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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lakers trying not to look back

L.A. faces elimination tonight

June 15, 2008

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Los Angeles Lakers, from left, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic and coach Phil Jackson, look on during practice. The Lakers tuned up Saturday in El Segundo, Calif.

Los Angeles Lakers, from left, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic and coach Phil Jackson, look on during practice. The Lakers tuned up Saturday in El Segundo, Calif.

— Saturday's headlines screamed the historic significance of the Lakers' shocking meltdown.

From the Los Angeles Times: "The game hurts. Lakers are just the latest L.A. team to take a big fall."

From the Los Angeles Daily News: "Heartbreak City. After the Lakers collapse in Game 4, we look at some of the biggest meltdowns in L.A. sports history."

Those were from the front page of the city's two major newspapers, not from the sports sections. The comparisons to failures by the likes of past Lakers teams as well as UCLA, USC, the Dodgers, Rams, Angels and Kings dated to the 1960s.

Yep, the Lakers' come-from-ahead 97-91 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday night lives on in these parts, and as center Pau Gasol put it, three straight Los Angeles victories will likely be the only way it will be put to rest.

The Lakers led by 24 points in the second quarter and by 20 midway through the third period before being outscored 47-21 to finish what turned out to be the biggest recorded collapse in NBA finals history.

"I still can't believe we lost that game, even after watching it a second time," forward Vladimir Radmanovic said after practice Saturday.

So instead of entering Game 5 on Sunday night in a 2-2 tie, the Lakers find themselves in a 3-1 hole. They realize only eight teams in NBA playoff history have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, and that it's never happened in the finals.

"We're down 3-1. The Yankees were up 3-1," said Lamar Odom, a Yankees fan who hasn't forgotten the 2004 AL championship series, when the Yankees actually led Boston, 3-0, before losing four straight games and the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.

"It was tough, one of the toughest ones I've ever been through," Odom said of the crushing Game 4 loss. "Teams like (the Celtics) when you've got them down, you've got to kill them."

Those on the Lakers' side seemed unaware of what's been said or written.

"No," Kobe Bryant replied flatly when asked if he knew of the criticism.

The MVP said he's taken refuge by reading to his young daughters.

"Like five chapters of Harry Potter," Bryant said. "They just wanted me to read to them and I swear, it was awesome. He had more problems dealing with Voldemort than we have dealing with the media and the Celtics."

Assistant coach Jim Cleamons said he's stayed away from the newspapers.

"Having lived through it, I didn't want to relive it," he said.

Same for Gasol.

"I haven't read or heard any criticism," he said. "I haven't watched TV or read the papers. I've only watched the video."

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