Lakers' bench lacking cohesion
LOS ANGELES -- By the way Lamar Odom was muttering to himself as he walked out of the home locker room after Game 1 on Sunday, you would have thought the Lakers just lost the game.
"It's frustrating," Odom said before turning the corner to head for home. "I'm just frustrated."
After the Lakers' bench players outscored the Thunder reserves 30-16 in Game 6 to close out the first round and outscored Utah's second unit 15-11 in the first half on Sunday, it looked like the bench was back in a big way for L.A.
Until the fourth quarter that is.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson inserted Odom, along with fellow reserves Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown and starter Andrew Bynum to start the fourth, and the group coughed up an eight-point lead in four and a half minutes before Jackson yanked Walton, Farmar and Brown for three starters who would now have to try to win the game in the final 7:32 starting from scratch.
"We should be able to build on leads," Odom said after the game. "It shouldn't have to come down to Pau [Gasol] and Kobe [Bryant] having to make every play at the end of the game. I don't feel like this game should have had to go like that."
L.A.'s bench was outscored 25-22 by Utah and finished the game shooting 8-for-19 as a group from the field and just 4-for-9 on free throws.
"If we don't get it together soon the starting five can't come out of the game," Odom said.
"We tend to kind of separate," Odom continued. "We kind of go our own way. That's something I don't think we can do.
"You can't make it to this level without being a little selfish, but when playing on a team like this, you got to give a little bit of yourself up to contribute for the big picture."
Asked if there was some disconnection occurring between the bench players, Odom replied, "We've been closer."
Walton echoed Odom's thoughts about not playing with a sense of cohesion.
"We're not going to succeed as a unit unless we play as a unit and not individually," Walton said, who had his highest individual scoring effort of the playoffs with seven points, but was anything but satisfied after the game.
There was little disagreement amongst the team about who deserved the blame after a 14-point lead became a four-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.
"I think our bench really let us down a little bit in the fourth quarter," Jackson said. "Not so much offensively, although things went wrong for them, but just the types of shots they gave up and the charge that Utah put in their game."
Added Bryant: "Our second unit's got to play better, as simple as that, and they will."
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Odom, who finished with nine points, 12 rebounds and two blocks and registered a huge offensive rebound and put-back layup with 49 seconds left to give the Lakers a three-point lead, did not want any attention surrounding his performance.
"It's not about me, I'm just talking about our play as a group," Odom said. "It's been down the whole year. We just got to find a way to try to get it back together, our unity back & I feel good when we feel good as a group."
Bynum plays through pain
Diagnosed with a small tear of the meniscus in his right knee Saturday, Bynum nonetheless took the floor Sunday and played nearly 25 minutes, scoring eight points on 4-of-8 shooting and adding 10 rebounds.
When asked after the game if the current injury was more of a matter of it causing him pain or weakness, Bynum said, "Both," and admitted to feeling "a little sore."
"Landing and pushing off are two areas [of concern] with my injury," Bynum said. "I have to be careful when I come down [after jumping]."
Overall, however, Bynum seemed pleased with his effort. While he noted the injury restricts the quality of his movement, he doesn't consider it overly debilitating. "It is there with me every step, but it is the kind of thing that I can play through till the end of the season," he said.
Jackson was also encouraged by his 22-year-old center's game.
"He gave us a really good effort," Jackson said. "You can tell he's limited in some of the things he's doing, but I thought it was a good effort."
Bynum acknowledged offseason surgery is a possibility, but for now he'll keep playing. "I'm going to ride it until I need to have it," he said. "I don't need it now. I'd rather play like this than have it now."
Bynum suggested that if surgery is necessary, it would be a one- to two-week recovery period and added that Farmar had a similar procedure done to his knee in the past that he was able to return quickly from.
Asked if he is concerned the knee might not hold up through possibly three more rounds of playoff action, Bynum said he wasn't, but emphasized the need for the Lakers to do what they can to polish off opponents quickly. "We've got to play the game. What happens is we get more rest if we play the right way. We definitely need to do that. We can't keep playing [like this for] seven games, because it's going to get worse."
Bryant approved of Bynum's work. "I think he's doing a great job," Bryant said. "He's playing through an injury. Sometimes you have to do that. I think that's a maturity for a young player in starting to figure out how to play around that, find different things to be effective despite the injury. That's how you grow."
On the bright side
Teams that win the opening game of a seven-game series have gone on to win 313 of 400 of them (78.3 percent) and Jackson-coached teams have fared even better, going 45-0 in series when they win Game 1.
They said it
"We're not supposed to win this series. So that's how we're going to attack it. We're just going to stay together in our locker room like we did in our last series [against Denver]. We believe we can win and we just got to try to steal this next game." -- Utah guard Deron Williams, who had 24 points and eight assists in Game 1.