AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- It wasn't the defiant assurance of Rasheed Wallace's "They will not win Game 2" vow in the East Finals. Still, Kobe Bryant's quietly confident claim after the Lakers' Game 4 loss in the NBA Finals will have to qualify as a guarantee.
"I'm telling you right now," Bryant told the Los Angeles Times after Sunday's 88-80 defeat to Detroit. "We'll win Tuesday."
When asked about his Game 5 promise during Monday's media session, Bryant backpedaled from his comments before stepping forward to take ownership.
"I'll go with that, man. It's fine with me," Bryant said. "We don't have a choice. We've got to win. We've got to get it done.
"I think we came up here [and the] best-case scenario was to get three [wins], the next was to get two. We still have an opportunity to get one. The worst possible scenario is you drop all three of these [games] but I don't think that's going to happen."
Bryant's teammates weren't surprised by the remarks. In fact, they didn't have to think twice before throwing their support behind No. 8.
"I feel that way, too," Shaquille O'Neal said.
"That makes two of us. All we need is about six more people," Rick Fox added.
The danger in all of this, of course, is that Bryant will try to do too much to back up his words. A disappointing 8-for-25 performance in which the shots became increasingly difficult only figures to fuel the competitive fire of Bryant, who's shooting 31.6 percent (12 for 38) since his late heroics in Game 2.
Poor shot selection is partly to blame for Bryant's slump. The other reason has been Tayshaun Prince's 7-foot-plus wingspan blocking Bryant's view of the basket at all times.
"When Rasheed guaranteed a victory, he was trying to make a statement to us and to the coaching staff that we've got to come out with the right mind set," Prince said. "I don't know if that's what he's doing, but I think when a guy makes a statement like that he's really trying to get his guys focused on what has to be done. Obviously being down 3-1 is a must-win for him."
"We know Kobe is one of those people who are going to contribute in the game, so he's going to have to find a rhythm in the course of the game, so he's exploring that," coach Phil Jackson said. "That part of it I think is OK. But the timing and the choices [of shots] I think are what's important right now."
The way Derek Fisher sees it, if any Laker is going to make such a prediction, it may as well be Bryant.
"That's the right guy for us to start with in terms of his belief [of] the things he can do to help our team on the court [and] help us get a win," Fisher said. "That's what it's all about at this point. I don't think there's really much to talk about. We have to win to keep this thing going."
"We realize what we're up against," Karl Malone said. "We're not copping an attitude. It's not an attitude. We just believe in each other."