I was standing by the tunnel where the Lakers exited from Boston's TD Garden court at halftime of Game 5 and what I saw was a lot of blank faces, a lot of defeated looks.
I know Kobe Bryant saw the same thing. I think that's when he decided that his only option was to try and single-handedly get his team back into the game. And he almost did with a 19-point third quarter.
But it wasn't enough to avert a Boston victory. Not on a night when the Lakers shot only 39.7 percent from the floor.
And even worse, allowed the Celtics to shoot 56.3 percent.
I didn't expect to see such a defensive collapse by the Lakers who now trail 3-2 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. While the Celtics were taking the Lakers out of everything they tried to do offensively, the Lakers were never able to dig their heels into the parquet floor and take a stand against Boston. That is what was so discouraging.
Let's face it. This was 2008 all over again. I didn't go to Game 6 of the NBA Finals two years ago in Boston when the Celtics clinched the championship, but that 39-point victory was so ugly that, as a Laker fan, I turned the TV off.
I was there for the bitter end this time, and this game wasn't any prettier for the Lakers. You wouldn't know it from the 92-86 score, but imagine how bad it would have been if the Lakers:
• had not gotten twice as many opportunities at the free-throw line. They hit 17 of 26 to only 9 of 13 for Boston.
• had not outrebounded the Celtics on the offensive boards 16-7.
• had not been more effective at holding onto the ball. Boston had 16 turnovers, the Lakers 13.
All that and still the Lakers lost.
And they won't win another game in this series, even though they are going home, unless they find a way to break through that Celtic defense. Boston disrupted the triangle offense, the Lakers' spacing was horrible and they couldn't move the ball effectively.
I also have to give credit again to Boston coach Doc Rivers. I praised him after Game 4 for sticking with his bench in the fourth quarter because they deserved to be out there. I'm praising him now for sticking with the starters at crunch time in Game 5. They showed up from the start, playing effectively and emotionally.
Still, Rivers has to feel good knowing, that if his starters again falter, bench players like Glen "Big Baby" Davis (or Shrek as he is now known), Nate Robinson (the self-proclaimed Donkey), Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen are only a few feet away if he needs them.
The only Shrek the Lakers have ever had is now in Cleveland where he is known as Shaq.
So what do the Lakers have to do to salvage this series? Well, for one thing, they have to wipe those blank looks off their faces. The last thing you want to do is give off the appearance of defeat.
I think the Lakers have to try to push the ball as much as they can before that Celtic defense can get set, run the triangle the way they know how, pop that ball around and move with purpose.
I think they should keep Ron Artest on Paul Pierce even though Pierce exploded for 27 points in Game 5. Ron is still their best bet.
Before this series even began, I picked the Lakers in seven and I am not wavering now.
They looked extremely uncomfortable in Game 5, like they were in the deep end of the pool, but the good news is, they now get to come home and swim in their own pool.