So strike already.
If Ray Allen’s performance Sunday night taught the NBA finals-watching populace anything, it’s that when the klieg lights go on, that means it’s time to play your part. While Sting Ray was skewering the Lakers for 27 first-half points en route to a total of 32 in the Celtics’ 103-94 victory in Game 2 at Staples Center, Bryant was either chasing him around or putting together a solid but unspectacular offensive effort with 21 points on 8-for-20 shooting.
That’s fine. The man can’t be a superhero every night. He was also in foul trouble for much of the game. And the Lakers squandered the home court advantage mostly with shaky transition defense and boneheaded mistakes down the stretch rather than Kobe’s lack of the spectacular.
But here’s the scene: The series is tied 1-1, it goes back to Boston for three straight games, and if Kobe Bryant isn’t the fang-baring Mamba who has eaten men alive, the guacamole inside the Larry O’Brien Trophy won’t be the only aspect of the 2010 championship that turns out green.
“We’ve just got to go to Boston and win,” he said with a shrug.
That last item is key here. The shrug.
Bryant has apparently made a commitment to aloofness in public. If the Mamba has a mantra, it’s probably “Whatever.” He came out in Sunday’s post-game press conference with the nonchalant look of someone who is vacationing on the Isle of Capri and bored stiff about it.
“We have to try to stay even keel,” he said. “Not get too high or too low.”
That’s understandable. But the rest of the Lakers are following Kobe’s lead. He’s The Man. He’s the heart and soul of the defending champions. And he looks more like a bored kid at the mall than his team’s spiritual leader. The face he put on this Game 2 loss didn’t seem like quiet confidence, but more like apathy.
This was the best he could do: “Game 3 is the most important game. Game 1 was the most important game. Game 2 was the most important. It’s just the next game, simple as that.”
Maybe the Mamba is molting.
The Lakers lost Game 2 primarily because the Celtics wanted it more, and they went out and took it. Boston triumphed in just about every statistical category, but especially in the old “things that don’t show up in the box score” area. It appeared that the Celtics won every hustle-play competition, at least the important ones in the final minutes.
With 5:21 left and the Lakers ahead by three, the Celtics closed the game on a 16-4 burst that was exceedingly joyous for them and intensely embarrassing for the home team.
“I think their execution was better,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “They had second-chance opportunities in that sequence, and that was really the difference in the ballgame.”
PBT: The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
Check out some of the best images from the 2010 NBA finals.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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