NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 5: Lakers problems all stem from their defense, or whatever you call that

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Pierce_leaning.jpgPhil Jackson was wrong after the game. He was doing what he had to do — he needed to build up his team’s confidence, not tear them down — but that doesn’t mean he was accurate. When questioned about the Lakers defense he did not seem all that disappointed.

“They scored 92 points,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the game. “We’ll live with that and we’ll come back and play that game again, regardless of what they shot.”

But Boston scored those points on just 84 possessions. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 109.5 (points per 100 possessions), which is three points a game higher than what they did in the regular season, and six points higher than the Lakers gave up during the season. The Lakers did not play good defense just because the score was low. The Celtics were efficient on offense, which is why they won.

Boston shot 65 percent in the first half. They came out in the third quarter and scored on 12 of their first 13 possessions.

The Celtics were hot, but the Lakers defense let them get that way.

“They were shooting a high percentage but it gets that way when you are shooting layups,” Jackson said.

“Tonight we were not very good on defense at all,” Kobe Bryant said.

Los Angeles let Boston get the shots it wanted from the places on the floor it wanted. Like losing Ray Allen so he is wide open under the basket to catch the pass and lay it in. Boston made those shots, then things snowballed and pretty soon the Celtics could not seem to miss.

The hottest Celtic was Paul Pierce, who had 27 points shooting 57 percent from the floor. But the Celtics got him free by bringing him off pick-and-rolls, which the Lakers switch, then he is able to drive by the other guy and get to the elbow jumper he likes. He hit a couple of those (he had 8 first quarter points), then he got confident, he got isolated on Ron Artest and hit step back shots. Once he gets comfortable, Pierce hits just about everything.

The Lakers help defense was spotty all night. There was the play where Nate Robinson drove off a pick, only to have Lamar Odom take a stab at the ball as the help rather than ride him all the way to the basket and take away the smaller man’s shot. All night long the Lakers did not help the helper.

Los Angeles also was not doing a consistent job getting back in transition —  Boston had 14 points to the Lakers 3.

Los Angeles needs transition points themselves — it is hard to score against the Boston half-court offense, the Lakers need some easy buckets. But you can’t run when you are taking the ball out of the basket.

If the Lakers want to play a Game 7, they will need to get stops in Game 6. They will need to contest shots, push the Celtics off the spots on the floor they like, generally make then uncomfortable. There are other things, too — Boston won seemingly every 50/50 loose ball — but if it doesn’t start with better defense not much else matters.