Here is the silver lining from Sunday night Lakers fans: For two seasons this Lakers team has not played its best ball until its backs were against the wall. Every time they put themselves in that position, they respond.
They will have to respond on Tuesday and Thursday night with wins, or there will be no parade down Figueroa.
The Celtics seemed to score every trip down the court Sunday night. Boston shot 65 percent in the first half. They came out in the third quarter and scored on 12 of their first 13 possessions. The Celtics were hot, but the Lakers defense let them get that way.
“They were shooting a high percentage but it gets that way when you are shooting layups,” Jackson said.
Los Angeles let Boston get the shots it wanted from the places on the floor it wanted. The Lakers did things like lose Ray Allen so he is wide open under the basket to catch the pass and lay it in. Boston started making shots then things snowballed and pretty soon the Celtics could not seem to miss.
The hottest Celtic was Paul Pierce, who had 27 points shooting 57 percent from the floor. But the Celtics got him free by bringing him off pick-and-rolls, which the Lakers switch, then he is able to drive by the other guy and get to the elbow jumper he likes. He hit a couple of those, then he got confident, everything fell for him.
It was like that all night for the Lakers — they gave up easy buckets that gave Boston energy. Los Angeles also was not doing a consistent job getting back in transition — Boston had 14 points to the Lakers 3. Los Angeles needs transition points themselves — it is hard to score against the Boston half-court offense, the Lakers need some easy buckets. But you can’t run when you are taking the ball out of the basket.
There was more to it than that — those easy baskets translated into energy for the Celtics, who then made all the hustle plays down the stretch.
“Again tonight they got all the hustle points, in terms of loose balls and offensive rebounds down the stretch,” Kobe Bryant said. “And we didn’t convert.”
The most painful of those non-conversions was when down 5 late in the game the Lakers got a steal and Ron Artest had a breakaway layup, in which Pierce wisely fouled him. A chance to cut the Celtic lead to 3, down to one basket. And Artest missed both. Boston scored at the other end and suddenly the lead was seven again.
If the Lakers want to play a Game 7, they will need to get the defensive stops in Game 6 they did not in Game 5. They will need to contest shots, push the Celtics off the spots on the floor they like, generally make then uncomfortable.
There are other things, too, but if it doesn’t start with better defense not much else matters. The Lakers season will end on a sour note.