When down 3-2 in the NBA Finals and facing elimination for the first
time, the mark of a good coach is knowing how to spin a loss. Make your
fan base feel good about where you stand, even if deep down, you know
you're in deep trouble.
Late Sunday night, in the wake of the Lakers' 92-86 loss in Game
5 at the TD Garden, that's exactly what Phil Jackson did.
know, if you look at it, they've come home and carried the 3‑2 lead
back," the Zen Master said after his Lakers dropped two out of three in
Boston. "It's basically home court, home court. Now we're going back to
home court to win it. That's the way it's supposed to be, isn't it?
Unfortunately we couldn't get this win here, but we got the one that
counts, to bring us back home."
The home court debate has been raging on every June for 25 years. The NBA Finals
converted to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, with the winningest team getting Games 1,
2, 6 and 7 at home — and it's been disputed ever since.
you know your history, you know that 1985 was the first time the Lakers
ever beat the Celtics in the Finals. The C's were historically 8-0
against the Lakers going into the Finals that year, and MVP Larry
Bird had led them back again. Boston had gone 63-19, earning the top
overall seed in the playoffs, and L.A. was No. 1 in the West at 62-20.
C's hosted the first two games at the old Boston Garden. They won the
first in a blowout, but the Lakers salvaged a split. Then L.A. won two
of three at the Great Western Forum, and came to Boston needing to win just
one at the Garden to finish the Celtics off, which they did.
now what? The Celtics have followed the same script the Lakers did 25
years ago, putting themselves in position to win the Finals with just
one more win on the road. So now it's up to Kobe Bryant and the
Lakers to respond with poise and attempt to defend their home court not once but
Bryant, always the stoic, is downplaying that challenge.
He doesn't want to give any pep talks or inspire anyone — he just wants
to take care of business.
"Just man up and play," the Lakers'
captain said. "What the hell is the big deal? I don't see it as a big
deal. If I have to say something to them, then we don't deserve to be
champions. We're down 3‑2, we go home, win one game, go into the next
one. Simple as that."
Both teams are facing a challenge now. For
the Lakers, it's winning back-to-back games for the first time in this
series; for the Celtics, it's getting a win 3,000 miles from home. Neither team seems particularly uptight about it.
said a blunt Rajon Rondo when asked about the pressure of enemy
territory. "We play better on the road anyway, I think."
teams are playing to their strengths, statistically speaking. The
Lakers were 34-7 this season at the Staples Center, versus 23-18 on the
road, while the Celtics were 26-15 on the road — a better mark than their
24-17 record at the TD Garden.
"The Lakers have played the best between us to get
home‑court advantage, but we've played the best all year on the road,"
said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "So our team will be ready, and
it's going to be a hell of a challenge for us because they're going to
be great. We're going to have to beat them at their best because they're
going to be great there, and we can't expect anything else."
amid all this home/road talk, here's one more added wrinkle: For
Celtics captain Paul Pierce, this road game is actually home, in a way.
Pierce is a California native — born in Oakland, raised outside of
L.A. and a graduate of Inglewood High. He has a chance to win an NBA
championship in his old neighborhood.
Pierce and the Celtics beat the Lakers at home — in Boston — but now, Pierce can win at
his real home.
"It's going to have to happen if we're going to
win the title," said Pierce, who boarded a flight to L.A. on Monday
morning. "I mean, that would be great. But I'm not going to try to jinx
it right now. We've got to win one game, that's the goal. It would be
amazing if we get it done."
That it would. A championship is the
ultimate goal in this game, no matter where you win it. Come Tuesday
night, the Celtics have the chance to finish something special.