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Mike Dunleavy: Defense makes the difference in Lakers-Celtics Game 5

The Celtics limit the Lakers to 39.7% shooting and only two players in double figures, while L.A. has too many defensive breakdowns. In Game 6, L.A. needs to capitalize on its home-court advantage.

June 14, 2010|By Mike Dunleavy

Mike Dunleavy, former coach and general manager of the Clippers, is The Times' guest analyst on the NBA Finals. Dunleavy has coached four NBA teams — the Clippers, Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers. He was NBA coach of the year in 1999 with Portland.

The fifth game of the NBA Finals is often the pivotal game in the series, and this one turned into a Boston D party.

While the Celtics clamped down on the Lakers, limiting them to 39.7% shooting and only two players in double figures, Boston also got a big lift from Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to head back to Los Angeles with a 3-2 lead.

Kobe Bryant had a terrific game, but he had to try to take over because he wasn't getting the performance from Pau Gasol that he had been, and he wasn't getting the offensive production from the rest of his guys either. That's when Kobe turned to more of an individual game in hopes of buying time so somebody else could step up. Unfortunately for the Lakers, no one did.

Kobe made some incredibly tough shots, but, because of defensive breakdowns on the other end, the Celtics were responding with easy buckets. That can be very defeating.

What did Boston's defense do so well? The Celtics clamped down on Gasol, didn't let Lamar Odom get to his left hand much and didn't give Derek Fisher wide-open jump shots, and they didn't give up many easy buckets at all.

When the Lakers were at the defensive end, they were trying to overplay the lanes, cheat screens early and front Boston's big men. Rondo made them pay the price by putting passes on the money. Any time you're going to overplay or front like that, you also need to have good ball pressure. The Lakers didn't have both of those in sync.

I said after Game 4 that the Lakers had done a good job of containing Boston's big three – Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce – but that any one of those guys could explode for a huge night. Sunday, Pierce and Garnett combined to score 45.

Now, from the Lakers' perspective, they are in a one-game elimination and for the first time in the playoffs they are playing from a deficit. They have to respond. This is what home court is all about. Your fans are generating adrenaline and helping you play at a higher level at both ends of the floor, helping will you to victory.

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