For a series that has been all about the storylines and personalities, the pivotal fifth game of these NBA Finals turned out to be one about numbers.
56.3 is the percentage Boston shot as a team for the game, making them the first team to shoot better than 50% from the floor in a game against the Lakers all postseason.
64.7 is the percentage Boston was shooting entering the fourth quarter.
14 is the number of Boston fast-break points, 11 more than Los Angeles managed.
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7 is the number of Celtics who shot better than 50% from the floor for the game.
46 is the number of points in the paint Boston had, which accounted for half of their total points.
And 18 is the number of banners that could be in the rafters of the TD Garden next season if the Celtics can win one of the next two games in Los Angeles.
It appears only one member of the Lakers who showed up Sunday night.
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Kobe Bryant’s singular brilliance made what should have been a 20-point blowout win for Boston a game the Celtics had to fight for down the stretch to secure a 92-86 win. It is safe to say that without his 19 point third-quarter explosion (which was a run for the ages) this game would have been a flat out humiliation for the Lakers.
No other Laker brought anything of value to this game. Ron Artest was embarrassed by Paul Pierce (27 points) while continuing to take awful shots on the other end and miss critical free throws. Lamar Odom again underwhelming with just eight points and eight rebounds. Andrew Bynum had only one rebound in 31 minutes.
Most frustrating though for Laker fans was the disappearance of Pau Gasol. That player we all praised for being “tougher” and “stronger” after Game 1 has gone into hiding. Gasol was totally worked over by Kevin Garnett, scored only 12 points, and was shamed completely when Tony Allen came from across the key to block what should be been an easy dunk near the end of the third quarter, a play that explains a lot about this series.
If this was truly a game about numbers, the ratio of 5:1 comes to mind, since the Celtics were a team of five players working together in Game 5 while the Lakers reverted to a one man squad, a form not seen from them since before Gasol arrived in Los Angeles.
This team wasn’t supposed to fold this way. In 2008, the Celtics were simply tougher, more driven, and more focused than Los Angeles. Those Lakers weren’t ready. A week ago this year’s squad looked like it was. So what happened?
Credit goes to Boston, whose defensive effort has been masterful since Game 2. They have made Bryant work for every single inch he has gotten this series, have gotten into the head of Ron Artest, overwhelmed Odom, and have mostly neutralized Gasol’s impact.
As a Los Angeles fan, I must admit that I could do without all the theatrics, the woofing, the barking, the chirping, and everything else that Nate Robinson, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett bring to the table, but credit them for backing it up – this Celtics team may be front-running hams, but so far they have earned that right.
Bryant will not be able to carry his team on his back to two straight wins. Not against these Celtics. He may be able to go off on Tuesday night and steal a win, but to avoid a Boston celebration on their home floor, the rest of the Lakers will need recognize the moment before them and step up.
After the game, Ron Artest reportedly said, “Everything we did, we did together.” If Artest means that as a collective critique of the fact that every single player not named Bryant was outplayed by his counterpart, fine. If he means it as some sort of justification that the loss can’t be pinned on any one player, great. But that is only because it can be put on multiple players, who have been so very below average.
Boston could have had this game by 20 plus points. That is a direct result of Garnett outplaying Gasol, and Pierce owning Artest. The fact that it was only five with 40 seconds to play is misleading. The Celtics won Game 5 because they executed better, they played together, and they all showed up. The same obviously cannot be said for the Lakers.
If Los Angeles hopes to turn this around, they will have to seize with the inconsistency effort, the apathetic attitude, and the lack of execution.
It’s not over yet. But the numbers suggest it might as well be. Here is hoping we at least get treated to a seventh game – as basketball fan, we deserve that.