Lakers have to snap out of it now
Well, this is awkward.
And somewhat unexpected. And even troubling for the Lakers.
The team that was favored to win the NBA Finals suddenly needs to win four of its next five games to make an implausible season stay that way.
The Lakers get another chance tonight at Staples Center in Game 3, though they’re starting to look like the unit that began the season with a 9-8 record, not the team that needed only 15 playoff games to win the Western Conference.
Of course, the Boston Celtics have a lot to do with that.
Lamar Odom was called out by his coach for looking “confused” in Game 2, and there was little argument. The Lakers reserves can’t stop the unheralded Celtics backups, and there was little reason to believe it won’t happen again. Kobe Bryant played better in Game 2 -- 30 points, eight assists -- but there has been little cohesion in an offense netting assists on 56.6% of its field goals, a telling number compared with the Celtics’ 75% rate.
Neither the Lakers nor the Celtics practiced Monday, both teams heading to L.A. to determine whether the series would even make it back to Boston.
Two games into the Finals, the Celtics are much closer to winning a 17th championship than the Lakers are to winning a 15th title.
Only three teams in NBA history have come back from 2-0 deficits to win the NBA Finals -- the Celtics in 1969 (against the Lakers), Portland in 1977 and Miami in 2006.
“I’m not worried about which Celtics team shows up,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said resolutely. “I’m worried about what Lakers team shows up. That’s the one that moves the ball, and we do things well on the offensive end.”
Oh, that one.
It has been 12 days since the Lakers last won a game, though it might seem longer to their fans. The Lakers breezed through San Antonio in five games after blasting through a physical Utah team in six games, but the Celtics are more than mystique.
The Lakers needed a massive effort from three-point range to even make Game 2 close, drilling seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter to tie the Finals record.
Among their concerns, Odom is averaging 12 points, seven rebounds, 1.5 assists and five fouls in the first two games. He did not return to Game 2 after picking up his fifth foul with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Afterward, there was another appeal for the Lakers to be more physical, much as there had been after Game 1.
“These guys drive the ball to the hole pretty hard, and they get the whistle,” Odom said. “Maybe we have to attack the basket with the same aggressiveness.”
On the plus side for the Lakers, Jackson won’t be fined for his postgame critique of the referees, a league official said Monday.
On the minus side, well, there was the rest of Game 2.
The Lakers will have to take Leon Powe a little more seriously after his 21-point game was punctuated by a running dunk on a wide-open lane that practically started at halfcourt.
Not surprisingly, Game 2 turned into the highest-shooting game against the Lakers in this year’s playoffs (52.9%).
And Bryant, despite his points and assists, wasn’t immune to mistakes.
He missed a one-handed alley-oop dunk attempt midway through the fourth quarter, the ball bouncing harmlessly out of bounds after rimming out.
He also made a fine spinning left-handed layup but immediately received a technical foul after complaining about a non-call. It was his first technical since Game 1 of the first round.
The Celtics shouldn’t need to change much to hang on to their momentum. Paul Pierce’s knee wasn’t an issue after a 28-point effort, and the Celtics’ defense has been strong throughout the series, a 41-point lapse in the fourth quarter of Game 2 the lone serious dent.
There is, however, their one main problem in the playoffs.
After a 31-10 regular-season record on the road, the Celtics are 2-7 away from home in the playoffs, though they did win two of three in Detroit in the Eastern finals.
“We’ve played well of late on the road, so that gives us confidence,” Boston Coach Doc Rivers said.
Just what the Celtics need. More confidence.