Odom Quietly Returns to Form for Lakers
He's too good to be so bad for very long. And he knew it Tuesday night before Game 3 of the NBA Finals even began.
While Kobe Bryant scored all the points and Derek Fisher got the well-deserved glory for his fourth-quarter flurry from nowhere, it was Odom who quietly returned to form and set the table for the Lakers in their 91-84 victory over the Celtics.
"I knew if I could just stay on the court, things would work out OK,'' Odom said. "I knew if I just took my time, the game would come around to me again.''
Odom's game didn't sparkle Tuesday -- he had 12 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes -- but it was close to efficiency perfection.
He hit all five of his field-goal attempts. He made his only 3-pointer. He made his only free throw. And he defended well around the basket, helping turn back a late Celtics rally.
He was the perfect role-playing sixth man, something the Lakers lacked when they split the first two games in Los Angeles, when Odom had more personal fouls than points.
This time there were no mistakes, no bad fouls or bad shots, just vintage Odom at his best.
After averaging 14 points and 11.8 rebounds in the Western Conference finals, Odom had threatened to drag down the Lakers with a failure-to-show-up start in the first two games of the Finals. Plagued with foul trouble, he averaged four points, 4.5 rebounds and five fouls, limited to only 18 minutes per game.
"That [start] was over. You always have a game ahead of you to worry about, not the one you just played,'' he said. "You just stay poised, stay focused and don't take it personal. It comes back. I figured it would.''
When the Celtics rallied late in the game, erasing a 17-point deficit and pulling to within 70-69 with 8:04 remaining, it was Odom who hit the seven-foot bank shot for the 3-point cushion. When the Celtics closed within two points on a 3-pointer by Paul Pierce at 78-76, it was Odom who responded again with a driving layup.
An offensive rebound by Odom in the closing stretch also led to another basket by Fisher.
"He just had one of those nights where he kept playing, and things happened, and he created things for himself,'' said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "He got going tonight.''
Jackson met with Odom privately on Monday, reminding him that a bad start to the Finals likely would change if he stayed the course and didn't try to do too much.
With Odom not saddled by foul trouble this time, Jackson was able to cut back the minutes of center Andrew Bynum, whose troublesome knee has been another Lakers concern. He also didn't need to rely too much on the struggling Ron Artest. Odom, with his versatility, helps the Lakers at all three frontcourt spots.
"That (Odom playing well) is a big comeback for us,'' Bynum said. "It makes us a deep team, and he changes the speed of the game when he's in. This team doesn't run as smoothly if he's not playing well.''