The Lakers battled the Celtics throughout a Game 5 in Boston that defined the fight-for-every-inch cliche, but couldn’t make enough shots, or get enough stops, to prevent a 92-86 loss that sent the Purple and Gold back to Los Angeles down 3-2 in the NBA Finals.
L.A. managed to stay within six points at the half despite being out shot by 33 percent (66 to 33), but things began to get away in the third even as Kobe Bryant went on a phenomenal individual run to score his team’s first 19 points.
In full Mamba mode*, Bryant buried his first seven attempts – including three triples – after getting his “tweaked” ankle re-taped at halftime, but Boston made nine of its first 11 shots at the other end to go ahead by as many as 13 points.
*”Kobe is the one guy that you can’t stop in this league,” described Paul Pierce.
“They broke the game open in the third quarter, and it was a struggle for us to get ourselves back into that ballgame,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “I know they were shooting a high percentage, but it gets that way when you shoot lay-ups in this game.”
With Bryant finally getting some help from his friends, L.A. had a chance to get within just three points with 43 seconds left after Derek Fisher improbably won a jump ball over Kevin Garnett, but Ron Artest missed both free throws at the other end, the score stuck at 87-82. The Lakers missed nine free throws on the night, four in the final quarter, all of which were critical, and failed to clear three defensive rebounds in the fourth off missed C’s three-pointers.
“We were knocking at the door a couple of times, but just couldn’t get through,” said Bryant.
Last season’s Finals MVP finished with 38 points, an individual high in the Finals, but his teammates managed just 48. Pau Gasol played a sub-par offensive game by his standards to finish with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while Artest and Derek Fisher each struggling to convert only 4-of-18 shots. Down low, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom took six shots apiece to score 14 collective points.
“Aside from Kobe, we pretty much contained everyone else,” said Kevin Garnett.
Boston, meanwhile, was far more efficient in getting 12-of-21 makes from Paul Pierce (27 points), 6-of-11 from Garnett (18) and 9-of-12 from Rajon Rondo (18) as the C’s shot 65 percent through three quarters before cooling considerably in the fourth to finish at 56 percent.
“I told the players before the game (that Boston) is going to shoot well in one of these games,” said Jackson. “You just have to hang with them.”
The Lakers did for a while at least, thanks to an effort that produced 16 offensive rebounds (including seven from Gasol) to Boston’s seven resulting in 22 second-chance points, but L.A. struggled to run its offense effectively for a second straight game.
“You look at the assists, we had 12,” said Jackson. “They had 21. That’s a big differential in a game like this. It’s a struggle.”
With all that said, the Lakers are glad they’re heading home. Jackson was the first to display optimism after the contest.
“If you look at it, they’ve come home and carried the 3-2 lead back,” he explained. “Now we’re going back to home court to win it. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?
“We got the one we needed … we’re upbeat about going into (Game 6).”
Bryant, later, was asked if he and the team had the confidence to win two straight games at home.
His voice thick with sarcasm, a smirk on his face, he replied, “I’m not confident at all.”
In other words: “Yes.”
Until L.A. has a chance to prove it, your numbers:
1 Slim rebounding advantage for Boston (35-34), despite L.A.’s 16 offensive window cleans due to a major discrepancy in shooting percentage (see below). The boards stat has decided the winner of each of five games
14 Fast break points for Boston, to just three for the Lakers.
16 Boston’s percentage points advantage in field goal percentage (56.3 to 39.7 percent).
38 Points for Kobe Bryant on 13-of-27 field goals, including a 7-for-7 start to the third quarter. He added 8-of-9 free throws, five boards and five assists.
86 L.A.’s point total, a low for the 2010 postseason.