Lakers anxious, ready for Game 6
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After what could have been his team's last shootaround of the season Tuesday, there wasn't a hint of apocalyptic concern in Derek Fisher's voice headed into Game 6 of the NBA Finals trailing 3-2 to the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers co-captain, who was the last player to leave the floor after getting an extra 15 minutes worth of shots, exuded confidence and even excitement about playing a true must-win game.
"We're excited about this opportunity," Fisher said. "Like we've been saying this whole time, we know it wasn't going to be easy, it hasn't been easy and we don't expect tonight to be easy. But are we confident in our ability to put together a good game and give ourselves a chance to win the championship on our home floor? We're definitely confident in that fact."
The Lakers are 9-1 at home in the postseason, the only loss coming in Game 2 against the Celtics.
Fisher said the only thing he was worried about was how his team would focus on the moment with the prospect of a Game 7 looming on the horizon Thursday.
"Just that we maybe get ahead of ourselves," Fisher said. "In order to have a game on Thursday, you have to win today, so I think it's easy to let your mind to wander into winning two games as opposed to just concentrating on the one today. That would probably be my biggest concern, because we know we're capable of winning two games at home that we're thinking ahead as opposed as to really just focusing on six o'clock tonight."
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The Lakers should have their whole roster intact for the game. Lamar Odom, who reported having flu-like symptoms in Game 5, had his condition officially listed as sinusitis by the team, but Odom participated in shootaround and will play.
"He's going to be alright, we hope," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He got out and tried to shoot with his teammates a little bit here."
Added Fisher: "I don't think he's expecting anybody to feel sorry for him because he has the sniffles, it's just bad timing I guess. He'll be fine."
Andrew Bynum, who played 32 minutes in Game 5 after getting his troublesome right knee drained for the second time since the conference finals ended, is expected to contribute more than the six points and one rebound he finished with Sunday.
"Everything that Drew got done was accomplished in the first six minutes of that [first] quarter," Jackson said. "We hope he can get together a couple extra appearances out there on the floor and give us that kind of effort."
Jackson and Fisher were asked about Kobe Bryant's comments to Yahoo! after Game 5 when he said, "We've regressed since Game 1 ... Our defense belongs on milk cartons in the last two games."
Jackson declined to comment and the normally eloquent Fisher seemed uncomfortable addressing the quote.
"I guess when you see [Bryant], you can ask him," Fisher said. "He said it. I guess he's speaking factually, they've won three out of the last four games, so something's regressed, but I would assume he wasn't saying it in a way that means it's something that we can't correct. I think that's what our focus will be on tonight and what's been on, is playing defense and taking away some of the things that we've allowed to get away from us, not necessarily over the course of a whole game, but in certain stretches in the game."
The Lakers allowed the Celtics to shoot 56.3 percent from the floor in Game 5 and also lost the points-in-the-paint, rebounding and fastbreak battles, all of which are facets of the game the Lakers will focus on Tuesday.
"Any coach is going to tell you it's all about loose balls, rebounds [and] extra effort in situations that makes a difference in a game like this," Jackson said.
The team got together for a film session Monday shortly after arriving in Los Angeles around 2 p.m. PT and Jackson said there were several plays in the fourth quarter of Game 5 that went in favor of the Celtics that could have made the game even closer, including a foul on Rajon Rondo that wasn't called when he reached in on Bryant for a steal and a Ray Allen missed 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock that Jackson said, "we're not convinced wasn't an airball, that's a 24-second violation."
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That's in the past, however, and all that could be left of the Lakers 2009-10 season is Tuesday's game against the Celtics if they do not come out and win.
"They're very anxious to play this game," Jackson said. "They're very ready and willing to get after it. Whether that happens the way we want it to go, that's still to be seen."
Added Fisher: "Like I said a couple games ago in that fourth quarter, we're in a position where we just have to worry about tonight. That's all we have to do. If somebody told you, you can give yourself a chance to win the championship by winning one game on your homecourt, setting up maybe another opportunity two days later to win a championship, I think we'd all take that and we wouldn't run from it at all. It's just a matter of showing up and being ready to go at six o'clock tonight."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten