Lakers say the show isn't over

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Shira Springer
Globe Staff / June 15, 2008

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - With free time before Game 5 tonight, Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic decided to watch the movie "300" for the third time. The Hollywood version of the historic last stand of 300 Spartans provided a welcome change from multiple viewings of Game 4 video. Facing impossible odds, the Spartans battled an army of more than 100,000 Persians. The Spartans did not surrender. They fought to the last man.

"It fired me up a little bit, and forced me to come to the gym," said Vujacic, who worked on his shot and defense by himself at the Lakers' practice facility Friday night. "I wanted to watch that movie because I was in that kind of mood. It always gives you some kind of power."

Upon learning of Vujacic's movie choice, Lamar Odom thought everyone on the Lakers could benefit from watching "300." Coincidentally, it was also playing on cable when Vujacic popped in the DVD at home.

A sign? Vujacic said there was no such thing when facing elimination in the NBA Finals.

To a man, the Lakers know they must work to extend the series, not rely on the Zen philosophies of Phil Jackson or Kobe Bryant.

With no room for error, the Lakers sounded surprisingly optimistic and confident after practice yesterday. They saw no reason why the Celtics' history-making comeback in Game 4 can't be followed by a history-making series comeback from the purple and gold. No NBA Finals team has returned from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship.

"It was our mistake losing Game 4," said Vladimir Radmanovic. "They didn't do anything special in that game.

"We can't cry about the last game. We still believe there is a chance, and as long as there's a chance, we're going to keep fighting.

"We have to play probably the best basketball we possibly can play. There's hope and we're going to try and make it happen. Obviously, there is pressure, but you can't think about it. We have to think win, win, win. That's the only state of mind we can have right now."

Asked if he was aware that no team has rallied from a 3-1 deficit, Radmanovic said, "I am. That's why the records are there to be broken. Numbers are something that you can always play with. If we believe in it, we can do it. They have a lot of injuries right now and we have to keep attacking those guys."

The Lakers claim to have forgotten the catastrophic mistakes made in Game 4 and filed away the good. They plan to take the Staples Center floor tonight mentally and physically prepared to play 48 minutes, not just the first half. They know the consequences if they don't. And they don't need any more reminders.

While Vujacic was busy watching "300" and Radmanovic was doing his best to forget Game 4, Odom was spending time with friends and family and staying away from news of the Celtics' comeback.

"I'm a sports fan, but I don't have to hear about it," said Odom. "I didn't read about it. It's something that I wouldn't want to read."

Meanwhile, Bryant was busy putting Game 4 behind him by turning to Harry Potter. He spent some of the downtime reading about five chapters to his daughters.

"They just wanted me to read to them, and I swear, it was awesome," he said. "He had more problems dealing with Voldemort than what we have dealing with the media and the Celtics. So that was pretty awesome."

When asked what he did to help prepare the Lakers for tonight's game, Bryant continued with the fiction. But he started his answer with some humor.

"I borrowed Phil's peace pipe," said Bryant. "We had a big kumbaya meeting.

"No, everybody's fine. Everybody is in the same mood that I am. Everybody's ready to go. We're excited about the opportunity. If we started the season in training camp and you come to me and say we're going to give you three cracks to win the championship, I take that."

But everyone knows the real question: Can the Lakers take a game from the Celtics in convincing fashion? More than one player acknowledged that everyone has counted out the Lakers, that it is a matter of when, not if, the Celtics win the NBA title. So far, nothing about the Lakers' play in the Finals has provided a reason to think differently. They expect that to change tonight.

Odom believes the Lakers are mentally tough enough to mount a historic Finals comeback.

"It's never over until it's over," said Odom. "I know we feel like we're cool enough, we're competitive to do it. We breathe together, we meditate together, and we understand if we do everything together that our mind can take our bodies to some incredible places.

"If we get there all at one time, anything is possible."

Pass the peace pipe.

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