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Odom is key for Lakers

I have a plane to catch to Boston.

But before I go, the question: Is this a trip worth taking?

Are the Lakers going to bring their very best game with them, or was it all about “Not In Our House” as they kept flashing it on the scoreboard -- preventing the Celtics from celebrating here?

Do the Lakers have what it takes to win two tough, hand-to-hand combat games in hostile territory?

I believe Lamar Odom holds the answer.

Now I really don’t like to rip Odom.

That’s why I write so often about Kobe Bryant.

But I think I can make a good argument the Lakers will rise or fall in Boston as Odom goes, and how scary is that given his up-and-down play?

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Bryant will do his thing, although it’s a mystery what thing he was doing Sunday night, scoring 15 points in the first quarter and then 10 the rest of the way.

Pau Gasol showed some toughness, the Celtics playing without their starting center, so how tough does that really make Gasol? On the road, if he plays physical, he’ll probably be hit by a few more fouls, and hard to believe he could do any more whining.

The bench has all but disappeared, contributing 17 points, 11 of those from Jordan Farmar, and can anyone really count on one of the reserves making the difference in Boston?

I’m not even going to mention Vladimir Radmanovic, because I think I’ll wait first to see if they assign him a seat on the team plane.

Odom is the wild card. When he goes aggressively to the basket and finishes -- and is there any player in the league who rims out more shots than Odom? -- the Lakers are almost unstoppable.

Odom had 11 rebounds in Game 5, scored 20 points on eight-for-10 shooting, and contributed four blocked shots. That’s NBA Finals big-time play.

But who knows what the Lakers will get from him in Game 6?

“Do you have a working title for your new book, and do you think by the time you are done with that book you will be able to explain Odom’s inconsistency?” I asked Coach Phil Jackson before the game.

“The answer to both questions is no,” Jackson said.

After the game, Jackson told the media, “One of our writers here was questioning his ability to rebound and come back after [Game 4], but Lamar is very resilient.”

While Jackson has to learn to listen to questions better, ask Odom about his lack of consistency, and the first time around he acts as if he can’t even hear the question.

Then he goes into denial, claiming you can’t rebound and play defense during a game unless you remain consistent in effort.

“And I’ve been doing that,” he said.

If he attacks the rim and continues to rebound, the Lakers will have a chance in Boston.

But that means Odom will have to be consistently productive in the next two games as he was in this one, which would make three solid performances in a row.

Do you really believe in miracles?

IT WAS the perfect night, “Scully & Wooden for the Kids,” the two sports icons funny, feisty and inspiring, and raising a bunch of money for children who are ill.

When it came time for the show to start at the Nokia Theatre, Scully helped Wooden to his seat and told him he had to sit by Page 2, prompting Wooden to say, “Oh nooo.”

Scully, the brilliant story teller, stepped aside when the crowd of 7,000 came to its feet to make sure the thundering applause was directed toward Wooden.

When Wooden said he still writes a letter to his wife, Nellie, on the 21st of every month to mark the monthly anniversary of her death more than 30 years ago, Scully quoted Abraham Lincoln: “A father gives his children the greatest gift by loving their mother.”

Added Scully: “I would think that sums up John Wooden.”

That prompted Wooden to quote Lincoln as well, “It’s better to keep quiet and let people think you’re a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

For some reason, when Wooden said that, he was looking at the moderator rather than Scully.

Scully, when asked about the tragedies in his life, said, " . . . When something bad happens, your first feeling is, ‘Why me? or why us? or why them?’ We never seem to do that when something good happens.

“So I decided to stop asking myself why, because there are questions where there are no answers in this world for finite beings. We don’t know what God’s plan is, but without asking why and holding on to it with both hands, I’m still here today with a lot to be thankful for too.”

The sight of Wooden sitting at center stage and waving to the crowd at the end of the night, no one leaving but staying to shower him and Scully with attention, was overwhelming.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration the money raised for local children’s hospitals, $800,000 at the very least with more donations coming in during the event and over the last two days.

There were hundreds of people who e-mailed to say it was a night to remember, such as David Martin, who wrote: “I have been around the entertainment business for 40 years. I have seen every major name there is. I have spent time with and had dinners with some of the biggest. But last night was probably one of the most memorable evenings I have ever spent.”

It was the perfect night, all right. Wooden, asked what he hopes to hear God say when he approaches the pearly gates, said with a smile, “Well done.”

TODAY’S LAST word comes in an e-mail from El-Kabong:

“Seeing you interview two of the icons of L.A. sports made me ill.”

Fortunately, I now know a lot of doctors who can help sick people like yourself.

--

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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