Game 5 was like an old nightmare for Lakers fans. It was like watching the old post-Shaq Lakers teams where Kobe had to put up ridiculous numbers to even have a chance to win the game. When he’d heat up, opposing teams would double Kobe and make life a living hell. The remaining four players would sit around, not move, and watch Kobe. It resulted in horrible basketball and a whole lot of losses. That was the same thing that happened tonight, except these Lakers are supposed to be talented. They’re supposed to be champions. Tonight, they were a joke of a basketball team.
Kobe was flat out unstoppable tonight in the second half, particularly the third quarter. Boston came out on fire and the game was quickly spiraling out of control for the Lakers. The Celtics had built up leads of 11 and 13 at different points. But Kobe kept hitting shot after shot and the Lakers finished the 3rd quarter down a manageable 8 points. It took a 19 point quarter just to keep the Lakers in the game. That’s how horrible the Lakers were tonight.
Pau Gasol had earned the reputation of being a soft player after the way the Boston bigs owned him in the 2008 NBA Finals. After Game 1, the media and others came to the consensus that Gasol had changed. After tonight, its clear that Gasol hasn’t changed. He is probably the most skilled big man in the world, but he just doesn’t have “it”. While Gasol was the only other Laker in double digits tonight, he still only put up 12 points. A side kick doesn’t have to dominate a game, but he does have to be an influential force and Gasol was anything but that tonight.
The Lakers don’t need offense from Ron Artest. That was not why he was brought in. He was brought in to be a tough, physical, perimeter defender so that Kobe could concentrate on running the offense for most of the game. However, he was an utter failure when it came to that tonight. Paul Pierce dominated the game and consequently the Boston offense ran like a well oiled machine. Despite only having 92 points, the Celtics couldn’t have played better offensively and it all began with Pierce. Not only was Artest horrible on defense, but offensively he was atrocious as well. Artest shot 2-9 from the field, including 1-4 from the free throw line. As badly as things went for the Lakers, had Artest made those 3 free throws he missed (all in crunch time) the Lakers would’ve been in a one possession game with just under 9 seconds to go. On top of that, he allowed Rajon Rondo get away from him on an inbound play which allowed Ray Allen to shoot free throws instead. Allen hit both, where as Rondo would have likely missed at least one. These are the small things that got away from the Lakers tonight. Unfortunately, many of the small mistakes came from one man, Ron Artest.
Derek Fisher was amazing in Game 3, where he took over in the fourth quarter to win the game damn near all by himself. Sadly, Derek Fisher is the only person in the entire world who hasn’t realized that was a fluke. Too many times tonight he tried to create his own shot and wasted away a possession. Derek Fisher has never been able to create his own shot. His role on the Lakers has always to take open shots created by others. He shot 2-9, but even worse killed many possessions that otherwise may have been successful. If Fisher doesn’t get back to his old role, the Lakers offense will continue to struggle.
Somehow, despite how awful the Lakers were and how great the Celtics offense was, the Lakers still had an outside opportunity to win this game on the road. It makes absolutely no sense as Boston was in control the entire second half. The Lakers will not have the opportunity to steal away another win if they continue to play this way. Gasol must step up and relieve the double and triple teams that Kobe saw in the second half. Artest must play better defense on Pierce so that Boston’s offense can be limited. Derek Fisher must get back the guy who only shoots the open shot. The Lakers still can win this series if they play Lakers basketball. The problem is, nobody has seen them do it this series yet.