Jackson urges Lakers to wash away tough loss
Coach soothes team after devastating Game 4 collapse
LOS ANGELES •
Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson yesterday urged his team to fight back after squandering a 24point lead and losing, 97-91, to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals on Thursday.
The Lakers trail 3-1 in the best-ofseven series, a deficit no team has ever managed to overturn.
“I told them as a team they had their heart ripped out,” Jackson, who gave his team the day off from practice, told reporters. “It’s tough to recover from that. But they will. This thing is not over. We want to continue to force the action, want to continue to force the play.”
The Lakers held a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter before unraveling in all facets of the game. By the opening of the final period, the Lakers’ lead was down to two.
Jackson said everyone associated with the team felt responsible for the loss, even the equipment manager who “probably thought he put the wrong Tide (detergent) in the uniforms.”
The coach, with a record-tying nine NBA titles on his resume, said the Lakers would be ready to play Game 5 tomorrow.
“These young men are really resilient,” Jackson said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt if we had to play this morning we probably wouldn’t feel that great about playing. But fortunately, we’re not playing until Sunday and we’ll be back ready to go.”
The Celtics are on the brink of their 17th championship, but coach Doc Rivers was taking nothing for granted.
“When you look at this series any of the games, besides probably Game 2 (a 108-102 Celtics win), could have gone either way. So this is a close series in our minds,’’ Rivers said. “We have to just focus on that process. We can’t look at anything more than that.”
If the Lakers win tomorrow, the series shifts to Boston for Game 6 on Tuesday and the series finale, if necessary, on Thursday.
Jackson said the team did not need league MVP Kobe Bryant playing at his best to win.
The 10-time all-star guard scored 17 points Thursday but hit only six of 19 shots while harassed by several Celtics at every turn.
“Kobe didn’t scored (a basket) in the first half and we had an 18-point lead,” Jackson said.
“We wanted to reiterate that, that we can still win this ball game if we play the way we did in the first half.
“That’s something that’s important for us as a team to understand.”
COMEBACK SETS HIGH-WATER MARK
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, which became the league’s official statistician in 1970-71, the Boston Celtics comeback in Game 4 Thursday night ranks as the largest in NBA Finals history.
Previously, the largest Finals deficit erased since 1971 occurred when the Houston Rockets rallied from 20 points down to defeat the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the 1995 Finals.
That designation now belongs to Boston.
‘‘We’re still a fairly new team, and coming into these situations we just said, ‘Just fight,’ ’’ guard Ray Allen said. ‘‘No matter what’s going to happen, just fight, do what you can do.’’