Lakers failed their physical

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 7, 2008


Utah was physical, not Boston. Not to Pau Gasol.

The Jazz were animals on the glass. Forty-four rebounds one night, then 52 the next. That series alone almost earned Gasol the nickname "the incredible shrinking Laker."


The Spurs are pesky, not the Celtics. Not to Pau Gasol. They're the kind of team to instruct Bruce Bowen to make his hand come as close to Kobe Bryant's face without hitting him as he shoots.

This wasn't about being physical, Gasol said. It was more about the Lakers being themselves.

"I don't think they're more physical than Utah," Gasol said. "I don't think they're more physical than San Antonio. I remember in Utah, I remember in San Antonio, our first game we struggled. We struggled a bit to get a feel of how it was going to be in Game 1."

But Game 1 against the Celtics was physical. If there was a race to a loose ball, the Celtics tossed bodies out of the way to get it. If a ball came off the glass, the Celtics scrambled under the basket, like fans jostling for a free T-shirt. And it wasn't just Kevin Garnett or Kendrick Perkins. It was the smiley, unassuming faces such as P.J. Brown.

"He doesn't look like it, but he'll foul you," Perkins said of Brown.

That was part of the problem in Lamar Odom's eyes. His team went up, 51-46, at the half, and they started to relax. They took 19 shots in the third quarter, 12 jump shots.

"We came out gunning a little bit, trying to hit the home run ball," Odom said. "I came out and shot a three first possession. We were taking a lot of jump shots instead of taking the ball to the hole."

Meanwhile, the Celtics were elbowing their way back into the game, gobbling up 14 rebounds in the quarter, and taking a 77-73 lead into the fourth and capping the Lakers' offense at 88 points. The only other team to hold Los Angeles under 90 in these playoffs was San Antonio.

"They're a good defensive team," Odom said. "I'm not going to sit here and just say, 'They can't stop us, they've got a goal-line defense like the Chicago Bears or the New York Giants.' Any team can be beat, and we know we can win ugly. So if it's 80, 90, so be it."

The Lakers will have to adjust, but they'll have to keep doing the things that shredded Denver, Utah, and San Antonio: slicing through the lane, making cuts, and getting to the middle.

"You lose focus and sometimes you forget what got you here," Odom said. "You might just forget for two possessions, but that might be enough."

The opportunities were there. Coach Phil Jackson saw them all as they passed by.

"I've seen a change in the course of a series," Jackson said. "But [Boston] plays hard and plays physical. We have to match it at some level."

Vladimir Radmanovic nearly had as many boards (five) as Odom (six), the team's leading rebounder in the postseason. Radmanovic played 17 minutes; Odom played 39.

"We have to be stronger when it comes to rebounding," Radmanovic said. "We had some opportunities last game, but unfortunately a lot of those rebounds that we were supposed to have got tipped away from us. "

Gasol said the Celtics aren't doing anything the Lakers haven't seen before. So, they'll adjust.

"We're going to match that physicality," Gasol said. "We're going to be more aggressive and we're going to control the boards and the loose balls a lot better, and that's just going to give us a whole lot more looks and a whole lot more chances to be able to get back at them and not give them second opportunities."

But, honestly, Los Angeles isn't physical. Not to Perkins. Cleveland was physical, not Los Angeles.

"That Cleveland series, I think that helped us," Perkins said. "That was a physical series, I tell you."

Los Angeles?

"To be honest, I was not expecting this series to be physical," Perkins said. "Not like that Cleveland series or nothing like that."

He said he can't see it in the Lakers. "It's just the makeup of their team."

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