Lakers need to come up big

Times Staff Writer

Think the Lakers could use Andrew Bynum right now?

The kid keeps watching and recovering, three more weeks until he can start jogging, but the Lakers’ inside game has been stuck on a treadmill against Boston in the NBA Finals.

Lamar Odom is averaging 9.3 points and five fouls through three games. Pau Gasol is averaging 13.7 points (more than five below his season average), has blocked only one shot in the Finals and was a non-entity in Game 3 until a pair of late tip-ins . . . off Odom misses.

Odom and Gasol fed off each other brilliantly toward the end of the regular season and through most of the playoffs, but now the Lakers are winning despite them.

Odom’s first field goal in Game 3 came with 4:22 left in the third quarter. Gasol’s first field goal was a few minutes later. That’s two-thirds of a frontcourt that also starts Vladimir Radmanovic, who scored three points.

They’ll get another chance tonight in Game 4 at Staples Center, with the Celtics ahead, two games to one. It can’t come fast enough for Odom.


He was hit with more than a dozen questions at Wednesday’s practice about his struggles in the series.

“You have to persevere,” he said. “Right now, it’s about the L.A. Lakers, not Lamar Odom. If I could just stay on the court to help the team do whatever, whether it’s rebounding or making plays . . . you can’t expect for every game to be a 20-point game in the Finals.

“I’ll go watch the tape over and over again and just see what I can do.”

He’ll see a lot of the same sequences on video.

The Celtics are dropping off Odom and begging him to take 15-foot jumpers (he is shooting 41.9% in the Finals, very low for a power forward).

When Odom does decide to drive, he runs into Kevin Garnett, the NBA defensive player of the year.

Odom also can’t stay on the court because he keeps picking up fouls.

He barely made it to the midpoint of the first quarter before picking up his second foul in Game 3. He went to the bench, returned for the start of the second quarter and picked up his third foul 23 seconds into the quarter. Back to the bench again.

Unlike Kobe Bryant, who can sit on the sidelines for half an hour, enter a game and start drilling jumpers, Odom has shown to be a rhythm player who needs uninterrupted playing time to be effective.

“I’m probably fouling too much, which would [contribute] to a scoring slump, I guess, if you would call it that. Defensively I have to play with a high IQ -- know when to say when,” he said. "[Offensively], every great hitter goes through a slump in baseball, goes three for 20. This is the same thing.”

Gasol, for his part, had nine points on three-for-nine shooting, numbers that looked better after his late tip-ins.

He is averaging 10 rebounds in the series and doesn’t have the same foul problems as Odom, but the Lakers are looking for him to be more decisive in the post.

“I think most of the players out there struggled physically,” he said of Game 3. “You could tell that the travel and the Game 2 and 3 being so tight together. . . . I think that was a factor.”

Gasol and Odom weren’t the only ones answering questions about their troubles.

Paul Pierce spoke about his six-point nightmare in Game 3 . . . by bringing up Gasol and Odom.

“Me and Kevin [Garnett] really didn’t play well,” said Pierce, who made two of 14 shots. “But then you’ve got to look at the Lakers’ side. Odom and Gasol really don’t play well. So you’ve got to expect me and Kevin to play a lot better in Game 4 as well as Gasol, as well as Odom to play a lot better.”

Not all the talk Wednesday was about who needed to improve their game.

Sasha Vujacic was flooded by reporters a day after his 20-point effort helped save the Lakers. Vujacic, who becomes a restricted free agent in three weeks, is only helping his financial future with such an outburst on the national stage.

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was flooded for a different reason. He played only a few ineffective minutes in the fourth quarter after sustaining a bone bruise on his left ankle early in the third quarter.

He had trouble jumping at practice Wednesday but said he would play tonight. He will, however, yield to Sam Cassell or Eddie House if he doesn’t play effectively.

“If I’m going out there at 50%, I don’t want to hurt the team,” said Rondo, who had 16 assists in Game 2.

“Eddie and Sam do a great job of running the team, so I’ll let them have it.”




Celtics lead, 2-1

* - if necessary

Game 1 at Boston

Celtics 98, Lakers 88

Game 2 at Boston

Celtics 108, Lakers 102

Game 3 at Staples Center

Lakers 87, Celtics 81

Game 4 at Staples Center

Tonight, 6, Channel 7

Game 5 at Staples Center

Sunday, 6 p.m., Channel 7

Game 6 at Boston

*Tuesday, 6 p.m., Channel 7

Game 7 at Boston

*June 19, 6 p.m., Channel 7