Lakers hope to keep this feeling
The bench stepped up in Game 6 and the players know they need a repeat effort
LOS ANGELES -- As the shiny purple-and-gold streamers floated down from the Staples Center rafters Tuesday night after the Lakers' 89-67 win to force a Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Lakers reserve guard Shannon Brown got the feeling he was reliving a scene from his past.
"Kind of like, after the game, walking to the locker room, it was like I had been there before," Brown said after practice Wednesday. "I promise. It happens to me a lot. I don't know really what it means, but I know it's something.
"I have déjà vu a lot."
Brown made his way through the tunnel after contributing four points, two rebounds and two assists and serving as a catalyst for a Lakers bench that took it to the Celtics' second unit in Game 6. The déjà vu he was experiencing couldn't have been related to success in that way, however.
Through the first five games of the series, Boston's bench averaged 23.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks. L.A.'s reserves were getting lapped in every category, putting up 16.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 0.6 blocks.
The Lakers' second unit surprised the Celtics' subs Tuesday, winning in points 25-13 (it was 24-0 after three quarters when L.A. ran out to a 25-point lead), assists 5-3 and steals 5-4, and keeping pace in the stats that Boston won (rebounds were 21-16 and blocks were 4-3).
Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Brown showed up in Game 6, combining to provide a third All-Star-level performance to complement the regulars -- Kobe Bryant's 26 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals and Pau Gasol's 17 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks -- who produce those type of numbers every night.
"Bench production is always a little bit underrated," Gasol said. "When the bench is clicking and they're making plays and they're stepping up defensively and offensively, it makes a big difference."
With Game 7 on Thursday, Bryant and Gasol will come ready to carry the team the way they always do, but after seeing in Game 6 what kind of impact they can have, the Lakers' bench should feel the same responsibility to show up again.
In other words, when Brown feels déjà vu all over again after Game 7 is over and the Larry O'Brien Trophy has been handed out, it should be because of another worthy effort by the Lakers' bench.
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"We take pride in what we do," Brown said. "We always want to come out and perform well, especially for our teammates and starters who are logging a lot of minutes for the season."
Farmar, who had four points and three steals Tuesday and left his mark on the game by picking up some floor burns, said all the Lakers' reserves have to replicate the same energy.
"It's going to be a lot of energy," Farmar said. "That's really what we play for. It's not points. It's not anything like that. It's more about energy and momentum of the game. We come in and do things that can change momentum and help our team. Get the crowd ignited a little bit and play well.
"You find a way to get yourself in the game, whether it's get a little dirty, get on the floor, do other things to get yourself going and then you don't think anything of it, it's just playing hard."
His words echoed those of Celtics sub Nate Robinson. Earlier this season, Robinson kept himself prepared enough on the bench when he was with New York to score 41 points on Jan. 1 after having not played a game for a month.
"You got to bring the same energy man, that's it," Robinson said. "That's all it is. That's weird because everybody keeps asking me, 'How do you be ready?' You just got to bring energy. As long as you bring energy, you'll be fine."
There will be plenty of energy inside Staples Center on Thursday, for what Lakers coach Phil Jackson calls a "high-tension situation," but the Lakers' bench has been spotty in its consistency this postseason.
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Only seven times in 22 games in the playoffs this year has the Lakers' bench outscored its opponent and only three times in those 22 games has Los Angeles had four bench players contribute four points or more apiece, the way Odom, Vujacic, Farmar and Brown did Tuesday.
"I think the entire year was a lot of ups and downs, but we can't affect and we can't have any influence on the past right now," said Vujacic, who scored nine points Tuesday after scoring only 10 points in the other five games of the Finals. "Even Game 6, whatever happens happened, we can't go back and change anything. We got to live for the moment and we are living for today and for tomorrow."
But they can't just live in the moment. Not this time. They need to relive the moment. They need for Brown to recall what it was like to be a part of the Lakers' game-changing bench brigade again.
Because if that happens, the Lakers will become NBA title holders once again and there's sure to be a heck of a rush of déjà vu for a franchise that will be crowned champion for the 16th time.
Keith Hawkins from ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report. Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.