NBA: A must win for Lakers
By John Nadel
LOS ANGELES ó Home better be sweet for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA finals or they’ll be faced with a challenge that’s never been met.
Yep, they’re in a must-win situation, any way you cut it.
After their Kobe Bryant-led fourth-quarter comeback from a 24-point deficit fell just short Sunday night, the Lakers headed home from Boston trailing the Celtics 2-0 and aware that an NBA team has never recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
Fact is, only three teams have bounced back to win the finals after losing the first two games: the Celtics against the Lakers in 1969, Portland against Philadelphia in 1977, and Miami against Dallas two years ago.
There’s no lack of confidence among the Lakers, an understandable development since they’re 8-0 at Staples Center in the postseason and have won 14 straight home games dating back to March 28. And Boston is 2-7 on the road in the playoffs although those two wins came against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We’ve come too far to really sweat being down 2-0,” said Bryant, who had 30 points and eight assists in the Lakers’ 108-102 loss in Game 2 after they trailed 95-71 with less than eight minutes to play. “We’re going to go home and take care of our business.”
The teams traveled west Monday, and will meet Tuesday night in Game 3, Thursday night in Game 4 and, assuming the Lakers win at least once, Sunday night in Game 5.
“All they did is protect their homecourt, so it’s going to be a different story in LA,” Sasha Vujacic said. “We know it’s going to be a different story. We’re going to be OK.”
Bryant and coach Phil Jackson had differing opinions regarding the ill-fated comeback in terms of a possible psychological lift.
“Sure, it’s something that we can take from,” Bryant said.
“No, no. It’s 2,500 miles away,” Jackson said. “It’s too far to carry it.”
The Lakers were horrified at the foul shot differential ó they were a perfect 10-for-10 while the Celtics shot 27-for-38. It was similar to what happened in Game 7 of the 1984 finals in Boston, when the Lakers shot 18-for-28 while the Celtics went 43-for-51, leading to a 111-102 victory.
While such a differential seems incomprehensible, the Celtics were the more aggressive team offensively, driving to the basket time and again while the Lakers worked more on the perimeter. And they got back in the game by going 7-for-11 from beyond the 3-point arc in the final period.
Jackson said he’s never coached in a game like that in the finals, where he’s gone 9-1, noting Boston’s Leon Powe attempted more free throws (13) than his entire team while playing less than 15 minutes.
“That’s ridiculous,” Jackson said. “Unbelievable.”
But, Jackson added: “They were aggressive. They went to the basket. We didn’t take charges in situations that we had charges to take, and the first half the contacts subsequently ended up being a foul shot.”
That being the case, the Lakers figure to be much more aggressive at home, especially Bryant. The MVP made 623 foul shots during the regular-season, second-most in the NBA behind Allen Iverson’s 645.
One thing the Lakers clearly need is more consistency from Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, their primary post players. Gasol scored 25 first-half points in the first two games and just seven second-half points. Odom had only two points in the second half of Game 2 and didn’t play in the fourth quarter after getting into foul trouble.
Perhaps both will benefit from playing at home.
“I’m not worried about what Celtics team shows up. I’m worried about what Lakers team shows up,” Jackson said.