The faces have changed, but the expressions have not.
On Wednesday night, the very game Philadelphia 76ers, whose determination gripped the franchise for three-plus rounds of the NBA playoffs, breathed deeply and leaned hard against the same truth. After four games they are a loss from elimination, and perhaps they're not sure why, other than to know they can't seem to hold off the Lakers. Heart alone seems not good enough.
"They've gone pretty far," Laker forward Rick Fox said. "I don't know how much longer that will carry them or hold them over, because there comes a point where the depth of our team is just too much and we keep coming in waves like we have. It's just a matter of time. We have to look at it the same way we have the first four games, with the same respect for their ability to pick themselves up and get back in this series and not give them a chance."
Said Tyronn Lue: "They are a fighting team, but I think the way we are playing and the way we are focused right now, it's up to us. It's not really up to them."
If the Lakers clinch the championship Friday night, the parade through downtown Los Angeles probably would be held Monday, according to a city official. Final arrangements have not been made, however.
Ron Harper wasn't worried about Brian Shaw being too tired after flying to Oakland for the birth of his daughter.
"She had the kid," Harper said. "He didn't have the kid."
The 9 p.m. games are mildly annoying to the Lakers--"Crazy," Harper said--particularly after games. Most players are too wired and hungry to simply return to their rooms and fall asleep, leading to 3 a.m. room service and other oddities.
Games 4 and 5 are 9 p.m. ET starts.
"I think we've all adjusted to the time zone," Jackson said. "That's probably a pretty natural phenomenon that takes a couple days. But for these players, their hours are three in the morning, two in the morning. That's their general work day. They'll be fine. I'll probably fall asleep around 11:15, though."
Under the headline, "Sorry, Shaq, the Kitchen is Closed," the Philadelphia Daily News recounted Shaquille O'Neal's being unable to find food after Sunday's Game 3. The Capital Grille, a popular local eatery, would not reopen for O'Neal and his party just after midnight.
From the regular season to the Finals, Horace Grant has lost about seven minutes a game.
"Shhh," Grant said. "Phil will be having me play 40."
Robert Horry is playing more than he is in the series, although Grant had him in minutes in Game 5, 25-24.
"Horace is in a down spell right now after taking three knockouts in the first three series, with Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber and Tim Duncan," Jackson said. "He's been able to back off a little bit and he really hasn't stepped into his role, which now becomes more of a spot-up shooter."