From the Associated Press
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — A day after the Lakers’ colossal collapse in Game 4 of the NBA finals, coach Phil Jackson canceled practice.
For psychological reasons.
“You know, just in the checking out of how the guys were and how they felt, I just felt it was a good idea,” Jackson explained Friday at the team’s practice facility. “We have two days to work on the things we need to work on.
“We have guys that are well-conditioned at this time, and we need rest and recuperation in this situation, probably more psychologically than we do physically.”
Jackson said he sent the players home after a brief get-together that included watching some of Thursday night’s debacle against the Boston Celtics.
“I told them that the series is not over and we want to force the action,” said Jackson, whose opportunity for an NBA-record 10th championship ring as a head coach appears to be slipping away — at least for now.
“We watched some tape, we looked at the first half. Obviously we were successful in the first half and did some things that got a lead for us, and I wanted to explain to them that they were the same ballclub, the same personnel that went out there in the second half, and if they can get that kind of a lead, they can maintain that kind of a game if they really put their minds to it.”
As Jackson said, the Lakers played a terrific first half Thursday night, and that extended halfway through the third quarter, when they held a 70-50 lead. A second straight victory seemed assured, and the Lakers would have all the momentum heading into Game 5.
Suddenly, the Celtics turned the game around, an especially shocking development since the Lakers were playing at Staples Center, where they had a 9-0 record in the postseason and hadn’t lost since March 28.
The Celtics outscored the Lakers 47-21 to finish the game for a 97-91 victory and a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. That’s an obstacle no team has overcome in the finals.
Now what? Apparently no lineup or rotation changes.
“No, not at this point,” Jackson said. “But we’re likely to do — pull out everything as this series goes along.”
No telling how long that will be. The Lakers need a win Sunday night at Staples Center and two more in Boston to win their 15th championship and enable Jackson to surpass former Celtics coach Red Auerbach, who also had nine championship rings as a head coach. Auerbach died in October 2006.
Jackson said he’s counting on the resilience of the players to help them bounce back from the biggest collapse in finals history since the Elias Sports Bureau began keeping detailed records in the 1970-71 season. The Lakers led by as many as 24 points, 45-21, in the second quarter.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that if we had to play this morning, we probably wouldn’t feel that great about playing this morning, but fortunately, we’re not playing until Sunday, and we’ll be back ready to go by Sunday,” Jackson said. “I just told them as a team, they had their hearts ripped out. It’s tough to recover from that, but they will.”
Jackson also said he told his players that everybody involved probably feels they have some responsibility, including equipment manager Rudy Garciduenas, who “probably thought he put the wrong Tide in the uniforms.”
“That’s what you mull as a coach over in your mind at 1 or 5 in the morning after a situation like that, what could have we done differently,” Jackson said. “But the other aspect is that you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
Jackson said some little things jumped out when he watched the game tape.
“Pau (Gasol) had a situation where he had a dunk and it came out, or it was blocked or there was a foul; there’s action in that situation,” the coach said. “He didn’t go perhaps hard enough to the basket in one of those situations. But that turned out to be a critical play. That’s right where we could have gone from 12 to 14 and instead we go from 12 to 10.”
“There’s some little key plays right there at the end of the third quarter that changed the energy that they were able to bring, the hope that they were able to bring. Any team that’s down that deep says, `Let’s just get it back to 10 points, let’s not try to make it up all in a row or in a hurry.’ Not only were they able to get it back to 10 points, they were able to get it back almost entirely by the end of the third quarter. Those are the things that inspired their team.”
The Celtics outscored the Lakers 21-3 in the last 6 minutes of the third period to draw within two points, and weren’t behind by more than four after that. An 11-2 run gave Boston a five-point lead with 2:10 remaining, and the Lakers weren’t closer than two after that.
“It’s a humbling experience, to be putting the pressure on them and then to be sitting in here thinking about how we’re going to come back from 3-1,” Lamar Odom said after the game in a hushed Lakers’ dressing room. “They beat us in the second half with their second effort, every way you can basically lose a game.”