What Coulda Been
Can we go back to the last game, Game 5, for a moment? I have searched YouTube for a clip of the last 20 secs and didn’t come up with anything so you’ll have to check your own DVR or TiVo or come over to the NTL office to look at this, but did anyone notice what I saw after Eddie House hit that three-pointer from the left corner with less than 15 seconds remaining, cutting the deficit to three? I bet the Celtics coaching staff did. House hit the three and the Lakers then inbounded the ball against all-out pressure. Gasol, passing it in and guarded by KG, tossed it cross court where Kobe and Derek Fisher had moved. That was a mistake by those two; you always space out the defense. So, the ball is passed up and soft between them. Problem is: two guys cannot both catch the ball. It, natch, gets fumbled. Eddie House, alert, alive, wanting the ball, wanting another shot at a three, steps in and, diving, pokes it loose. Kobe then dives for the ball as it’s going toward the corner; KG’s coming over and in the play, taking away the baseline return pass to Gasol. Sam Cassell, and here’s my point, is drifting s-l-o-w-l-y over from the lane where he was taking away middle and never matched up with anyone. Okay, as Kobe’s is diving on the ball, Kobe, similarly alert and alive, is thinking about where he’s gonna throw it before he potentially slides out of bounds or gets hit with a travel call. There’s a passing lane from Kobe, who’s now on the floor, up the sideline, to Fisher. An obvious passing lane. You could have put up a neon flashing street sign with arrows: Passing Lane Here. What is defense supposed to do in almost every defensive situation? Get in the passing lane. And when you need the ball, and oh-do-you-need-the-ball when you are down three with 12 seconds to go in a game that could clinch your team the championship, you play in the passing lane (or cat-and-mouse your way in to the passing lane). Cassell had an opportunity to generate a “CASSELL STEALS THE BALL” moment, but he just stood there, spectating, not anticipating the way Bird did against the Pistons, the way, Havlicek did against the 76ers. As Kobe was on the floor, he was only going to be able to throw it one way and to just one possible player. Calcified, mummified, deer-in-the-headlightsified, Cassell did not make the move. Too bad, Johnny Most was ready. Onto Game 6.