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NBA Finals notebook

Mourning: Kobe doing it all

Associated Press / June 11, 2009
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NBA All-Star? Most valuable player? One of the greatest ever?

How about Coach?

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has developed such a floor presence during the NBA playoffs that Alonzo Mourning can't figure out what exactly it is Lakers coach Phil Jackson is doing on the bench.

"To tell you the truth, Phil doesn't have to do anything but call timeouts," said Mourning, the former NBA star who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2006 championship and twice was named the league's defensive player of the year.

"Kobe is the facilitator. He is the one driving the mission of this particular team right now," he said. "The communication level he has with his teammates out there, you can just see it."

"I think Phil is just showing up, to tell you the truth, and Kobe is doing all the work to make this team successful."

Mourning said he's cheering for the Magic to bounce back from a 2-1 deficit tonight and win the title because of his long relationship with coach Stan Van Gundy and longtime friend Patrick Ewing. But he said he doesn't see them pulling it off unless they step up their defense and especially clamp down on Bryant.

"It sort of puzzles me with Stan because he was under the tutelage of Pat Riley, who is obviously a huge defensive advocate, that he would take a more aggressive approach, especially with the pick and roll," he said.

"When I see the way Orlando is playing that pick and roll, it is just ridiculous - slacking back on the screen and giving Kobe air space. You've got to get Kobe to turn his back on a hard trap, get the ball out of his hands and deny the ball back to him. By then, time is off the clock and somebody else has to make a decision. . . . I like Orlando's chances if they play it that way."

Failing grade on D
When the Lakers watched film yesterday morning of their Game 3 loss, something immediately jumped out at them.

"The final score," guard Derek Fisher said.

Something else, too. A series of defensive lapses, mostly minor, some larger, but all correctable.

"There were some little things defensively, which every time you watch film, even when you win, there's just always some things you see that you can do better," Fisher said. "So there were just small things . . . a rotation off here or there, defensively letting guys get back to the middle when we try to keep everything out of the middle."

The Lakers started to show some slippage on the defensive end in the second half of Game 2, then played some of the worst defense in NBA Finals history Tuesday night.

Orlando shot 75 percent in the first half and 63 percent for the game, both finals records. All-Stars Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis each scored 21 points and Hedo Turkoglu had 18, but Jackson seemed more concerned with the way the Lakers covered Rafer Alston (20) and Mickael Pietrus (18). "We have to defend those guys," Jackson said. "I thought that we were playing a little bit lax."

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