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TRANSITION GAME

Lakers require better execution

June 08, 2008|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

The Lakers began the NBA Finals with the highest scoring average of the playoffs, but they sure looked offensively challenged against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter of Game 1.

Hampered by ill-advised passes, poor movement and forced shots, the Lakers scored only 15 points over the final 12 minutes in a 98-88 loss Thursday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

It matched the lowest-scoring quarter of the playoffs for the Lakers, and it could not have come at a worse time.

So what happened?

Give a lot of credit to the Celtics' overall team defense, but the Lakers definitely hurt themselves with selfish play and poor execution down the stretch.

The turning point came after the Lakers cut Boston's lead to 81-78 on a free throw by Ronny Turiaf with 10:07 remaining.

That's when the Lakers began to fall apart instead of making a final push to win the game.

On the Celtics' ensuing possession, the Lakers appeared ready to capitalize on a turnover when Boston's Kevin Garnett prevented a backcourt violation with a desperation save.

The ball ended up in the hands of Sam Cassell, who made a jump shot before the 24-second clock expired to extend the Celtics' lead to five points.

For the remainder of the game, it was pretty much the same for the Lakers, who seemed a step slow and not as hungry as the Celtics, who held Kobe Bryant and Co. to three baskets over the final 10 minutes.

At one point, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson grew so frustrated with his team's sloppy play that he juggled his lineup midway into the fourth quarter and the Lakers' five was made up of starters Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher, along with reserves Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Turiaf.

Not a very offense-minded group, and the Celtics made Jackson pay for this decision.

Boston held Gasol-Fisher-Walton-Vujacic-Turiaf to four combined points over a three-minute span, and the Lakers never really threatened after that.

Getting balanced scoring from Jackson's triangle offense grew into a big problem for the Lakers, especially when Bryant was in the game, against Boston's collapsing defense.

Although the Celtics did not feature any deliberate double-teams to take the ball out of Bryant's hands, their half-court defense was geared to block off his lanes to the basket.

Whether Bryant had Ray Allen, Paul Pierce or James Posey as a defender, he knew that the Celtics would give them plenty of help wherever he went with the ball.

And by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Bryant found himself doing a lot of work with little in return as the Lakers' will seemed to evaporate with every missed shot.

Summary

For the first time this year, the Lakers trail in a playoff series, and now it's time for Jackson and his staff to earn their paychecks.

The key will be getting the Lakers prepared for the Celtics' roughhouse style.

In order to get more scoring, look for the Lakers to go back to a game plan they used against San Antonio in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

In that game, the Lakers turned to their running game and pushed the ball upcourt as much as possible to take advantage of their versatile big men.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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