Play Phil Jackson for me. Kobe seems like he’s the only one that can score and the Lakers can’t seem to stop the Celtics. What’s your plan for Game 6?
William T. San Diego
William: The plan for Game 6 shouldn’t be a mystery after watching what happened in Boston in Game 5. The Lakers have to find better balance at the offensive end. If you look back at the first 10 minutes of the game, Kobe was trying to get his teammates involved, but they were tentative and indecisive when they got their opportunities. The Lakers can’t win this series without Pau Gasol becoming more involved, so the touches have to go to the Lakers� big man early and often. It’s then up to him to be more assertive when he has the chances. The Lakers also have to control the glass. That�s easier said than done, although we’ve seen them win the battle of the boards in their two wins. They did a better job in the second half of Game 5, but couldn’t get Celtic misses down the stretch, after the had done a solid job at the defensive end. Priorities have to be balanced scoring, Gasol putting up numbers like we’ve seen before and deny easy opportunities in the paint. The Lakers were down by only two when it came to points in the paint in the first half. Then, they ended up losing it down low, 46-32, giving up way too many easy looks inside. The Lakers have to score, though, and be consistent offensively, something we didn’t see in the last two games. �
The Celtics seem more motivated and seem to have more desire than the Lakers. Does it look that way to you?
Justin K., Santa Barbara
Justin: I don’t think the Celtics are any more motivated than the Lakers, but it can come across that way when you’re succeeding on your home floor, where the emotions are naturally going to be running very high. The biggest difference in the games in Boston, and even the second game at Staples, was the play of the Celtics� bench. They definitely energize their teammates and were the reason behind Boston’s wins in Games 2 and 4. The Lakers have as much passion and desire as the Celtics, even if it doesn’t come across that way all the time. The Lakers play a system where you need to be under control, with proper floor balance and spacing. But now, with the Lakers in a desperate situation, they can’t be outworked, outrebounded or beaten to the loose balls like we’ve seen over the last two games. It seemed like every time the Lakers needed a stop late in Game 5, they got the stop and couldn’t secure the rebound. They can’t afford that anymore or there won’t be a Game 7.
A lot of people were talking about how bad the Lakers’ offense was after Game 5, but I think their defense was worse. The Celtics’ starters shot 60% from the floor and they looked like the could do anything they wanted against the Lakers’ defense. How do the Lakers stop them?
Calvin J., Pasadena
Calvin: The Lakers� defense did a solid job for the most part over the first two games in Boston, but had too many breakdowns in Game 5. The Celtics ended up shooting 56% from the floor, with exactly half of their 92 points coming in the paint. When you get looks that close to the basket, you’d better hit for a high percentage. Their was one play when Nate Robinson started his drive close to 30 feet from the basket and ended up with an uncontested lay up. That’s frustrating from a team that knows how to protect the rim. The Lakers aren’t going to completely stop veterans like the Celtics have and they was also overdue for a better shooting game from Paul Pierce. What the Lakers have to do is make it more difficult for Garnett and Pierce to get into their comfort spots. It seemed like every time Garnett caught the ball, he was already 8 to 10 feet from the basket. Whether it’s Bynum, Gasol or Odom, they have to a better job before the ball ever comes in on the entry. Same for Artest when it comes to matching up with pierce. Be aggressive defensively and you’ll be rewarded the same way you would at the other end of the floor.
Artest looks lost out there. Should Phil bench him for Sasha?
Marvin Morris, Los Angeles
Marvin: There is no way you can bench Ron, especially with the way he has played most of the time at the defensive end of the floor. It took until Game 5 for Paul Pierce to find a rhythm offensively, and then he missed his last five shots with Artest on him. Ron continues to have his struggles at the offensive end of the floor. Early in Game 5, he was settling for long-range jumpers. Then, then when he got inside on some drives later in the first half, he looked tentative going to the rim. Unfortunately, there is still some confusion for him when it comes to his comfort zone in the triangle. He isn’t the first that has had problems adjusting, but now it seems like the ball stops too often when it gets into his hands, breaking the flow that they’re looking for on offense. Artest is still way too valuable as a defender to consider taking him out of the starting lineup. Offensively, at this point of the season, it might help if he would defer to some of the guys that have more experience in the triangle. The Lakers need big games from Ron over the next two defensively, and anything he gives them on offense will be a bonus.
I think you predicted Lakers in 6. What’s your prediction now? Do you think the Lakers can win 2 straight?
Thomas C., Placentia �
Thomas: You’re absolutely right. I did think the Lakers would win it in 6, but I also thought that Andrew Bynum would be much more of a factor than he has been over the last two games. The biggest breakdowns for the Lakers in Boston came at the defensive end around the rim. Don’t get me wrong, the offensive effort was far from perfect, especially in Game 5. Points in the paint came way too easily for the Celtics over the last two, where Andrew can make a big difference. Drew played only 12 minutes in Game 4. Then, as Phil said, he was trying find some rhythm and consistency in his minutes in Game 5. There is no doubt in my mind, that the Lakers can win the next two at home if they do a better job defensively on the inside. The last two games, Boston outscored the Lakers by 34 points in the paint. That can’t happen when you have a front line as the large as the Lakers. They also have to get their act together at the offensive end, after shooting just below 40 percent in the last one in Boston. And, only 12 assists for the Lakers on 31 makes in the loss, for a team that was in the top five all season in assists. Give the Celtics credit for the way they’re playing defensively, but the Lakers aren’t doing themselves any favors with the way they’re running their half court sets. The Lakers worked all season for home court advantage, now they need to capitalize on it in the defining games of their season.