Normally Laker assistant coach Jim Cleamons' time at the locker-room board comes before the games, a good half hour's worth of work carefully diagraming the opponent's plays on offense. Phil Jackson takes over after games, with a few quick strokes to denote upcoming practice and travel plans and, in the playoffs, the number of remaining victories it will take to win the championship.
With Jackson resting at home after an angioplasty procedure Saturday to clear a blocked artery in his heart, Cleamons got the first and last word Sunday.
And when it was over there was a familiar message on the board, albeit in different handwriting: "10 MORE."
Once again the Quatro Quest is on, with the series tied at two games apiece heading back to San Antonio.
If the first 18 minutes of Game 4 showed that Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant could not beat the San Antonio Spurs by themselves, the Lakers' 99-95 victory served as a reminder that Jackson didn't coach his way to nine championships all alone.
It wouldn't have happened without a staff of Cleamons and Frank Hamblen and Tex Winter. Now there's Kurt Rambis; way back when there was John Bach.
But it's Cleamons who takes over whenever Jackson is tossed or lost. He slid down one chair to the head coach's seat when Jackson was ejected from a Chicago Bull playoff game in New York in 1992 (the Bulls lost) and assumed the duties when the officials ran Jackson in San Antonio during the 2001 Western Conference finals (the Lakers won).
This year he filled in for three games in February when Jackson was recovering from a kidney-stone procedure and guided the Lakers to a 2-1 record.
This was a must-win game in the playoffs. If the Lakers had lost and fallen behind, 3-1, in the series, about the only thing left to do in Lakerland would be to get ready to yell, "Go Ducks!"
"I wouldn't want to be in his position at all today," Laker guard Derek Fisher said before the game. "If we don't come through with this game, then everybody's saying, 'Oh, if Phil was there it would have been different.' "
Cleamons spent seven years alongside Jackson in Chicago, collecting championship rings in 1991, '92, '93 and '96. He coached the Dallas Mavericks for a season, before new ownership came in and Don Nelson took over as general manager, traded away the whole roster, gave Cleamons the boot and installed himself as coach.
Cleamons wound up coaching the Chicago Condors in the women's American Basketball League. When that league went under, Jackson bailed him out by bringing him aboard with the Lakers.
On Sunday Cleamons repaid the favor by keeping the Lakers -- and Jackson's chances of passing Red Auerbach with a record 10th championship -- alive.
There were none of Jackson's attention-grabbing whistles that carry through the whole arena. Cleamons doesn't whistle. "He screams," Bryant said.
But there was a touch of Jackson's offbeat relaxation methods, and plenty of that Jackson confidence.
"I think Cleamons did a wonderful job," O'Neal said.
It didn't always work. The Lakers relied exclusively on O'Neal and Bryant for most of the first half, and they scored the team's first 23 points. That wasn't nearly enough to keep up with the Spurs, and the Lakers fell behind by 16.
"I kept writing on Phil's pad to move the ball and pass the ball and cut and try and do things to try to break down their good pressure," Cleamons said. "Obviously my pen wasn't working as well as his does.
"But the fact remains, somewhere down the line we got it and finally got some points from Fish, which helped and took the pressure off of Kobe and Shaq and their thinking that they have to do everything. That's what we have to get back to."
The Lakers finally got points from another source when Fisher made a three-pointer with 5:30 left in the second quarter.
But Cleamons was the source of inspiration late in the third quarter. The Lakers were down by nine points during a timeout with 2:54 left.
Cleamons gathered the team.
"He got down on his knees and told us to take a deep breath," Brian Shaw said.
"He said, 'We're going to bring the energy, we're going to get back. It starts with active hands on the defensive end. We're going to make it happen right now so that we can put ourselves in position, when the fourth quarter starts, to win this game.'
"It was one of those get-'em-fired-up coaching speeches. But it worked."
The Lakers went on a 16-3 run after the timeout and led by four after Shaw banked in a three-pointer at the end of the quarter.
Then Cleamons won a gamble by leaving Bryant on the bench for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter.
"I knew when I sent him in he was going to get real lathered up," Cleamons said. "I wanted to make sure he was well-rested."
With 9 1/2 minutes left in the game, Cleamons called for Mark Madsen to replace Samaki Walker. Bryant thought he heard his name and stood up, then was told by Cleamons to sit back down. Bryant shook his head disapprovingly, but said twice after the game that he wasn't mad at Cleamons. When Bryant did come back, he scored nine points in eight minutes.
With Jackson's health issues creating questions about his future, perhaps this was an audition for the next coach of the Lakers. One thing Cleamons definitely brings to the table is confidence.
"For some reason, losing didn't cross my mind," Cleamons said. "Even as bad as that first quarter looked, my instincts told me somehow, some way, we were going to win that game."
J.A. Adande can be reached at email@example.com.