LA displays muscle with early bench press
LOS ANGELES — Lakers guard Shannon Brown talked about minutes. The minutes he and teammates were able to play last night in Game 6 and the difference those minutes made.
The moment felt crucial for Brown, who played 19 minutes 24 seconds, because in Game 5 he only played 19 seconds. He and teammates on the bench left Boston trailing three games to two and listening to criticism about being a supporting cast unable to match the intensity of their opponent.
They don’t have to hear that today.
“Every game isn’t going to be the same game,’’ Brown said. “Some games we’re going to have to do certain things, but we knew we had to come off the bench to provide. That’s what everybody’s been talking about how their bench comes in and they bring in all that energy and they do the scoring or whatever, but we knew what we had to do and we came out and did it.’’
The Lakers’ bench outscored its Celtics’ counterpart, 25-13, in LA’s 89-67 victory, putting up its most productive effort in the series. Sasha Vujacic scored 9 points off the bench and Lamar Odom contributed 8, playing 28:26 while Andrew Bynum (15:53) rested his knee.
They were part of a unit that did most of its damage in the second quarter. The effort was visible early when Lakers guard Jordan Farmar and Rajon Rondo scurried after a loose ball in the second quarter. Farmar used a headfirst slide to sling the ball toward Kobe Bryant, who was chasing along the left side. Bryant picked up the ball and drove to the basket and was fouled with eight minutes to go in the half. Bryant hit both free throws to give the Lakers a 36-23 lead.
Bryant didn’t have to stay in the game for the Lakers to be effective. He came out with 7:46 to go in the first half, and when he returned three minutes later, the Lakers had stretched the lead to 18 points (45-27).
“Well, historically benches are much more comfortable on their home floor,’’ Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “There’s a comfort zone out there. But the energy and the direction they had was what I was as pleased with.’’
Jackson dumped his bench into the game in the second quarter, with Josh Powell getting in the game for the first time in the NBA Finals. The bench, led by Odom’s 6 points, outscored the Celtics, 15-13, in the quarter. The unit accounted for 15 of the Lakers’ 23 points and extended the lead to 20 points at halftime.
DJ Mbenga also made his Finals debut with every active Laker getting into the game. Brown, who scored 4 points on two powerful dunks, said all a player can do is wait for his chance.
“You just have to stay ready,’’ Brown said. “When I don’t play, I’m a little down because I feel like — especially when we lose — I might have been able to help and contribute in a positive way. [Last night] my number was called and I tried to make the most of my minutes.’’
They all did.