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For a preview of the series, let's go to the video game

June 05, 2008|Jordan Schultz | Special to The Times

The room is dark and rife with anticipation. A dose of old Tupac with his legendary, "I live and die in L.A., it's the place to be," flares in the background. Sweaty hands grip the controllers with angst and excitement, both guys desperately trying to contain their anxiety. It's the NBA Finals on the Xbox 360 between two of the best NBA Live '08 players in Southern California. Let's see whether this can provide us with an accurate preview of what's to come.

Game 1: Lakers, 95-85

In a dramatic matchup Tuesday morning on a flat screen in Pasadena, "Belly 206" (playing with the Lakers) -- wearing his beloved Twins hat -- used a steady diet of Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom to steal home court away in Game 1 from "D-Mo 408" and the Celtics. The Lakers used Odom as a point forward to disrupt the Celtics' half-court defense, and he was deadly with his signature lefty drives to the basket.

Game 2: Celtics, 89-86

With a refocused D-Mo 408 rapidly sipping on a double espresso, the Celtics' Big Three got back on track. The pick-and-roll game between Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett bothered Odom on the perimeter, and Pierce -- controlled by D-Mo 408 using the "hot spots" feature (to view Pierce's favorite shooting areas) -- was able to shake free for a plethora of his signature mid-range jumpers.

Game 3: Lakers, 100-91

and Game 4: Lakers, 96-90

Bryant showed at Staples Center why he is the best closer in the game. He scored 54 points in the third game, while the seemingly 8-foot-8-inch wingspan and 53-inch vertical of Odom helped him grab 16 rebounds. Bryant also came up big in Game 4 with 36 points. For the first time in the series, the Lakers used their superior transition game, feeding off numerous Vladimir Radmanovic three balls.

Game 5: Lakers, 97-93

The blissful Lakers crowd watched the trio of Bryant, Odom and Jordan Farmar prove to be far too much. Odom came up grand again on both ends of the court, but Farmar stole the show with five second-half threes. Roaring with applause, the Lakers faithful watched Bryant's stunning performance of 17 points in the fourth quarter, while he continued his pest-like defense of Ray Allen and Pierce, who despite a few solid games between them, never seemed to shake free of the All-NBA defender.


When the Finals begin tonight, look for the Celtics to try to coax Bryant into taking fade-aways and pull-ups rather than attacking the hoop and drawing fouls. Doc Rivers has been adamant about giving him "different looks," and playing all-around "team defense."

Given that lock-up defender Tony Allen is doubtful for the series, James Posey and Pierce will be responsible for slowing Bryant, something they achieved in the regular season. During their two meetings -- both Celtics victories (pre-Pau Gasol) -- Bryant shot 33% from the court and 23% from beyond the arc.

Above all else, though, the crucial question throughout this series will remain: What version of league MVP Kobe Bryant will we see? Will he continue with "The New Kobe," stressing early and often to get others involved, or will we get a dose of the "Old Kobe," who upon frustration and impatience takes the Lakers out of the offense with poor shot selection?

If it's the former, just as it was with Belly 206 in the simulated series, Showtime returns to L.A., celebration fills the streets of downtown L.A., and Chris Mihm does his impersonation of the infamous Mark Madsen dance we've all yearned to forget. Now we wait and see.

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