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Lakers' Game 7 NBA Finals victory over Boston provides many applicable lessons

The on-court celebration, the Champagne bath and the glowing offseason that followed after the Lakers secured the 2010 NBA championship over the Boston Celtics are becoming a distant memory in Lakerland.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said he hasn't watched a replay of the Lakers' 83-79 Game 7 victory over Boston, insisting all the memories surrounding his six-of-24 shooting performance, his effort in grabbing 15 rebounds, his reliance on teammates to help carry the load and all the aches and pains that came with his sprained right knee and a fractured right index finger remain fresh in his mind. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson admitted to watching a replay of the game during the offseason, but has given it little thought since. And Lakers point guard Derek Fisher shared much of his personal reflection surrounding his fifth title and the franchise's 16th championship only took place during the offseason and the early portion of the Lakers' 2010-11 regular-season schedule.

The Lakers (33-13) have plenty of other things to worry about entering Sunday's game at Staples Center against the Boston Celtics (34-10) than waxing nostalgiac about their second consecutive championship, most notably whether the Lakers will respond in appropriate fashion after an underwhelming loss Friday to a sub-.500 opponent in the Sacramento Kings. But Fisher understands why the conversation returned about the Lakers' title run. "Obviously because with the matchup tomorrow," Fisher said, "certain thoughts obviously about playing them in the Finals last year come back into your mind." And the way the Lakers won Game 7 yields plenty of applicable lessons the team can take into any situation.

Play as a team

Fisher didn't exactly want to draw too much from Game 7, arguing "there are lots of good and bad examples we can pick from this season that have teaching moments." Fair enough. The magnitude of the Lakers' game against Boston nowhere matches Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers have different personnel in Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, Joe Smith, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, and they don't have certain members from last season's championship roster, including Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, and DJ Mbenga. And the Lakers' quest in establishing defensive consistency, maintaining the same edge and maintaining health in the regular season juxtaposes the Game 7 priorities, which included simply finding a way to win the game. 

Still, there's a reason why Jackson devoted part of a 2 1/2-hour practice Saturday by having the team rewatch the Lakers' 89-67 Game 6 victory. That effort included a balanced offense with Bryant (26 points), Pau Gasol (17 points, 13 rebounds), Ron Artest (15 points) and a strong bench (25). The execution entailed sharp defense by holding Boston to 33.3% shooting, Farmar acquiring floor burns while diving for a loose ball and Lamar Odom managing his first double-digit performance in rebounds (10) despite battling sinusitis.

That mind-set extended into Game 7, where the Lakers needed a team performance to secure the championship. Bryant proved instrumental in the fourth quarter by making eight of nine free throws, grabbing four defensive rebounds and hitting a difficult 17-foot fade-away jumper to give the Lakers a 68-64 lead with 5:22 left in the game. Fisher hit a crucial three-pointer that tied the score, 64-64, with 6:12 remaining. Gasol made a layup to widen the gap to 76-70 at the 1:30 mark. Artest made a 27-foot three-pointer for a 79-73 lead. Vujacic clinched the win with two free throws with 11.7 seconds remaining. And in a category that always determined each outcome of the series, the Lakers outrebounded Boston, 53-40.

"The amount of work we put into that game and how hard we played and the reward we eventually got" made it worth it, Gasol said.

Juxtapose that to the other portion of the Lakers' practice Saturday where they reviewed the several lapses in the loss to Sacramento. It featured the Lakers' frontline in Andrew Bynum (12), Gasol (nine), and Odom getting outscored by Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins (27). It highlighted the Lakers' month-long defensive resurgence suddenly escaping them. And it showcased very little balance with Bryant (38 points) and Shannon Brown (17 points) doing the heavy lifting.

"Just about the animation and the activity level that it takes to play at that level," Jackson said when asked what teachable moments can be used from the Lakers' Game 7 win over Boston. "We were playing at [that level] as opposed to the activity and playing level that we were playing last night."

Use adversity as an opportunity

In hopes to take away something positive from a result that was far from it, Jackson argued following the Lakers' loss to Sacramento that it may prove beneficial in ensuring the Lakers instantly return to establishing good habits. The Lakers didn't exactly respond the right way after a double-digit loss to Milwaukee as they lacked energy in their Christmas Day game against Miami, but the Lakers have proven much more effective in January, as indicated by their signature wins against Oklahoma City, Denver and Utah.

Still, there's no use in predicting the Lakers' pattern because they aren't even sure how they'll respond. With the Lakers trailing by 13 points in the third quarter, they proved their resiliency in grinding out a Game 7 win over the Celtics to win the title. Obviously the stakes are higher when a championship is on the line, but it's impressive nonetheless that the Lakers recovered from a 13-of-49 shooting clip (26.5%) in the first half, Bryant made up a poor shooting night with a gritty effort on the glass and Artest overcame anxiety issues by arranging a last-minute visit with his therapist that proved instrumental in playing with composure.

"Sometimes you have to win ugly games," Bryant said. "You just have to figure a way to get the job done, no matter what, and I think that's something that we've learned."

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

 
Comments () | Archives (14)

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Last night was about two things: effort and execution. The effort was absent for three quarters—and I am not including Kobe in that statement—and the execution was piss-poor. That loss wasn't about Kobe shooting too much; it was about players standing around, soft cuts, and no defensive intensity.

Tomorrow should be much different.

Go Lake Show!

Does Pau sport his neck beard like some men sport their over sized lifted trucks?
Bynum, very good job on admitting you played weak last night. Now go and make it up tomorrow by punking Shaq, not because Shaq can still ball but b/c he's bigger and stronger than you. Very good test for Bynum tomorrow.

Loyal Fan (and noone can take that away)

This was written:

2) The game on Sunday has no significance. No one remembers what happened between the Lakers and Celtics during the regular season in the 80's and they made ZERO difference.

3) The regular season has little to no significance. He's convinced that the Lakers will be there at the end this season and laughed at those who are making a big deal at the Lakers' periodic mediocrity this season.

4) All that matters is what happens in June.

my response: Oddly enough during the debacle w/ the Kings, D-Fish is
reported to have said: "Championships are won now, during the regular
season."

Y'all remember D-Fish. He's that vocal leader for the Lakers who has 5
championship rings.

However, maybe he knows less than some bloggers.

lots of new ground being covered here today.

@HOBBITMAGE… The game does and doesn’t count. Who wins the game tomorrow won’t really matter in the long run but who wins the critical individual front court matchups could walk away with a distinct psychological advantage should the teams meet again in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics front court is going to try to punk the Lakers front court tomorrow and test their will and toughness with excessive physicality and nonstop aggressiveness. Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal were signed as much to match up with the Lakers size as to compensate for Kendrick Perkins injury.

What does make this game important is that it’s the Celtics first opportunity to show they can handle the Lakers size and length, especially on the boards, where the Lakers dominated in last year’s Finals. The Celtics plan is to reprise the 2008 Finals when they intimidated and pushed the Lakers around. The Lakers plan is to improve on the power and toughness of last year’s Final with a healthy Bynum.

Can Drew outplay Perkins and Shaq, can Pau and LO respond to the physicality they will receive from KG and Big Baby, and can Ron turn Paul Pierce into a volume shooter? Those are the key questions to which tomorrow’s game will give us a preview and give both team’s an idea of how their new rosters matchup in a battle of will and toughness. The winning key will be Kobe Bryant getting his big men into the game early and often. Tomorrow, we’ll need Kobe the facilitator more than Kobe the scorer.

On a final positive note, this Lakers team has not lost two straight games since Andrew Bynum returned to the starting lineup. I expect that trend to continue tomorrow afternoon. Go, Lakers.
……………………………………………………………….
TOM

Fire Mark Heisler! His anti-Laker, pro-Celtic columns belong in the Boston newspapers, not the Los Angeles Times. If you read his columns lately, he consistently downplays last year's championship. From his biased perspective, the Lakers were downright lucky to win. It's time the LA Times send him packing!

A real game against a real team, finally. Now it feels like the season started.

LakerTom

Your efforts to try to talk a little basic, simple common sense into a so-called Lakers fan who has nothing better to do other than to trash our team and trash our players is a colossal waste of time. His most recent effort to dispute what is common knowledge to anyone who has followed this team for the past three seasons is an embarrassment even to himself. Hey, if this poor excuse for a Lakers fan wants a Celtics fan to get the best of him in the sophistication department, that's something HE should be concerning himself with. So big deal if the little pre-game pep talk by D-Fish didn't work. YAWN! Obviously Fish sensed the team malaise before tipoff, so he figured he'd say something. WHOOP-DEE-DOO. This blogger with whom you now have a phony-baloney civil discourse with is simply not worthy of your time or effort. He represents that simple-minded faction of Lakers fans who fans who cheer for other teams can't stand anyway. You know, he's one of those fans who has no appreciation for the gift we have been given here in L.A.

Unappreciative hobbit fan: "What have you done for me lately? Waaaaaaah .. nothing! You even let the Queens beat us in Staples Center during the really important regular season and Derek Fisher is totally worthless because even his stupid speeches don't work. But Fish was RIGHT! I agree that championships are won in January. He even said so."

Boo-hoo.

Players from both teams can say what they like. The fans can say what they like.

This game means a LOT to everyone involved, players and fans alike. Come on, boys. Make my Sunday special.

Go Lake Show!

You guys ever be in a situation where you really disagree with some people, and they just really really go one insisting they are right and refusing to listen to the other side?

Nah, me neither.

Laker4Life,

Mark Heisler, Plaschke, and Simers all need to be fired. They are terrible journalists.

They need to be replaced by Medina, Breshnanan, and Turner need to take over.

I am so disappointed by the garbage these three trolls spew.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

Win or lose tomorrow is not the end of the world...

I really believe Doc Rivers is dreaming if he thinks the Celtics can go into the playoffs with the best record/home-court advantage and ALSO have his older players playing 20+ playoff games as fresh as they did last season.

Last season the Celts basically took the second-half of the season OFF & coasted to a 4th-seed, because they were BARELY over .500 after the All-Star break. With a mid-30s trio like Garnett, Allen & Pierce you cannot have it BOTH ways.

You either wear yourselves out while earning the best record or you coast for the last-half of the season so you can be fresh for the playoffs...one or the OTHER.

In Derek's video it says "Derek Fisher - Laker's Coach" :)

...Maybe someday. ha ha.

Guys:

Check your hostility at the door, will you? Any jackass can bray loudly: it just proves he’s got strong lungs. It takes a real man to argue with passion, power and precision and yet be civil and respectful in the process. Also, let’s not forget what Scotty Bowman, the sunburst NHL coach, said: “Statistics are for losers’”

Mark Medina:

A little bit of constructive criticism.

First, in your post-game wrap-ups and locker-room interviews, you need to slow your speech down a tad and REALLY work on your enunciation. You display great insights and express your points well, BUT your message gets drowned out because you always sound like you have a mouthful of cotton balls and peanut butter.

Second, you consistently misuse “hone,” which means “to sharpen, especially with a whetstone.” You mean “home,” as in “to focus on, or to go towards a target, such as a homing pigeon or a heat-seeking missile that homes in on its target.”

As a professional journalist, words are your tools. Use both the spoken and written tools well.


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