I don’t know who’ll win, but I have confidence that the Lakers will play Game 7 with pride, effort and togetherness – and that’s all you can really expect.

  12. Lakers vs Celtics game 7….exactly the way it played out in my Lakers/Celtics Finals on my x-box in nba live 07, which was adjusted for current rosters.

    I saved the series at the 3-3 tie. I will play game 7 before tip-off Thursday.

  13. The crowd.. it’s up to you people. I expect a better crowd than the one who showed up tonight. No later comers, no parking troubles.. If Game 7 does not get the notorious Laker home crowd fired and excited for ALL 48 minutes, I don’t know what will.. (Justin Bieber maybe?)

    No one should be allowed into Staples Center on Thursday if they’re not willing to chant “Boston Sucks” for 3+ hours.

  14. winferd smiley June 16, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Finally refs started calling the grabbings, shobbings, pushings, bumpings, offensive fouls and moving screens. It is not the defense that makes Celtics win games; it is the non-calls from the refs. The refs have let this team bullied everybody in the playoffs.This team will commit over 60 fouls in a game but only 10 will be called. The announcers will say, “What a defense”.

  15. All of the 3 Games that the Celtics won in this series were CLOSE games even in game 5 wehere they shot 56% from the field the Lakers are still within 5 points and have a chance to trim it to 3pts with the FTof Ron Artest. While in the 3 games that the Lakers won only Game 3 was close while the victory in Games 1 and 6 were blowouts. What does this mean? This means that if all the Laker players shows up and play true to their form on both ends of the floor then no doubt the Lakers will win. The only team that can beat the Lakers are the Lakers themselves. I just hope on game 7 everybody that showed up tonight will also show up on Game 7!!!!

  16. anyone concerned that PJ left KB and pau in for 40 mins each in a blowout? doc had his guys in the low30s. seemed completely unnecessary w/a large lead and a short turnaround.

  17. Maybe Thursday Donald Sterling can entice a Labron James visit to Staples to see what an NBA championship game looks like? That might be as close as either one of them will ever get.

  18. I really enjoyed this game very much. I was fairly comfortable the whole time, and I hope for the exact same experience on Thursday. Hmmm, I will start counting my money that I have saved, for my back-to-back Championship gear to be purchased, why not?

  19. Ron Artest: +26
    Paul Pierce: -26

    ‘Nuff said.

  20. mikeinchitown; not really. there’s enough time to rest up and it’s going to be pure adrenaline. and the way the games are called, timeouts and all, players can absorb more minutes as long as they don’t sustain injuries.

    now, this is a series that went to 7, but wow, has there ever been a series that went to 7 without a single game delivering intense drama throughout?

    I mean, some of the games we lost, we seemed to be in them til late, but it wasn’t anything near the ‘any possession can determine the winner’ type of a game, with not one game even threatening to go OT.

    In a way, this could be the least memorable finals ever, especially with neither team peaking at the same time.

    Not that I’ll complain if we win game 7…

  21. There’s nothing left to say. One more game to win. People need to bring the same intensity. I want to see farmar on the floor again.

  22. I am a natural pessimist. I saw a championship team in game 1. One who outcoached and outhustled the other team. I did not see a championship team in LA in game 4. We left a potential win on the court that should have been won. You never leave a win the court I saw a championship player in Kobe in game 4. His 19 points in a row we difficult shots from everywhere on the court. We will need that man to be in the building for game 7. It might not be necessary for him to do it, but we need to know he is there.

    As far as all of experts who said Mbenga might be an answer, we found out in garbage time that he is not. Sheldon Williams is playing great defense and that’s scary. Boston is loaded to the T with bigs. Hopefully we can bring the same intensity and effort we brought this game because Boston will not miss as many layups, dunks, and open shots in game 7.

    Boston has never lost a game 7 in the championships after leading 3-2, Phil Jackson has never lost a series after winning the first game. To quote Michael Buffer “Someone’s 0 must go!” Go LAKERS!!!!

  23. Timeout
    2 seconds on the clock
    The Lakers down 88-87
    The Lakers got the ball
    Ron to Kobe
    Kobe catches on the wing,
    1 second
    goes up, releases
    Red boards
    The ball flies and…

  24. Renato Afonso June 16, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Magic once said something like: “You will only know what basketball is all about when you play a game 7 of a Lakers-Celtics Finals”

    That being said, it will all come down to: Who wants it more? How much contact will the refs allow?

    No X’s and O’s will make the difference…

  25. I am hopeful that Bynum will be able to play in Game 7, and that he will play the guttiest, most determined, most heroic 8 minutes of his life (so far) and give the Lakers 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and an assist before he sits down for his first rest.

    It is VERY important the Lakers use him early when he is loose, amped on adrenaline, and before the swelling causes problems.

    I think that Bynum can get it done, and get the Lakers off to a solid start, and (just as importantly) get the crowd off to a good start.

    Go Lakers!

  26. @14

    Actually, I disagree about the foul calls in this specific instance. I don’t think either team could say that the whistle was very quick. (Fisher and Wallace would likely disagree, as they were both nullified by foul trouble–but they were the exception that proved the rule). Boston got called for very little. I don’t recall any moving screen calls on either team. Very few fouls called on either team, actually which one would have thought would favor the C’s. Instead, I think the “let them play” caused two things. First, the game had a flow, which I think was to LA’s benefit, despite the occasionally-physical play. Second, LA brought the physical play tonight (see, e.g., Ron’s unintentional (?) chin music to Rondo and body-up “D” on Pierce, Gasol looking to block everything, etc.), which meant a slow whistle was to their benefit.

    Even though we Laker fans have been begging for whistles at times, I hope they let them play tomorrow night.

  27. It’s silly to me when the talking heads say things like “Kobe got his teammates involved in this game” or “Kobe trusted his teammates to get it done this time.” Kobe has been making good passes and giving his teammates opportunities all through the playoffs; the only difference in this game was that they hit more shots and, most importantly, played DEFENSE.

  28. i thought that sasha played a really strong game again. his 3pt shots in the first half were just on time and he played ray allen very well on the other end.

    if the refs call the next game in similar fashion, it would be a big help. yes, they also called fisher on his occasional grabbing, but they called it consistently on both sides… so thats awesome for us.

    loved the play where lamar had rondo and started screaming to clear out for him. thats when i knew he wants to make an impact in this game.

    game 7 will be amazing. it will be interesting to see what happens to perkins. i would never wish injury to any player but if he is limited like bynum it would finally even things out a little bit.

    pau´s assists last night didnt come by accident. when guarded by baby, pau can oversee the floor much better and give out better passes (see: shannon-brown alley-oop). not to mention how much easier it is for him to find a comfortable position against davis or kg.

    cant wait for game 7… say QUEENSBRIDGE!!!!

  29. I’m loving the return of the Machine. He lost his G in Game 4 in 2008 and hasn’t been right since. He’s slowly getting it all back, and performing against the Celtics just might keep it going into next season. He’s really played well.

    Shannon’s dunks were great, but he still gives Ray Allen far too many open looks. He goes through screens to lazily, or goes under. This cannot happen in Game 7.

    It’s nice to have Game 6 & 7 at home. The effect Staples has on Lamar and the rest of the bench is so positive. Just one more.

    I m still amazed that the refs let Tony Allen block, pull, and hold Kobe in L.A. I expect that mess in Boston, but at Staples? Call that in Game 7. He doesn;t play great D on Kobe, he just doesn’t get called for obvious things. I’m sure I could deter Kobe too if I held his wrists and stepped in his way all game.

  30. Just wanted to say thank you to both you, Darius, and Phillip. Your work really enhances the play-offs for me=)

  31. No one should be allowed into Staples Center on Thursday if they’re not willing to chant “Boston Sucks” for 3+ hours.

    But that would mean I wouldn’t be allowed in because I honestly think that our crowd chanting “Boston Sucks” makes us look childish and lame.

    “Beat LA” actually has something to it. Why not chant “Beat The Green” or something like that instead?

  32. winferd smiley touche . Lakers need the refs to officiate a tight game. Else it looks like great celtics defense.

  33. From Simmons diary (which is definitely worth reading, btw):

    “Is Phil Jackson wired for this game? I bet not… he had a right to be pissed about that Game 5 incident.”

    What is that referring to?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?id=5285343

  34. Great game for sure. My disappointment has disappeared some from the 2 previous games. Ron & Lamar brought it. They provided the spark that ignited the bench…something Pau & Kobe can be truly thankful for.

    I’ve got to give props to the Staples crowd last night. They were loud even though I was watching on my tv. Thursday should be rockin. And yes we didn’t throw anything at the players.

    Things to shore up on…D Fish needs to play with tenacity and throw Ray off his rhythm. This is his chance to redeem himself from the ESPY’s 08 comment “another win in la”. Yeah karma lakersnation. We’ll see who gets the last laugh.

    Maintain the rebounding dominance, limit the turnovers, and play with purpose. I hate when we get a lead and start settling for long jumpers. We need to keep attacking the paint and open up opportunities to go to the line. I’d hate to be in a position where we have to shoot 3’s to play catch up ball. Not our strength.

    But as for the corporate chant… I like “Who’s your daddy” or “Lakers Nation”….Either way we need to be loud and proud.

    Represent Lakers. Back to back to end the “decade of dominance”

  35. Funky Chicken June 16, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Well, we got what we were looking for. Those of us who wanted to see more P&R got that. Those who wanted more Sasha got that too. And all of us wanted more energy and passion, and we certainly got that. Kudos to the players and the coaches for a great, great effort. And now we move on.

    Looking forward to Thursday I think this one might be a classic. An argument can be made that in all but one of the games so far, one team has clearly “needed” the win more than the other, and in each instance that team won–largely by playing harder than the other. The one game that I think was probably needed equally (game 3) was probably the best game in the series. I suspect we will see that and then some on Thursday night.

    Great teams respond well to pressure, and this has been the case in both games. For the first time since game 3, I think both teams are going to be feeling equal pressure and will respond accordingly. This could have the makings of a classic, although that won’t be easy for a partisan to watch (except on replay, after the Lakers win…).

  36. Last night was very gratifying, but:

    Game 3, Eastern Semis:

    Cleveland 124, Boston 89

    Game 5, Eastern Finals:

    Orlando 113, Boston 92

    Game 1, NBA Finals

    Lakers 102, Boston 89

    Boston won every single game played immediately after these. I don’t want to take anything away from the Lakers, but I think the Celtics mailed in the second half, and yes, Phil, as he always does in routs, left Kobe and Pau in too long.

    I think a key on Thursday will be who gets the lead. My guess, however, is that the game will be close throughout.

    With Bynum and Perkins both gimpy now, Wallace and Lamar may be huge factors. Over the course of a series, losing Perkins would be a big deal. In a one-and-done situation, more Wallace may be more dangerous.

    But, the Lakers are at home, and they have Kobe and Pau, so I am optimistic. But if the players let up even one iota based on the blowout, the team will be in trouble.

  37. Also, Funky Chicken is right: in every game, the team that needed it more has won:

    G1: losing would have been disastrous to Lakers psychologically.
    G2: losing would have put Celtics in huge hole.
    G3: Lakers HAD to win 1 in Boston; G3 win was needed to reduce pressure.
    G4 and G5: Boston could not come back here down 3-2.
    G6: obvious

    But that angle is out the window now.

  38. This could have the makings of a classic, although that won’t be easy for a partisan to watch

    ___

    Indeed. If, as I expect, the situation is something like ” Here we go, tied at 81, with 1:15 to go” it will be hard for me to watch.

  39. 35. I believe he is referring to the airing of Phil’s comments that “boston knows how to lose games in the 4th” or something to those effects. Phil was probably upset that the ABC would air something so obviously inflammatory and possibly motivating to Boston.

  40. @41

    Correct.

  41. I’ve been in physical turmoil since the late stages of Game 5. The thought of Boston celebrating on Laker home floor literally causes me to be in physical distress.

  42. The thought of Boston celebrating on Laker home floor literally causes me to be in physical distress.

    __

    You are not alone. I had the pregame show on ESPN 710 on last night, and during the “Lakers Roundtable”, which is Steve Mason, John Ireland, Spero Dedes and Mychal Thompson, Ireland made a reference to “the Celtics celebrating at Staples” and Thompson interjected with, “Ohh, I’m getting nauseous.” It wasn’t a joke–Thompson’s voice made it clear that he was, in fact, getting nauseous, and I have heard/read other Lakers fans say that the thought of the Celtics winning the title in LA “makes me sick.” I don’t think it is just a euphemism.

  43. Knickers–

    If you’re going to define fish by one play, at least do it right: he’s .4 Fisher, not .04. You’ve been adding a digit all season. Stop. I get that you don’t like him, but make an effort. You’re better than that.

    Also, paragraphs.

  44. I would agree with #33, but Boston does indeed suck! ;)

  45. It’s amazing how much hitting a few outside shots changes things. Great to see Ron & Sasha shooting with confidence and knockin’ ‘em down.

    Loved how active Laker hands and feet were on defense…so many tipped passes leading to steals.

    I, too, thought our starters remained in the game far too long. My concern wasn’t from a “getting tired” standpoint, since Kobe/Pau weren’t really expending much energy in the 4th; it was really about the possibility of getting hurt. Fortunately, nothing happened…

    Speaking of getting hurt, any word on Bynum’s and Perkins’s knees today?

    peter

  46. Phil had to keep the starters in longer than Doc, first, he needed to secure the win and second, he wanted to close the game out without the Celtics getting momentum, with an eye toward game 7.

  47. Ron Artest is getting some well deserved props for his play in today’s Daily Dime, and we’re getting a Ron Quote: “I don’t make history,” Artest said, insisting that’s the duty of the media and fans. “It’s not something that I need to worry about. Unless, Twitter starts making history. Then I can use my Twitter.”

    @46, Peter
    As far as I can tell, Bynum remains day to day, though he seems hell bent on playing as much as he can. (He’s had an admirable mindset this entire series, by the way. Light-years from the immature sulking Bynum we used to complain about). Perkins is done. Official word on his knee, pending an MRI, is that he has a severe sprain that “doesn’t look great”, but I don’t think anyone who saw his knee bend that way realistically expects him to put any weight on it for the next few weeks.