From Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: There’s nothing particularly explosive about Paul Pierce’s offensive game. He’s more resourceful than dynamic, more craftsman than artist, a scorer who relies on space more than velocity. In Game 5 on Sunday night, Pierce applied his trade with precision. In the first half, he relied on a steady diet of high screens to draw mismatches against the Lakers’ big men, then launch his step-back jumper. In the second half, Pierce found opportunities in isolation against Ron Artest.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Walking into the locker room after a crucial Game 5 loss, Kobe Bryant could be heard going on an expletive-filled tirade at his team. His comment later to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski was telling. “We’ve regressed since Game 1,” Bryant confessed to Yahoo! Sports. “Our defense belongs on milk cartons in the last two games.” A few minutes after Bryant’s venting to his team, Phil Jackson was in front of the media with a different demeanor. He was trying to be positive.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: If you’re a Laker, you have but one request for the flight back to Los Angeles tomorrow morning: a seat other than the one next to Kobe Bryant. You don’t want to sit by him, you don’t want to look at him, you frankly shouldn’t be breathing the same air. Just find yourself a spot in the luggage hold, and stay out of his sight. The Mamba’s anger has been on a low simmer all playoffs long, and after tonight’s calamity, an 86 to 92 Game Five loss to the Boston Celtics, we can officially put Kobe on core-meltdown alert. He did what he could to keep the Lakers alive in this one, ripping off 38 points, but from his supporting cast exactly no one came even close to matching his effort or production. Brink, meet the Lakers. Lakers, brink.
From Brian Kamenetzki, Land O’ Lakers: Kobe Bryant is a tough man to keep down. Even in 2008, when Boston made his task so difficult even Sisyphus himself would have looked at him and thought, “Man, that’s hard,” Bryant still went off for a 36 point, 12-for-20 effort in Game 3. Through four games of this year’s Finals, Bryant has hardly been invisible, but also not the otherworldly figure we saw through the first three rounds of the postseason. Coming out of the half in Game 5, with his team down six, he was apparently ready for his closeup.
From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: The Lakers battled the Celtics throughout a Game 5 in Boston that defined the fight-for-every-inch cliche, but couldn’t make enough shots, or get enough stops, to prevent a 92-86 loss that sent the Purple and Gold back to Los Angeles down 3-2 in the NBA Finals.L.A. managed to stay within six points at the half despite being out shot by 33 percent (66 to 33), but things began to get away in the third even as Kobe Bryant went on a phenomenal individual run to score his team’s first 19 points.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: All season long, while the offense went up and down, the defense stayed about the same. Consistently great defense, mind you. The Los Angeles Lakers regressed significantly on the offensive end in 2009-10, falling to 11th in the NBA in offensive efficiency after coming in third the year before, but the team’s defense stayed at just about a top three clip all season until a mini-swoon to end the regular season dropped them from fourth, up from sixth last year. Though it wasn’t pointed out as much, this was their bedrock. The thing to rely on when the ball movement stopped, and even Kobe Bryant couldn’t keep things close.
From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Maybe the Lakers rally at home to win this NBA championship, maybe not. Either way, there will come a time next spring when they’re sitting in a foreign locker room and their stomachs are churning a bit with the pressure of having to win a pivotal road playoff game. And at that moment, Kobe Bryant can rightly turn to his shaggy-headed Lakers co-star and say: “You owe me something, Spaniard. Now show me something.”
From Jeff Miller, Orange County Register: In their biggest game yet, they sure didn’t look like defending NBA champions. Or, more significantly, the NBA’s next champions. The Lakers instead looked like a team sputtering on fumes – out of position on some plays, out of gas on others. It was strange, disarming and disappointing. The Lakers who aren’t Kobe Bryant picked an unfortunate time to no-show, losing Sunday, 92-86, and now a defeat away from finishing No. 2 behind the annoying Celtics yet again.
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: Paul Pierce raised his right index finger and yelled out “One more, baby!” as he walked off the court, surrounded by a mob of TV cameras as adoring Boston Celtics fans cheered wildly. No, this wasn’t the way the Lakers wanted to return to Los Angeles, overpowered and outmuscled by a more physical team in a 92-86 loss in Game 5 that had them standing near the cliff of elimination in the NBA Finals. The game was more of a gap than the scoreboard offered, the Lakers never leading after 37-36 and nobody other than Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol scoring in double figures for them, the latter barely doing it with an underwhelming 12-point effort.
From Vincent Bonsignore, Los Angeles Daily News: By the time Kobe Bryant reached the podium in the interview room Sunday at TD Garden, the Lakers’ 92-86 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was already a distant memory to him. “I’ve forgotten all about it,” he insisted. The Lakers returning home down three games to two to the Celtics hardly seemed a concern, the world champions needing to win the next two games to claim this series and their second title in row mere details. The entire city of Los Angeles might be going crazy with worry, anxiously bracing for the worst as the Lakers return home to try and stave off the hated Celtics. But Bryant seemed cool, calm and collected, not even a hint of concern or apprehension.
From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Every time Boston coach Doc Rivers talked about it — and usually he was the one raising the topic, early and often over the past week and a half — he did so with an odd sense of calm. Eventually, Rivers would remind almost anyone who would listen, Kobe Bryant was going to hang “a big number” on his team in a 2010 NBA Finals game. And the Celtics would have to try to win in spite of it. It sounded less like a promise or a challenge to his players, frankly, and more like the way one faces other inevitable, unenviable and grim tasks in life. Such as tax audits, trips to the periodontist or home videos of the neighbors’ vacation to Chattanooga. And then it happened: the Black Mamba struck.
From J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: he summation of the Lakers’ Game 5 in Boston came from the postgame news conference moderator, who announced that Phil Jackson would speak first, then Doc Rivers, a yet-to-be-determined number of Celtics players, and finally: “It looks like L.A. will only be Kobe in here.” It made perfect sense, since it was only Kobe out there on the court. At one point Kobe Bryant had scored half of the Lakers’ points: 29 of 58. He finished with 38 in the Lakers’ 92-86 loss. Bryant also led them with four assists and had the team’s lone blocked shot. No other Laker did anything of value. Andrew Bynum played more than 31 minutes and reported no issues with his injured right knee, but grabbed only one rebound. Ron Artest couldn’t keep Paul Pierce from unleashing a 27-point night, while Artest missed seven of his nine field goal attempts and two free throws with 43.3 seconds remaining that extinguished the Lakers’ last hope for victory. The Celtics have made him the primary outlet for when Bryant is doubled, and Artest hasn’t made them pay consistently.
From Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com: On a night when the Boston Celtics looked to be 20 points better — heck, maybe even more — than the Los Angeles Lakers, the lead was down to a precarious five points with 39 seconds left when the signature play of Game 5 of the NBA Finals unfolded. Kevin Garnett was inbounding from the sideline in the backcourt, there were 20 seconds left on the shot clock, and the Lakers were pressing man-to-man all over the court as Garnett was handed the ball. Suddenly, Paul Pierce sprinted from the foul line closest to Garnett and headed for the frontcourt, and Garnett fired a high-arching lead pass toward where Pierce was heading. Pierce and Derek Fisher jumped simultaneously, and the taller of the two caught the ball. Pierce quickly spun toward the Celtics’ basket as he was falling out of bounds, rifling a bullet pass toward Rajon Rondo as he made a beeline to the basket.