Five games deep in the 2010 NBA Finals and we, as fans, have seen it all, haven't we?
We've seen Ray Allen score 27 points in the first half of game two and set the record for most three pointers made in an NBA Finals game with 8 only to be held to two points in game three on 0-13 shooting. We've seen Kobe Bryant, the best closer in basketball, get shut down in the fourth quarters of games three and four. We've seen Kobe Bryant score 19 points in the first eight minutes of the third quarter in game 5, and yet the Celtics still outscored the Lakers in that same third quarter.
Then again, have we really seen it all?
With a maximum of two games left in the 2010 NBA Finals, both of which are slated to be played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, anything can happen in these remaining games.
What I'm waiting to see in game six on Tuesday night is for the Lakers to play like the Lakers we are accustomed to seeing.
Yes, Kobe Bryant is the focal point of this Lakers team, but he does not need to be the only point of the offense. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher all need to contribute more on the offensive end. The five of them combined for only 42 points in game 5. Bryant had 38 alone. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for 45 alone. Do you catch my drift? The Celtics are getting more production out of two players than the Lakers can get out of five. It's no wonder the Lakers are trailing in this series, the only Lakers player who consistently shows up is Kobe Bryant.
Down 3-2 in the 2010 NBA Finals, the Lakers can't afford to have any more poor production from Gasol, Odom, Bynum, Artest, or Fisher. One more bad game for the Lakers, and the 2010 season ends in disappointment for Lakers fans across the globe.
Los Angeles Lakers fans have become accustomed to using the old cop out "Don't worry, Kobe won't let us lose this game." I'm sure plenty of fans have that mentality going into game six, and even more will have that mentality if the Lakers force a game seven in Los Angeles.
However, who wins and who loses isn't all up to Kobe like most Lakers fans like believing. Despite being the greatest player on the planet, and one of the greatest players to ever step on the hardwood, Kobe Bryant can't do this on his own. At the end of the day, when it's all said and done, basketball is a team game, and Kobe can't make up for his teammates lack of production on the court. Kobe scored 38 points in game 5 on a very efficient 13-27 shooting performance, including a third quarter where Bryant scored 19 points alone.
While the Lakers 86 points in game 5 was the lowest amount they have scored this entire postseason, perhaps the biggest problem for the Lakers though, lies on the defensive end of the floor. While Boston only scored 92 points in their game 5 victory over Los Angeles, they scored those 92 points on 40-71 shooting from the field. That's over 56%. If you let an opposing team shoot 46% from the field, that's too high. Yet if you let a team shoot 56% from the field, you might want to give Bruce Bowen a call and ask him how to play defense, because you clearly have no clue.
In game 5, the Celtics had way too many easy looks inside. Simple lobs and catches led to easy lay-ups and easy points in the paint. Too much separation between Paul Pierce and Ron Artest allowed Pierce to score 27 points and play like the superstar he is. It just proves true the old adage "Defense wins championships." Without defense, the Los Angeles Lakers can certainly not win this finals match-up.
Yet when all else fails, Los Angeles Lakers fans have become accustomed to using the old cop out "Don't worry, Kobe won't let us lose this game." However, who wins and who loses isn't all up to Kobe like most Lakers fans like believing. Kobe can put up 50+ and the Lakers can score 100+ points in game 6, but none of it will matter if the Lakers let the Celtics shoot anywhere near that high of a percentage again. As every knowledgeable NBA fan knows, it's all about defense in the playoffs, especially the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant can only cover one man at a time. Without contributions and extra efforts from his teammates, the Celtics will be popping champagne in the Staples Center sometime this week.
It's do or die time for the Lakers. Most Lakers fans are assuming that just because the Lakers are returning home to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, that everything will be alright. But Lakers fans, do you remember game two? Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett only combined for 16 points total in game two, and the Celtics still beat the Lakers on the road. So don't get too comfortable before you automatically assume homecourt advantage will solve all of the Lakers problems, because if you do, you can get ready to here Kevin Garnett yelling "Anything is possible!" at midcourt of the Staples Center.