With Farmar at the helm for the entire 4th Quarter, L.A. avoids another Titanic shipwreck and drydocks Boston’s parade floats
Pierce and Posey’s Posse Party was pre-emptively put on hold for at least a couple of days, as the Lakers overcame another huge collapse to take Game 5 103-98, and send the series back to Boston. And just like Game 4, what looked like smooth sailing turned into very choppy waters.
The Lakers came out on fire, opening up another early 19-point lead, behind 15 1st Quarter Points from Kobe Bryant, which included 4 3-Pointers. But in the 2nd Quarter, the Lakers lost their fire, and allowed Boston a 15-0 spurt to make it a close game.
With Kobe practically shut out during the 2nd and 3rd periods, it was up to Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to keep the Lakers afloat, and they did. Odom scored 20, and grabbed 11 Rebounds, while Gasol added 19 and 13.
But with Sasha Vujacic having a rough night, Phil Jackson decided to try something new: Let Jordan run the offense (Phil relying on Jordan — sound familiar?), and put Derek Fisher in at Shooting Guard. Jackson said that he liked the way Farmar was penetrating to the hoop to break down the Celtic Defense, and also, Phil pointed to Farmar’s stellar Defensive pressure as a factor for leaving him in.
And Phil’s full faith in focused Farmar factually foiled the foes. Farmar scored 11 points on the night, and got a Rebound, an Assist, a Steal, and a Block. More important than all of those stats: Jordan ran the Offense for 22 minutes, WITHOUT A TURNOVER. And one of Farmar’s best sequences involved a 2nd Quarter air ball. After trying to beat the shot clock with a 25-footer that drew nothing but air, he got another chance on the very next possession, on a pass from Kobe. Farmar didn’t hesitate, and nailed it (validating Kobe’s surprising trust).
In the 4th Quarter, the Lakers built up a 14-point lead, but the Celtics clawed back. With Kobe still struggling Offensively, Farmar made a couple of nice drives, and the Laker big men kept outplaying the Boston front line. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Boston’s starting Center Kendrick Perkins missed the game with an injury. In fact, Perkins is expected to miss Game 6 as well, giving the Lakers a glimmer of hope. But don’t feel sorry for the Celts: If Andrew Bynum were back like expected, the Lakers might have swept them.
Thanks to a Kobe-like performance by Paul Pierce, who played stifling D and scored 38 to Kobe’s 25, the Celtics tied it at 90, and were down only 2 points in the final minute with the ball. But Kobe made up for his weak Offense with a season-saving Defensive play. He took a swipe, nearly a reach-in foul, and knocked the ball away from Pierce (for his 5th Steal of the game). The Lakers got it, and Odom quickly got it back to Kobe for the breakaway dunk. That play did NOT seal it (despite what all the local TV News guys say in their voice-overs), because Boston still had time. But they missed the 3-pointer that would have ensured them of getting the ball back in a 1-possession game. Then a couple of free throws later, when Boston DID finally hit a 3, it was too late.
Kobe, despite not being a factor for about an hour and a half, was named the Player of the Game, mainly for the big Steal. A better choice might have been… no, not Jordan Farmar, but Phil Jackson, for having the guts and foresight to break with his traditional rotation, move Fish to the 2, and let Farmar guide the Lakers to victory. You gotta give PJ some credit for trying to shake things up — He even played Chris Mihm for a few minutes. Unfortunately, Trevor Ariza, who had a great Game 4, was the odd man out. Ariza played for only a minute or two, and got pulled, as the Lakers were struggling at the time. Hopefully, Ariza will get his minutes back in Game 6, and Mihm will go back to cheerleading.
So it’s on to Boston, for Tuesday night’s Game 6. If the Lakers manage to once again beat the Perkins-less Celts, then the deciding Game 7 would be Thursday night. Kobe says that it’s like his version of the Big Dance, and last night, they went from the Elite Eight to the Final Four, meaning that they have to win only TWO more backs-to-the-wall games to win the Championship. Maybe that’s why Farmar is playing so comfortably — He has already excelled in a Final Four, even though he couldn’t carry his team past a superior Florida team. He might have the same exact problem this year, especially IN Boston. At least this time, he’ll be back for the following year’s rematch… and he’ll have Bynum added to his arsenal.
Speaking of a potent arsenal, here are three pics from 2005 that just screamed out to me to be re-posted.