|Bryant fails to connect on several open looks|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 05 June 2008 22:53|
That doesn't happen very often to the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar. But it did Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
``I had some great looks, they just didn't stay down,'' Bryant said after shooting 9-for-26 and scoring 24 points in a 98-88 loss to the Boston Celtics. ``It was just pile it in with the other bad shooting games I've had and flush it and come back in Game 2, and hopefully, I get the same looks.''
Game 2 will be played Sunday before the best-of-seven series shifts to Los Angeles for the third, fourth and fifth games.
Bryant made no excuses, saying the Boston defense didn't do anything he didn't expect.
``I just missed some bunnies. I just missed some really, really good looks,'' he said. ``I'll be thinking about those a little bit tonight. Those little mid-range jumpers that I get, I've got to knock those in.''
Bryant also had a tough time in the Lakers' two regular-season games against the Celtics, shooting 15-for-46 and averaging 25 points. Boston won both games.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson could only shrug his shoulders concerning Thursday night's performance.
``I think he thought he was shooting the ball pretty well, they just didn't stay in,'' the coach said. ``A lot of them rattled out. I said to him, `Check it out,' he had some guys open in other parts of the offense. But he said he had some good looks. You live on that. That's going to happen.''
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the finals began that his team wouldn't double-team Bryant a lot. But there always seemed to be a player or two in the way when he tried to drive to the basket.
``He's so great at breaking down defenses off the dribble. The Celtics' defense just doesn't allow that kind of play,'' said Derek Fisher, Bryant's backcourt mate. ``As the series goes on, he'll understand where his shots are going to come from and what spots, and he'll shoot the ball I think at a higher percentage than he did tonight.
``He's going to end up in a situation where he's taking more of catch-and-shoot opportunities when he's coming off of cuts and coming off of screens.''
Bryant scored 16 points in the second half, but Fisher and Pau Gasol were held in check, scoring a total of five points between them after getting 25 in the first half.
Boston's defense was especially effective in the fourth quarter, when the Lakers shot 5-for-20 and made only one field goal after Sasha Vujacic's basket with 6:53 to play trimmed the Celtics' lead to 86-82.
Bryant shot 1-for-6 in the final 12 minutes.
``We started shooting a lot of jumpers,'' said Gasol, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. ``Hopefully next time we won't be as anxious and we'll be more focused and sharper.''
Lamar Odom, who had 14 points and six rebounds, said the Lakers didn't execute on offense very well, especially in the second half.
``We've got to do a better job of playing the right way throughout the game,'' he said. ``To beat this team, we've got to execute on offense, not take quick shots. We go inside, get some layups, get some stops, we'll be all right. We'll see them Sunday.''
Backup forward Luke Walton also pointed to a lack of execution and ball movement.
``We got a little stagnant,'' Bryant said. ``I think our rhythm wasn't there, wasn't what we like it to be. Still, we played well enough to almost steal the game.''
Maybe so, but the Lakers wound up shooting 41.6 percent - far below their postseason field goal percentage of 47.8 percent. And they were outrebounded 46-33.
``Some balls bounced their way tonight,'' Bryant said. ``They scrapped and they clawed their way to this victory. They played a lot more physical than we did, and I think that's something we have to adjust to and get ready for in Game 2.''
Rebounding has been a problem throughout the postseason - the opposition has 64 more rebounds than the Lakers in 16 games - an average of four per game.
``They did a much better job on the boards,'' Jackson said. ``That's the difference in the ballgame.''
The Lakers had 12 second-chance points to only four for the Lakers.
``That was a big minus for us,'' Gasol said. ``We have to do a better job on the boards. Obviously, that's a factor.''