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BILL PLASCHKE

He makes the call . . . Lakers blew this one

Yes, the officiating was bad, but the Lakers lost Game 2 to the Celtics with their casual attitude and lack of defense.

June 06, 2010|Bill Plaschke

You were booing the wrong guys.

The jeers and catcalls that rained down upon the three referees at the Staples Center on Sunday night were as misguided as a certain wacko's jump shot.

You should have been booing the Lakers.

Don't blame the whistles when the Lakers casually showed up whistling. Don't blame the zebras when the Lakers played defense like pigs.

You want to talk fouls? I'll show you foul — the final five minutes of the Lakers' 103-94 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the now-even NBA Finals.

They trail by 14, they fight back to take a one-point lead with Figueroa Street rocking and the Celtics reeling, and what happens?

Rajon Rondo driving untouched up the middle happens. Kobe Bryant losing his jumper and his composure happens. Ron Artest losing his mind happens. A 14-4 Celtics run to end the game happens.

For the first time this spring, no glittery strands of purple and gold fell from the Staples Center sky after a Lakers home playoff game. For the first time this spring, the confetti was replaced by confusion.

"We are a little uptight right now,'' said Lamar Odom in a quiet Lakers locker room afterward.

A little? Right about now, they should all be clenching their rings. They just lost their first game at home this postseason, and their first Finals game at home since Boston overcame a 24-point deficit to beat them here in Game 4 in 2008. They have now set it up so the Celtics could get hot and run them right out of the title in Boston without ever returning here.

I don't think that's happening. The Lakers still clearly seem like a better team, and should regain their fire now that they have been humbled. But it happened in Detroit in 2004, so this does make things a little more, um, complicated.

"Now we have a series," said Sasha Vujacic.

Now? The Lakers should have realized this before Game 2, instead of clearly approaching this night as if it were just another routine step toward a second consecutive coronation.

Yes, the officiating trio of Monty McCutchen, Mike Callahan and Ken Mauer were awful. Yes, they lost control of a game in which Artest fouled out, Bryant was knotted up with five fouls, and Lamar Odom essentially disappeared with five fouls.

Yes, many of the calls were horrendous, and the officials deserved the boos and even Commissioner David Stern should have expected the heckling that accompanied his departure from the arena.

But don't dare talk conspiracy. Don't dare talk ripoff. Don't even go there.

The officials may have been overwhelmed, but the Lakers were out-shot, out-rebounded, out-fought and, in the words of Shannon Brown, "they even outran us."

First, if anyone should be complaining about the officiating, it's the Celtics, who shot 15 fewer free throws while being called for just as many fouls. If the Lakers don't miss 10 of their 41 free throws — including five bricks by Artest who shrugged them up there as if he didn't even knew he was shooting free throws — then it's a better game.

Second, it wasn't the officials who repeatedly drained three-pointers early, fighting through screens and finding open spots and setting an NBA Finals record with eight three-pointers nearly in the first half alone. That would be Ray Allen, who wasn't bumped this time by Derek Fisher because Fisher simply couldn't catch him.

Third, it wasn't the officials who drove through the Lakers lane late, scoring six consecutive points on layups — layups! — to give the Celtics a lead they never lost. That was Rondo, who nearly drove a foul-plagued Bryant out of his skin, causing much scowling at teammates who didn't cover his back.

"It has nothing to do with scoring — nothing," said Bryant. "It's all defensively. We gave them too many easy baskets and blew too many defensive assignments."

Fourth, and finally, it wasn't the officials who lost their bearings so consistently, they ended up making one of 10 baskets while making several horrible plays down the stretch. That would be Artest, who, during one late possession, simply dribbled around and around before finally throwing up an awful jumper.

"It's one of the more unusual sequences I've ever witnessed," said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who has seen approximately a billion NBA sequences.

A few moments earlier, Artest had thrown away a pass with the Lakers trailing by one.

Overall, the eccentric forward did exactly what that Celtics folks had hoped he would do in this biggest series of his series. He melted down.

What happened on the crazy dribble play, Ron? "I'm not sure."

Were you confused out there? "I don't know."

That makes as much sense as anything the Lakers said or did Sunday night, giving away the most precious of gifts at the worst of times to the most dangerous of teams.

Yeah, the officials had a lousy game. But, no, they weren't the only ones.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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