Lakers Coach Phil Jackson: 'I'm concerned'
The Lakers have been winning, but not in a way that satisfies Coach Phil Jackson.
They beat Utah, 104-99, in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, but Jackson centered on their inability to extend, much less hold, a 14-point lead in the second quarter Sunday.
The Lakers led by eight going into the fourth quarter but ended up down four with four minutes to play.
"I'm concerned," he said Monday. "I'm a little concerned that we're not filling in the gaps as quickly as we are. We get a 10-point lead and we get kind of content to stay in a 10-, 12-point lead instead of really pushing it on to the next level. That's been something that's come back and hurt us in the course of this year. That little instinct to break games open and keep putting them down, we saw that exhibited in Game 5 here against Oklahoma, but we didn't do it [Sunday] in times when we had the opportunity."
Jackson found fault with the Lakers' reserves, who were on the court when Utah started making its run early in the fourth quarter.
"Our bench has to come and play," Jackson said. "They have to be a little bit more responsible with how they're going to play, more dedicated to creating shots for others and the team aspect of it."
Jackson was more optimistic when talking about Kobe Bryant, who scored 31 points on efficient 12-for-19 shooting.
"We liked his game," Jackson said. "I don't know from one game to the next whether you can just rule out any question about getting back. Kobe at the end of the game met that challenge, and I think it was terrific."
Bryant had 13 points in the fourth quarter, making seven of seven free throws and scoring on a driving layup with 22.6 seconds to play that put the Lakers ahead, 100-95.
-- Mike Bresnahan