Time should be watched
The Lakers’ greatest challenge the rest of this series may be how to spread the minutes around.
For the first time in the Finals, the Lakers had three starters play at least 40 minutes, and forward Lamar Odom logged 39 off the bench in Game 4 with Andrew Bynum limited by his ailing right knee. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are averaging 40 minutes per game this series and the burden will only increase if Bynum’s knee does not improve.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he believed Bryant was growing tired toward the end of Thursday night’s game; Bryant disagreed. The Celtics’ bench provided an additional level of energy that the Lakers’ starters were unable to match in the second half of Game 4. Outside of Odom, none of the Lakers’ key reserves — Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, and Jordan Farmar — played more than 12 minutes. Luke Walton didn’t play after putting in 13 minutes in Game 3.
“It was obvious their bench had a little more energy than ours did,’’ said Jackson.
If Bynum can’t go, Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga may play for the first time in the Finals. Powell is a 6-foot-9-inch, 240-pound forward who has played just 32 minutes in 11 games this postseason. Mbenga is a 7-foot, 255-pound center who was a modest contributor in the regular season but a nonfactor in the playoffs with just two cameos. Mbenga could see action “if his head is into it,’’ Jackson said.
“Sometimes a guy hasn’t played in a while and you’ll look in there and it may be kind of vacant in there, a wake-up type of thing,’’ Jackson said. “But I do check every game or so to see if these guys are still on beam. D.J. has lost a little bit in the process of not playing, and he needs that. But Josh Powell is ready to play.’’
“It’s a team effort is what I hope all of our guys are saying, and it really is,’’ Rivers said. “You know, Tony, I got on him I don’t know what game it was, we were talking and he has to be in some ways our [Ron] Artest. That doesn’t mean you’re going to stop anybody. There’s nobody, by the way, that’s stopping Kobe Bryant. If it is, I haven’t met him, or it, because I don’t think it would be a person.’’
It may be tempting to prey on a player’s emotions, but Jackson doesn’t consider such an act fair or sportsmanlike.
“Yeah, you can be provocative and get out there and act kind of like they do if you want to and get in people’s faces and do that,’’ Jackson said. “But that’s not the way I like to coach a team. That’s not what I consider positive coaching, and that’s what I like to think is the right way to do things.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at email@example.com.