By Khalid Salaam
Waiting an extra day for Game 5 was a partially annoying detail. At one point on Saturday evening I started to complain until I realized that it could be worse, I mean, we could be in Milwaukee instead of Los Angeles. So i shut myself up.
Pre-game predictions from yours truly saw a 40-point game in Kobe’s future as the most probable way that the Lakers could get out of the Staples Center with a win.
Game-time and people are slowing but consistently pouring into the arena. There’s an optimism in here but you can feel the anxiety. Nobody wants to see a team celebrate a championship on their homecourt. Ashanti’s rendition of the national anthem was decent actually. Thought she was done but I see she’s on the comeback trail. More power to her. During the Lakers introduction they flash on the big screen “not in our house” which is obviously the right approach to take. We’ll see if that manifests itself on the court. Dick Bavetta’s is one of the refs working the game and considering the controversies his name has been involved in this week I expected to hear some boo’s when his name was announced over the loud speaker. LA fans punked out on that one.
The crowd energy is high in the Stapler but its not nearly as high as it should be, especially for an elimination game. It should be near deafening in here but I can talk easily without yelling. Just as I type that I like that the refs are letting them play early, the fouls start coming. Not that I want a crazy foul game but I don’t mind if the game is played a little rugged as long as its equal opportunity. Its the Finals after all, this is for thee crown and the last thing anyone wants to see is the officials ruin the game with bs calls. I notice that there’s a crowd nearby getting into a personal yelling match between Celtic and Laker fans, nothing flagrant just a cliché “Boston sucks” chant and Celtic fans screaming something back. This goes on for about 20 seconds until Kobe hits the shot that put the Lakers up 18-5 at the 6:36 mark of the 1st qt.
Like I expected Kobe loosened up the shirt and tie for this one and threw on the Superman suit. I predicted he’s go for 40 but he already has 15 at this point and he’s doing this while also getting other players involved. Just saw a dude on the big screen that looked like Khujo from the Goodie Mob celebrating and dancing. Laker fans are amped on the 16-point lead they’re holding but it’s early as hell to get this cocky. Missing 2 players from the rotation forces Doc to play Tony Allen and Sam Cassell more than usual. While certainly rusty, Allen is at least in context a better defender than Sam Cassell. He actually plays effective while in there and surprises everyone in the arena I think with his quickness and handle. Dude has talent but the injuries have lessened his game. Maybe he’s back now.
Good to see Paul “Y’all Musta Forgot” Pierce in beast mode and he looks like the only Celtic who doesn’t want the series to go back to Boston. Before we know it the score is 43-39 after the C’s go on a 17-4 run and it’s looking like déjà vu all over again of you’re a Lakers fan. As proof of their nervousness the group of fans talking smack earlier have escalated to a legit war of words. The small group of Celtic fans are already drunk so this potentially will make my viewing experience better.
Can’t believe Kobe only has 3 points since the 1st quarter and that 4th foul is a buzzkill. Laker fans are glued to their seat right now. Even with the and 1 from D Fish the energy isn’t all the way back. It takes the 3 from Vlad to give LA some breathing room allowing the crowd to really gets amped.
The 3rd quarter is a weird mix of inspired play and bad calls and I’m not sure either teams wants to win (7 field goals and 6 turnovers Celtics? Really?) It annoyed me to be honest. Maybe it’s just me, maybe my expectations are to high. I expect a lot from the Finals so when things are mismanaged I get extra pissed. All season long we dissect teams and players, for the whole year really but especially the 8 months out of the year when the NBA is going on. By the time the Finals get here I’ve seen countless games and I expect the ball played to be dynamic, to be mind-blowing and top notch. I don’t expect to see a game in which Chris Mihm plays and a game in which Doc Rivers 3rd quarter rotation confounds my comprehension. I haven’t been nearly as negative as the masses have been of Doc, I think he’s done a good job. He has the C’s a game a way from winning the title so he can’t be doing that bad. But this game was one in which I see why people are sometimes angry with his choices. What happened to Powe? He started after all, might as well bring him back. Especially with KG in such crappy foul trouble. I was mixed about bringing in Cassell until he threw Sasha on the ground. I loved that. Play hard or go home for real. Anyone complaining about that never played real ball. Sasha was heavy on the theatrics and the refs thankfully ignored his foolishness. If the Lakers want this game they have to take it and not just act like its gonna be easy.
The Jumbotron flashes “not in out house” again and the crowd responds but lets see if the Lakers have another run in them. Everyone in the press room exhales at the 3:31 mark of the 4th. We all look around and comment on the shoulder shrug attitude of the fans here at Staples. It’s a 1-point game, with your team in an elimination game and I would say 50 percent of the people in here are sitting down. On TV you can’t tell but trust me, its pretty weak.
For some reason this really bothers me.
Can’t believe Gasol was complaining about that flop but in true ball don’t lie theology KG missed both of those free throws. This is one of those “Kevin GarNot” games that he’s had occasionally throughout the playoffs. He’s playing bad and its hurting them. Still the Celtics were in position to win until Kobe fouled/stripped Pierce which led to a 4 point lead with 37.4 seconds left. That was game, (though Eddie House almost turned into Reggie Miller before the Fisher free throws sealed it) so now we get ready for Game 6? I expect the Celtics to win and it may be a blowout. Although the fact that KB24 hasn’t went nuts yet would concern me if I was A: a media member who wants to go home and not stay in Boston for a Game 7 and B: a Celtic fan.
I agree with all discussions about his talent level and it’s within Kobe to go into berserker mode at any point. His 1st qt output in this game showed that. Yeah, the Celtics adjusted but its still a risk. You can’t keep him down forever. He might have a 40 or 50-point game on Tuesday but the Lakers might still lose. I don’t believe at all that both Odom and Gasol will have good games. Not on the road, those guys just aren’t mean enough. One of them will vanish by the 2nd quarter and LA can’t win without dual contributions from their forwards. Celtics get them in 6. Yep.