The Los Angeles Lakers raced out to 17-point 1st quarter lead and withstood another Celtics comeback for a 103-98 victory last night.
Kobe Bryant led the way for the Lakers. Bryant scored 25 points on 4-of-9 from the 3-point line. All four of Kobe’s triples came in the opening period.
For the first time in this series, the Lakers got a balanced effort from their starting lineup.
Derek Fisher struggled from the field (3-of-10, 1-of-5 from the 3-point line) but remained aggressive and went to the line 11 times (8-of-11). Fisher scored 15 points in 35 minutes of action.
Pau Gasol had his best game of the Finals. Gasol scored 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and had 6 assists.
But the difference between Game’s 4 and 5 was Lamar Odom. Odom scored 20 points on 8-of-10 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds. Lamar was solid statistically in Game 4 but disappeared down the stretch. Odom scored 5 points in the 4th quarter of Game 5, including a huge 3-pointer with 11:04 remaining that extended Los Angeles’ lead from 9 to 12.
Paul Pierce led the way for Boston with 38 points on 10-of-22 from the field and 16-of-19 from the free throw line.
Thanks to a less than stellar defensive effort from Luke Walton (5 fouls in 10 minutes of playing time), the Celtics were in the bonus for much of the second half. Boston shot 15 free throws in the 4th quarter (12-of-15).
Coach Phil Jackson made several questionable rotation decisions in Game 5.
Chris Mihm, who hadn’t received a minute of playing time in the playoffs, entered the game to start the 2nd quarter and the Celtics cut what was a 19-point lead to 11 by the time Bryant checked in for Mihm at the 9:18 mark of the second period. Mihm committed 2 fouls, turned the ball over once, and missed a 13-foot jumpshot in 2:46 seconds of inaction.
Trevor Ariza, who scored 6 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and had a blocked shot in 8 minutes of Game 4 played only 2 minutes in Game 5.
Paul Pierce has absolutely TORCHED Vladimir Radmonovic and Luke Walton in this series. Playing Radmonovic is understandable since Vladi is capable of stretching the defense with his outside shooting.
But Walton has given LA absolutely nothing in the NBA Finals. Luke hasn’t been able to defend anyone and he’s shooting just 25% from the field.
I don’t understand why the Zenmaster refused to go back to Ariza after a very productive Game 4.
Bench production is LA’s #1 concern heading back to Boston. The Lakers reserves were outscored 28-17 in Game 5 but LA’s starting unit started made up for the deficit.
In Los Angeles’ Game 3 win, Sasha Vujacic stepped up with 20 points on 7-of-10 from the field. In the Lakers game 5 victory, Jordan Farmar scored 11 points on 5-of-9 from the field.
For the Lakers to win Game 6 and give them a chance to extend the series to the anything-can-happen Game 7, someone on LA’s bench will need to step up in Beantown.
Center Kendrick Perkins is doubtful for Game 6 so it’s imperative that Los Angeles establish their ‘paint game’ in Boston.
That means going back to what has worked the entire series.
Boston has done a fantastic job of disrupting the triangle. But the Lakers have had success running the high pick-and-roll with Bryant and Gasol. They’ve been at their most dangerous when Kobe hits Odom on the elbow after turning the corner on the hedging defender.
From Charley Rosen of Foxsports:
“Early in the series, the Lakers had periodic success with either Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom rolling to the rim after setting the high screen — but the Celtics made suitable adjustments. In Game 4, however, the Lakers added a new wrinkle: The screener still cut to the basket, but instead of the pass to him coming from the ballhandler, an intermediary was added. If Gasol, say, was the screener/roller, then Odom would move up from the strongside baseline to the elbow-extended, catch the first pass, and then hit the cutting Gasol.”
The Lakers went to this play several times in Game 5 and were successful on each attempt.
It needs to become the staple of their offense from here on out.
The Lakers scored over 100 points for the first time in Game 5.
The pressure is on the Celtics now.
Boston doesn’t want to see Fisher, Bryant, and Phil Jackson in a Game 7 for all the marbles.