Advertisement
Share

It’s the game Bryant has been waiting for

BOSTON -- Now for the game Kobe Bryant has waited his whole life to play. . . .

He’s in the NBA Finals against the Celtics, no less with the Lakers trailing, 1-0, so losing Game 2 isn’t recommended.

He’s coming off a rough Game 1 in which he shot nine for 26 with everyone looking to him and Phil Jackson even making it official, calling him an “unstoppable force.”

“He usually doesn’t have two games in a row that are bad,” said Jackson with his usual assurance Saturday. “He comes back and plays better, so we anticipate that’s going to be a pattern.”

Who could ask for more?

If you wonder whether Bryant is A) feeling the heat or B) having the time of his life, the answer is B.

Advertisement

Asked Saturday if that’s how he sees himself -- unstoppable -- Bryant laughed, thought for a moment and said, “Yep.”

Trust me, he wasn’t thinking if he was unstoppable but how becoming it would look to announce he was, which is why he then feigned embarrassment. (“It’s kind of weird to be honest with you . . . uncomfortable even.”)

Bryant knows as he knows his own name is Kobe Bean Bryant that no one can stop him. This would be braggadocio if it weren’t true, but it is.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Celtics aren’t guarding him with someone, it’s more like everyone.

Bryant doesn’t just have Ray Allen or James Posey on him. Every time Kobe has the ball, the Celtics defenders on his left and right shade toward him, cutting off driving lanes, so forget about getting to the hoop (six free throws in Game 1).

The Celtics pack the lane more than any NBA team, so any time a Laker gets into the paint, he can count on running into two or three of them.

Worse, one of the those is usually Kevin Garnett, whose length and quickness, not to mention ferocity, are the biggest reasons the Celtics are here.

Garnett is now dropping off Lamar Odom, giving him any outside shot he feels like taking, and roaming like a free safety.

(This also serves as a preview of the Lakers next season with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol moving to power forward and Odom to small forward when they’ll have to deal with all the defenses packing it in on them.)

The Lakers are doing the same thing with the Celtics point guard, Rajon Rondo, whom no one has guarded all postseason, which is the big reason the Celtics had as much trouble as they did getting here.

The Lakers and the Celtics have played three times this season. What happened in Game 1 of the Finals is what happened in all three of them.

Of course, both regular-season games came before Jan. 1 with the Celtics in the process of starting 29-3, before the young Lakers added Gasol.

Nevertheless, to date, the Lakers haven’t put a dent in the Celtics’ formidable defense, scoring 94-91-88, which you can’t call progress.

Bryant’s nine-for-26 shooting (34.6%) in Game 1 was actually better than the 15-46 (32.6%) he shot against the Celtics in the regular season.

Despite his claim he missed a lot of “bunnies” in Game 1, 16 of those rascally rabbits came from 15 feet or farther and only one was within 10 feet.

So if Bryant is unstoppable, you’d have to say the Celtics interrupted him -- as they have every time they’ve seen him this season.

Not that the other 11 Lakers can’t take Game 2 off.

They came close enough to that in Game 1, when they were out-rebounded by 13 and their vaunted bench was outscored by the Celtics reserves Coach Doc Rivers has juggled all postseason.

However, for the Lakers and everyone else, it starts with the big guys. There’s a hockey term for this:

The singers have to sing and the dancers have to dance.

It’s ever more clear the Lakers are one thing when Gasol is a No. 1A option (they’re 8-1 this postseason when he scores 17 or more) and something else (4-3) when he’s not.

However, first and foremost, this is Kobe Bryant’s team; it’s a long way from home with the eyes of the world and everything depending on him.

It’s the day he dreamed of, and now it’s here.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com


Advertisement