Immediately following the Lakers 104-99 Game 1 win over the Utah Jazz at STAPLES Center on Sunday afternoon, Lamar Odom, when asked why the Lakers bench could not hold an 8 point lead (81-73) at the start of the fourth quarter, replied, "What we have is failure to communicate."
If that line sounds familiar, it should. It is ranked at number 11 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 most memorable movie lines. It was uttered by Strother Martin's character, Captain, in the 1967 drama, "Cool Hand Luke", which starred Paul Newman.
In the title role as Luke, a prisoner in a Georgia prison camp, Newman's character refuses to submit to the system. His inability to conform drives the plot of the movie and leads to a tragic conclusion.
Strother Martin's character, Captain, in the 1967 drama, "Cool Hand Luke"
The Lakers bench, which had 15 points in the first half on 6-11 shooting, came unglued in the second half, where they scored just seven points, three of which came from the free throw line. More importantly, they failed to hold or expand their team's lead, allowing the Jazz to get back in the game.
They failed to contain Paul Millsap who scored 8 of his 16 points in the final quarter. Utah started the final quarter on a 10-1 run, after which Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was forced once again (as he has all too often this season) to re-insert his starters, who then went on a 15-6 run over the final 4:10 to get the victory.
Let's take a look at a plethora of statistics from Game 1:
The Lakers started the game shooting a blistering 14-16 (87%) from the field, and finished 15-19 for the quarter.
No Laker player shot below 50% in the first quarter.
The Lakers did not attempt a '3' in the opening quarter.
Kobe Bryant hit his first six shots and finished the game 12-19 from the floor. He scored 13 of his game-high 31 points (and 13 of the Lakers 23 points) in the final quarter. Eleven of those 13 points came in the final four minutes of the game.
The Lakers started the fourth quarter by going 1-10 from the field and finished the final quarter 6-19.
While they suffered from cold shooting from the floor in the final quarter, it was their hot free throw shooting which allowed them to prevail in the end. In the fourth quarter, the Lakers went 11-12 from the charity stripe. They were 9-15 from the line at the end of three quarters.
The Lakers 3-point shooting started out 2-2. They went 0-10 the rest of the game.
The Purple and Gold had a commanding edge in points in the paint in the first quarter 22-12. Due to an ineffectual defensive effort, they allowed the Jazz to become more effective from inside as the game wore on. The Jazz outscored the Lakers 38-32 in the paint over the final three quarters.
The Lakers closed the first half shooting 61% (23-38), while holding Utah to 43% (17-40).
Starting Point Guard Derek Fisher had a game-high five steals, to go along with 10 points (4-7 shooting).
Forward Pau Gasol had another strong game. He scored 25 points (9-15 from the field) to go along with 12 rebounds and 4 assists, and he tied his career playoff high with 5 blocks.
Sixth Man Lamar Odom finished with 9 points and 12 rebounds, with 6 of those boards coming in the crucial final minutes of the game. In fact, he had 6 of his team's 14 rebounds in the final quarter.
Game two is set for Tuesday night. The Lakers bench has until then to improve on their ability to communicate. Or do they need to be reminded of the fate that awaited "Cool Hand Luke", who refused to conform? It's too bad that, unlike "Captain" in the film, Phil Jackson cannot send "The Bench Mob" to spend time in "the box", a harsh solitary confinement used to punish disobedient prisoners. It was believed that a man never came out the same way after he had spent time in "the box".