Commentary

Farmar steps up in Game 5

Originally Published: June 15, 2008
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

Jordan FarmarNoah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesLakers point guard Jordan Farmar came off the bench and made an immediate impact in Game 5.

LOS ANGELES -- You knew the Lakers were going to throw a new wrinkle after Boston's small-ball lineup knocked them sideways in Game 4. In Game 5, Phil Jackson came up with an answer: Jordan Farmar.

Farmar played 22 minutes and scored 11 points by attacking Boston's Eddie House and Sam Cassell off the dribble. By doing so, he made the Celtics pay for playing a slower defender at the point instead of regular starter Rajon Rondo.

"We thought Jordan could attack," Jackson said. "His speed and quickness got him to the basket, and he was able to break their defense down a little bit. That was important to us."

Farmar supplied the only two Lakers buckets in the disastrous first seven minutes of the second quarter, making a driving layup and assisting a Sasha Vujacic jumper, and came back with a steal and a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter.

The latter shot was significant for another reason -- Kobe Bryant came right back to him for the shots after he'd air-balled one seconds earlier.

"I just rushed it," Farmar said of the miss. "It's just a matter of being comfortable and being able to read a situation later on in the game."

We'd like to have our bench give us a better bump. Right now, their bench is playing a little bit better than ours is. We've got some guys performing off the bench but not the unit.

--Phil Jackson

And though Farmar took home an ugly plus-minus for the quarter (minus-7), the carnage would have been much worse without his contribution.

It was a similar situation in the fourth quarter -- one in which he played all 12 minutes. Farmar took House off the dribble for two layups at the start of the quarter, enabling L.A. to build a 14-point lead and forcing Boston to pull House.

"I talked to myself [on the off days]," Farmar said. "I gotta get in there. That's what I do, when I'm putting pressure on the defense and making them help, [I'm] making plays for my teammates. And if they don't come, [I'm] finishing, I have the ability to finish inside even though I'm little."

He was good enough that he played the last 6:22 as a unit with Derek Fisher, as well as the final 3:10 of the first half. It was a pairing we hadn't seen much of in the first four games, with Bryant sliding up to the small forward slot.

"Sasha didn't have a really good game going," Jackson said, "so I put Fisher in as a balanced partner back there in the backcourt with him."

"They go to their small lineup and try to stretch the floor," Farmar said. "[Fisher] spaced the floor; I was trying to get to the basket, be aggressive tonight, put the pressure on them. It's just a different look."

Based on the results, it's a pairing we could see much more of -- especially as Jackson is struggling with how to use the rest of his bench. L.A.'s second unit once again hit a wall in the second quarter, enabling the Celtics to cut into a 17-point lead after the first quarter.

"We'd like to have our bench give us a better bump," Jackson said. "Right now, their bench is playing a little bit better than ours is. We've got some guys performing off the bench but not the unit."

Jackson turned to Chris Mihm on Sunday night and probably wishes he hadn't, getting a disastrous three-minute stint that fueled Boston's comeback. Luke Walton and Ronny Turiaf continued to struggle, too, and with normally solid Vujacic also off his game, a strong effort from Farmar became a necessity.

"We tried some different faces out there to see what we could do, but we're not going to stay with that," Jackson said. "We won't be comfortable with that on Tuesday."

However, the one aspect he can be comfortable with is Farmar's ability to attack when Rondo leaves the floor. Cassell and House can't stay in front of him, and Farmar's ball pressure at the other end can force Boston to use up valuable shot clock time.

In the ongoing search for antidotes to Boston's small-ball lineup, Farmar has been Jackson's best answer, and if the Lakers are going to complete the Finals' first comeback from 3-1 down, he'll have to keep providing solutions.

"We still have a great belief in this locker room that we can get it done and be the world champs," Farmar said.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.

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