Bryant’s plans get fouled up
LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant took his seat on the stage and propped up his head with his left hand. The questions came his way after the Lakers lost Game 2 of the NBA Finals to the Celtics, 103-94, but he responded with little more than one-sentence answers in a monotone.
How do you stop Ray Allen? “You try to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible,’’ Bryant said. How do you play with five fouls? “You’ve just got to be careful. I don’t expect to be picking up five fouls the next game.’’
Bryant picked up his fifth foul with 11:15 left in the fourth quarter and the Lakers trailing, 74-72, which forced LA to make adjustments. Aside from a nearly two-minute stint during which Ron Artest subbed for him, Bryant played most of the fourth quarter and managed to avoid picking up his sixth foul. He returned with the Lakers holding an 85-84 lead with 6:16 left.
With Bryant playing with five fouls at a critical moment of the game, Pau Gasol said it put the Lakers in a situation of danger.
“It affects the team in different ways,’’ he said. “[Bryant] played through it and was still aggressive but obviously he was limited.’’
Despite being caught up in a couple of physical plays, Bryant managed to avoid getting called for No. 6. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he wasn’t going to instruct his players to go after Bryant for that last foul.
“I believe when teams try to get that sixth foul, they lose the rhythm, the ball stops moving, and you usually don’t score or get the foul,’’ Rivers said. “We would have loved to have got him his sixth foul, but we were not going to do it out of the rhythm of our offense. We would have loved to have fouled him or attacked him, but we were fine with that.’’
Bryant had 21 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals in 34 minutes. He had a sluggish start and it wasn’t until the end of the second quarter that he found a rhythm. He sparked the Lakers at the end of the first half when he charged at a tipped ball behind the arc and sank a 3-pointer as time ran off the clock to make it 54-48.
The Lakers eventually took the lead with 10:02 to go in the third quarter, 57-56, but the Lakers were unable to build a significant lead and their fourth-quarter meltdown led to the series being tied.
“Well, we’ve just got [to go] into Boston and win,’’ Bryant said.
He collected three fouls in the first period in just 2:38 of action. He ended with five fouls for the second consecutive game and mustered 3 points and five rebounds in 14:38.
In Game 1, Odom played 21:17 and had 5 points and four rebounds.
The numbers are disappointing for Odom, considering he averaged a double-double heading into the Finals. Odom has been ineffective in the first two games and without him, coach Phil Jackson said, “It just changes where we put people on the floor.’’
When Odom picked up his third foul, Jackson took the blame. After Odom was whistled for his second foul, Jackson said he was in discussions with the other coaches to see if Odom should stay in the game but amid the conversation, Odom got his third foul.
“Obviously, he couldn’t play through that sequence. He just basically got in the ballgame and got those three fouls and it really took him out of the ballgame,’’ Jackson said. “That’s a bit unfortunate for him. He’ll get a chance later on in this series to redeem himself.’’
Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett played poorly for the second straight game, collecting five fouls and just 6 points in 24 minutes.
Gasol said he didn’t know if the controversy surrounding his comments evaluating Garnett’s skills motivated the Celtics, but he expected last night to be explosive for both teams.
“I think both teams were motivated for this game,’’ Gasol said. “We’re in the NBA Finals. They just played better than we did.’’
Winter is credited with introducing the triangle offense to the NBA, something associated with Jackson’s Lakers. Winter was an assistant with Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles and was part of the 10 NBA titles.
“It was nice to see him get this award because he’s dedicated a lot of his life to basketball,’’ Jackson said.
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.