Without foul trouble, Odom’s a force for LA

By Robert Mays
Globe Correspondent / June 9, 2010

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The difference in Lamar Odom’s Game 3 performance was simple. He had to be on the floor to contribute. After five personal fouls limited Odom to less than 15 minutes and 3 points in Game 2, the Lakers’ forward played nearly 28 minutes and scored 12 points in the 91-84 Lakers win.

Odom started early with 6 points in the first quarter. After two games of offensive struggles a 3-pointer from the top of the key that banked off the backboard was just what he needed.

“That was kind of a gift from God to him for all that stuff he’s been through in the series,’’ said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

Odom said facilitating the offense of his teammates allowed him to get a feel for the game. A couple of early pick-and-rolls with Pau Gasol allowed Odom to get in the flow of the game.

Not picking up an early foul was crucial in defining his level of aggression throughout. Odom grabbed three rebounds in the first quarter, finishing with five.

Odom’s 5-for-5 performance from the field was a symbol of his willingness to allow the game to come to him.

“With this team and the way we play, I know I can have efficient games as far as finding my spots, rebounding the ball and making plays when they’re there,’’ he said. “I don’t have to rush or force my offense.’’

Odom said that while his production in the first two games was below average, his role coming off the bench means that his numbers aren’t the best way to judge his contributions.

“I can’t really worry about stats with this team,’’ he said. “That’s not really my role. I just have to play, and when the play is in front of me, just make it.’’

Two of those plays came down the stretch when the Lakers desperately needed them. After a Kevin Garnett jumper cut the Lakers’ lead to 1, Odom snatched an offensive rebound off a missed Derek Fisher 3-pointer on the next possession and hit a short bank shot to bring the lead back to 3 with eight minutes remaining.

Odom’s follow-up layin was just one of the many crucial plays down the stretch that came from some of the Lakers’ peripheral players. For the Lakers, taking a 6-point lead into the final quarter usually means Kobe Bryant uses his knack for hitting tough shots to ice the game. Last night, Odom and Fisher made the clutch plays to hold off a comeback bid from the Celtics.

“Even when Kobe is on, you still need deflections; you still need rebounds,’’ Odom said. “You still need guys to make plays.’’

Odom’s final contribution came just as it seemed like the momentum was finally going to sway in Boston’s favor.

With 4:09 left, Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer to pull the Celtics within 2, and the noise at TD Garden reached a peak. But on the next possession, Odom drove hard to the baseline and finished with a layup that silenced the crowd and made the score 80-76.

“He just had one of those nights where he kept playing and things happened and created things for himself,’’ Jackson said.

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