Sunday, December 7, 2008

Withstanding the fury of a fourth-quarter game

Lakers coach Phil Jackson is concerned with the frequency with which his team has let big leads get away.

Against WAS this week, "the Lakers led by 16 in the first quarter, but it was chopped to two a few minutes before halftime. The Lakers worked it back up to 20 in the third quarter, and still led by 19 with 7:27 left to play, but they escaped a loss only after Caron Butler missed a three-point attempt as time expired at Verizon Center."

After the game in the locker room:

[Coach Jackson] picked up a marker and started writing on the white board in the locker room. When he was done, Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Indiana, Philadelphia and Washington were arranged in a neat vertical line, representing the teams that had come back from double-digit deficits in the second half against the Lakers.

Derek Fisher (pictured here with Coach Jackson), a veteran of five NBA Finals and 13 seasons, took it a step further.
He approached the board and wrote "Boston Finals," followed by the number 24, a reference to the 24-point lead the Lakers blew in a Game 4 loss to the Celtics in last season's championship round.

Coach Jackson blamed himself for letting the lead get away and promised to make adjustments:

"I think it was poor coaching, that's what it was tonight. Putting too much trust and faith in a younger group, the second unit, that perhaps can't hold it on the road. They can't withstand the fury or the tensity of a fourth-quarter game, so I'm going to have to change it up a little bit, I think."