The Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a fifteen point second quarter deficit to defeat the Boston Celtics. The Lakers got close by pounding the ball inside to Gasol, Bynum and Odom. Then Kobe Bryant finished the Celtics off with his fourth quarter shooting. The highlight for the Celtics was Ray Allen making two three point shots to take the all time lead in three point field goals made over Reggie Miller who was at the game announcing for TNT.
The Lakers badly needed this game for their own psyche. Even being the defending two-time champion, getting beat and beaten poorly by top tier teams another top team would not be good for their confidence. When they got down by fifteen there was a sense of here we go again. You could see the look of concern on their faces and there body language was terrible. Even Phil Jackson looked worried which never happens during the regular season. But the Lakers did not panic, they stayed with the plan to get the ball inside to their big people Bynum and Gasol, who were much more aggressive in this game, and they finished at the rim. In their last meeting with Celtics both were "punked" all over Staples Center. It also helped that the Lakers began to knock down some jump shots, which loosened up the Celtics' zone, I mean man to man defense. The Lakers began to defend like they did in the finals. They challenged the Celtic shooters and controlled the boards. Bynum played a big role in each category. As many injuries as he has suffered the last three years, He can still be very effective because of the size, strength and length. I'm sure the Celtics would not mind seeing that Carmelo for Bynum trade. They would easily go through the Lakers if that did occur.
Kobe Bryant who played the facilitator in the first half obtaining the Lakers front court involved and saving energy for the second half. It also did not hurt that he was guarding Rajon Rondo, dashing him to shot, which he did and most of the time, he missed. Kobe did not have to expend energy guarding Rondo. Kobe went to the Black Mamba attack mode in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. The six minutes of game time rest to start fourth quarter was huge him and for the Lakers. He aborted both Von Wafer and Ray Allen when he returned. A lot of credit should go to Shannon Brown others for preventing Kobe to rest for that long. This could be the signature win that spurns to the Lakers to play well for the rest of the season and win another championship. Or it could be just another win that lets the Lakers know they can flip the proverbial switch when they want to, and will flip it only in the play offs when it's needed. Time will tell.
The Celtics started the game well. They were defending, hitting the glass and shooting lights out. Something changed after Ray Allen hit the career go head three point goal. It's as if all the energy left the Celtics and the building. But unfortunately there was over three quarters left to play and once they got the large lead in the second quarter it went downhill from there. Normally when the Celtics get up by fifteen it's like twenty-five points because they play very good defense. Not being at full strength to begin with, little big man Nate Robinson got hurt early and Paul Pierce still weak from the flu. The Celtics seem to tire at the end. That does not include the foul trouble that Allen got into.
The Celtics were forced to play Von Wafer who had not played much all year. He did an admirable job early knocking down shots, but defensively he was no match for Kobe Bryant who is a gifted under the best of circumstances. Wafer was like a squirrel going against a black mamba snake. He had no shot. Not having Shaq hurt the front court. KG, Big Baby and Mr. Mean himself Kendrick Perkins were all spent at game's end. They were the main reason they got outrebounded by the bigger and longer Lakers front court. Shaq could have at least beat on Gasol and Bynum and soften them up. But even with all that going against them they had a chance to steal it at the end. With less just over a minute left, the Celtics had closed to three points, Pierce intercepted a pass, but his pass to Rondo sailed too long and went out of bounds. If completed it would have cut to lead to one and it could have been anybodies game. The Celtics did the best they could under the circumstances. Not a crushing loss.
This was a much needed win for the Lakers, who have had only one win in seven tries against top tier opponents. The Celtics did not play with the intensity they did in Los Angeles, they also did not shoot as well as they did the Lakers defense was much better this time around, they challenged a lot more shots, but the Celtics missed a lot of win open looks. Rondo missed almost everything he shot. I fully expect major injuries not withstanding for these teams to meet in June for the third time in four years. They only thing to be determined is who will have home court in the finals. That will keep both teams motivated to win as many games as they can, and also keep an eye on the scoreboard.