Lakers – Celtics Running Diary

Pau GasolAs always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Celtics Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Celtics Running Diary 12-25-2008
Lakers 92, Celtics 83: Postgame

Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Celtics: Sam Cassell, J.R. Giddens, Brian Scalabrine

Lakers Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
Celtics Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins

It’s no shocker that the buzz here in Boston can be palpably felt. The national media is here in force, the building was nearly full 30 minutes before tip, and the players have had a playoff-type focus throughout the day. I’ll be coming to you from the corner of the arena about 15 rows up, next to the Lakers radio team of Spero Dedes and Mychal Thompson. Before the game, we (and Chip Schaefer) had two added keys to this game from our earlier discussion in the hotel:

1) How the refs call it, particularly if they’ll allow Boston to get away with physical play?
2) Will the Lakers get a significant contribution from at least one bench player (i.e. 15 points, 8 rebounds, five assists)? If Kobe and Pau don’t play great, L.A.’s in trouble anyway, but the third and fourth contributors will be paramount.

Vujacic GasolFirst Quarter
2:30 before tip The first “Beat L.A.” chants coincide with Boston broadcaster and former player Cedric Maxwell talking junk to L.A.’s booth.

12:00 The superfluous intro video that mentioned or alluded to Boston’s championship (only fair, I guess) was actually kind of fun to watch, and certainly electric.

Then, after intros, they played another video consisting solely of Celtics highlights from the Finals. You had Pierce’s return from injury and two triples, KG being generally insane and out of his mind (plus some dunks), Perkins dunks, Allen threes, the whole deal. I don’t think the Lakers needed any extra motivation, but that can’t have been fun to watch.

11:51 Aggressive early was Odom, who took the ball straight to the hole before getting fouled by Rondo on the reach. While the shot looked like it was by Perkins from this angle, Odom instead went to the line and missed both shots.

11:30 KG’s first shot, with Gasol on him, rimmed out. Remember, Garnett’s been out the last two games with the flu, but by all accounts is OK today.

10:47 After Pierce hit a three in transition when Odom threw the ball away, Bryant missed a long jumper. That transition play turned into a follow-up dunk from KG and a quick 5-0 Celtics lead that had the crowd going crazy. In related news, the Lakers are playing their third game in four nights.

9:35 Odom scored L.A.’s first bucket, before Garnett and Pierce answered with consecutive hoops to open up a 9-2 lead.

8:55 Things finally turned a bit as Kobe’s second consecutive hoop seemed to calm the Lakers a bit, and make it a 9-6 game. Give the Lakers credit for stalling the opening power punch from the defending champs.

5:51 There’s L.A.’s first lead, coming on Gasol’s first jumper after he’d grabbed his second rebound.

5:28 After Allen nailed an open three, Fish quickly returned the favor to make it 15-14 Lakers, a lead which grew to three after a pretty dish from Bryant to Gasol on the next possession.

L.A. then got lucky as Allen missed an open three, and Jackson called a timeout with the ball to discuss. In short, since Boston opened with a 9-2 lead, L.A.’s outscored the green 15-5. One note is that Odom picked up his second foul at the 6:34 mark going over the back, which brought Josh Powell into the action. I actually like this, because Powell’s not going to get pushed around by anybody, a trait not to be discounted in this rivalry.

4:21 Rondo still can’t shoot in this series, and L.A.’s still leaving him open. Hasn’t hurt yet as his wild transition layup wasn’t close, and Rajon is 0-for-4 from the floor.

The biggest thing standing out to me when the Lakers took a 19-16 lead into a 2:43 timeout is that the Celtics defense isn’t looking anything close to what it did in the Finals last season, or even in L.A. on X-Mas. I’m not sure if it’s because KG doesn’t have his wind completely, or that L.A.’s really running the triangle well, but the Lakers are getting good looks.

2:43 Into the game came Ariza, who quickly bricked a three. Yet and still, he, Vujacic or Farmar (who entered moments later for Fish) are going to need to find some special sauce tonight.

2:14 Big Baby came in for KG, which even with a sick KG might be the biggest change in talent in the league. Garnett was 2-of-4 for four points and two rebounds, but didn’t seem like himself.

0:32.4 L.A. responded to four straight Rondo points with a 4-0 run, first with a Bryant – Powell pick and pop and second a Bryant pull-up in the lane. Kobe was 5-of-10 for 10 points at that point.

The quarter closed with a missed 20-foot jumper from Big Baby, before Bryant skipped a pass to Ariza who made the wrong play in passing up an open three to take a dribble. As such, he didn’t get a shot off, but L.A. still took a 23-20 lead into the second quarter. On Christmas day’s 92-83 Lakers win, L.A. trailed 24-23 after one.

Ray AllenSecond Quarter
This will be interesting: Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza, Odom and Pau vs. Eddie House, Tony Allen, Pierce, Leon Powe and Big Baby. You have to give L.A. the talent edge there, and it’s not close.

11:38 Both Ariza and Vujacic were called for rather cheap fouls on Pierce in the same possession, certainly not a good way to start the quarter. Pierce was doing his whole flailing limbs thing when the two Lakers reached in.

11:29 But Ariza responded with an and-1 after a nice cut to the hoop and great pass from Gasol (not a surprise, Gasol never seems to miss an open teammate), though he missed the free throw. Ariza quickly made up for that with his first steal of the game, though Vujacic missed the ensuing three.

10:29 Good news for L.A.: Gasol easily collected an and-1 with the smallish Big Baby trying to defend him for his seventh point with four boards (and not a minute of rest). That gave L.A. a 28-22 lead as they looked quite comfortable against Boston. Bad news: Farmar committed his third foul in three minutes and won’t return until the third quarter. Furthermore, that’s the fourth team foul on the visitors.

Alert: Foul Trouble Actualized…
Odom committed his third foul with 8:49 left on the clock, after Gasol left for his first moments of rest. This brings up some problems for L.A. … Bynum’s out, Gasol needs a blow and Lamar has three. Still, L.A.’s up by nine, shooting 51.7 percent to Boston’s 33.3 percent. Instead Jackson went back to Powell, joining Chris Mihm.

8:20 As Vujacic hit two free throws, Bryant entered the game along with KG and Allen (for Pierce) for the Celtics, trailing 35-26. Then came two poor plays from Vujacic, which led to a 5-0 Eddie House run that completely re-energized the Celtics crowd and forced a Lakers timeout.

6:31 Somebody might want to put a body on Powe, who just grabbed two straight offensive boards that resulted in a KG jumper and a two-point game.

5:07 Tony Allen gave Kobe the three, so Kobe felt fine about that and swished it for his first points of the quarter.

4:11 KG has turned into Boston’s facilitator this quarter, finding House most recently for another triple. That’s the second straight assist for Garnett, who is right there with Pau for the title best big passer.

3:26 The momentum really turned when L.A. had to go deep into its bench*, and Boston finally tied it with Garnett trailing in transition for a big two-handed stuff off Walton’s missed jumper. Boston hasn’t been great in the half court offense, but they’ve been very efficient off misses and turnovers. Gasol did answer quickly with two foul shots to get to 11 points and put L.A. up 46-44.
*Josh Powell, with six points and four rebounds, had been L.A.’s only decent contributor off the bench.

1:51 Fantastic back-to-back possessions from Walton, who’s been both calm and good all game. On defense, Walton alertly swiped a cross-court pass, and subsequently stroked a 25-foot three-pointer to put L.A. up 51-46.

0:41.7 As Boston grew increasingly physical in the lane, but avoided any foul calls (see key No. 1), L.A. couldn’t convert a few chances in the lane, including Fish’s open-court layup attempt that Pierce blocked. The result was a Perkins put-back to bring Boston within one. Bryant then missed a jumper, and Gasol rimmed out on the tip, to give the Celtics the last shot of the half…

0:02.9… Which Rondo double-pumped in over Gasol’s outstretched hands to put Boston up 52-51 at the half.

The Celtics shot the ball much better with the Lakers mismatched lineups trying to remember where to go (they basically played without Odom and Farmar for the entire quarter, which never happens) and hit 12-of-26 shots. The Lakers conceded six offensive boards in the second quarter which really helped Boston (insert your “I miss Bynum” comments there if you’re a Lakers fan). Good thing ‘Drew will be back if these teams meet again in the Finals.

Third Quarter
11:50 There were 22 fouls called in the first half, and it took only 10 seconds for Fish to get whistled for bumping Allen.

10:23 Boston’s been known this season and last for jumping out aggressively in the third quarter, particularly on defense, and that’s certainly what happened as they locked down on defense and scored the first seven points. The final three came on a wide-open triple from Allen, something we’ve seen happen far too often tonight.

9:57 Even though it came early in the third, Fisher’s triple as the shot clock dwindled was quite important in stopping the bleeding.

9:01 The feisty nature of this matchup increased to its boiling point at least for this night when Rondo slapped at Bryant (not in the face) and Kobe responded by pointing in Rondo’s face with a menacing glare. Double technicals ensued before Gasol hit a baseline jumper to make it a four-point game at 61-57.

7:56 Fish has been terrific tonight, most lately with a baseline layup followed by an off ball Kobe free throw that cut Boston’s lead to one. Remember, it was eight only moments ago.

7:41 How does Ray Allen keep getting open looks from three? That’s a rhetorical question.

7:02 More hatred, this time from Garnett to (league’s top five nice guys) Odom, in the form of in-the-face snarling. We all know that KG likes playing mental games and craves the opportunity to intimidate opponents, which certainly works periodically … But can also backfire.

5:55 Big swat from Bryant on KG.

5:05 Bigger shot from House, his third three, to give Boston a four-point lead at 70-66.

4:04 Really smart play from Bryant in transition to get to the line, though he missed the sixth Laker free throw of the evening before making the second. Bryant, however, has just five points since the first quarter and has made only 1-of-8 shots.

3:48 Paul Pierce hasn’t been great by any means tonight, making only 3-of-8 from the field, though he did his annoying thing where he barrels into the lane, finds a way to create contact and goes to the line, from where he’s 6-of-6 (72-67 Celtics.)

2:24 Speaking of Bryant and Pierce, the former just shut down the latter on defense, resulting in a badly missed Allen desperation three from 30 feet. Gasol then drew Garnett’s fourth personal to get to the free throw line with a chance to make it a one-point game. Pau’s been very good tonight with 17 points and 10 boards with two dimes. He’s been as efficient as ever, making 7-of-10 shots to stay at the 70-percent clip he reached by going 12-of-17 in each of L.A.’s last two games. But he missed both free throws, the 7th and 8th misses from the stripe for the purple and gold. Meanwhile, Boston’s made all 13 of theirs.

1:25 Eddie House just went on another 5-0 run, getting the crowd to its loudest point since his last 5-0 run.

1:04 But L.A. would answer again, first with a three from Farmar, and then another from Vujacic in back-to-back fashion.

0:02.3 Pierce, smashing into the lane again, managed to get a wild layup to go after contact, though he did miss the free throw. As a result, Boston led 81-77 heading into the fourth.

Ray AllenFourth Quarter
That Pierce free throw miss was Boston’s first, and seven behind L.A.’s charity misses. In fact, Vujacic is the only Lakers player out of six not to miss at least one foul shot. Alas, here we go…

10:41 The first bucket of the quarter went to the Lakers when Farmar beat House down the floor and impressively laid in high off the glass. Terrific finish, and a two-point game. Though Powe answered with a dunk, Farmar came right back to score plus the foul on House. He too missed the free throw, L.A.’s ninth miss. It’s hard to put a finger on why L.A. can’t buy a FT, aside from the contagious element and the pressure of the game.

9:04 Powe’s really been giving L.A. problems, scoring consecutive hoops to make it 87-82 after Odom missed the Lakers 10th free throw. Odom made up for it by canning a triple.

8:11 An all-too-easy alley-oop from Rondo to Garnett gave Boston a 91-85 lead as Bryant, Gasol and Fisher got ready to check in for the Lakers. Subsequently, after Ariza’s fourth miss in five attempts, Powell fouled Powe and the two earned matching techs with a little extra-curricular activity.

6:30 Doc Rivers and the entire building seemed shocked when Perkins was called for a foul after he nearly pulled Gasol to the floor.

6:18 What was bigger, Odom’s big bucket over KG, or KG’s fifth foul? Lamar’s been really solid in the fourth, even hitting the free throw to get to 16 points (nine in the first six minutes here in money time). But Let’s remember who was the money player for L.A. down the stretch when these teams met in December: Pau Gasol. He’s 7-of-10 tonight and hasn’t shot the ball since returning in the fourth.

5:36 Nice driving bucket from Rondo, who’s been effective in the second half going to the hole, for a five-point lead … Make that two. Kobe found his range on that shot, at least, from three.

4:22 Huge play as KG gets called for an offensive call when Fisher – who else – smartly sold a push off from Garnett. That’s six, and KG eventually (45 seconds) went to the bench after standing around with the ball for a while. In came Big Baby, not Powe.

3:34 Silly foul called on Walton on the perimeter to put Pierce at the line. I guess you’ll trade that call for KG’s exit, even if it was weak. Pierce made 1-of-2 for a 96-93 lead.

3:20 Kobe. For three. Tie game. I guess he found his range…

3:01 I just heard someone behind me openly wonder if L.A. would get another call after the KG ejection, and they certainly didn’t on this play: Fisher got bumped into by Pierce, who went back to the line and made both for a 98-96 lead. A good defensive possession from the Celtics then resulted in a Lakers turnover when Bryant tried to force a pass into Odom on the baseline. Green ball.

2:22 Pierce this time pulled up from about 20 feet and nailed the jumper for a four-point lead, but Gasol, taking his first shot of the quarter, was money from the lane to pull within a bucket. After a Celtics miss…

1:30 …MAMBA. A three, his third in the last four minutes for Bryant. Amazing is he, and the Lakers lead by one, 101-100. That’s a nasty hit.

1:10 Big Baby missed a jumper. Not the shot Boston wanted, by any means, and Walton cleared the rebound. Gasol then made the right play by taking it to the hole with Bryant double-teamed, but missed the layup and couldn’t get his offensive board up in time.

29.7 With Bryant draped all over him in good defensive position, Pierce somehow earned the foul near the rim. But he missed the biggest foul shot of the night (the first), making one to tie it at 101.

0:07.7 What a tough look from Bryant, with Pierce contesting, that still had a chance but rimmed out into Perkins’ hands. Boston has plenty of time for a buzzer-beater…

0:00 Pierce either had the ball go off his leg or Kobe got a touch on it, but either way the only thing the Celtics would get was a 30-foot prayer from Eddie House that hit the front rim and popped out. Overtime.

3:20 Odom, Rondo, Allen and Gasol traded two-point hoops for a 105-105 tie.

2:56 … Which was broken by Allen with a nice drive. Kobe then missed his second three of the overtime after nailing three late in the fourth.

2:12 Down two, L.A. couldn’t clear a defensive rebound after Rondo missed, earning Boston another all-important possession. Pierce couldn’t cash in, however, missing an 18-footer.

1:41 A great pass from Odom resulted in a Gasol dunk. Tie game.

1:11 Unknown to the partisan crowd even after the replay, moving your feet while in the cylinder is a charge. Fortunately the refs caught Ray Allen’s blocking foul on a fastbreak trailing Gasol (after Bryant poked the ball from Fish), but Pau missed 1-of-2. L.A. had made only 15-of-27 free throws (55.6 percent), but managed to take a one-point lead at 108-107. After 44 minutes of blah basketball, what a game it’s been since.

1:05 Big Baby from 17 feet? Yup. Celtics by one.

0:39.0 Bryant missed for the fourth time in OT, again on a tough shot with Pierce all over him.

0:16.0 After a great block from Gasol on Davis, Odom cleared the loose ball and was fouled by Big Baby. The biggest pressure free throw of the game, with Boston going nuts, was willed in by Odom. He then managed the second as well, coming up clutch after missing four times in his first six attempts. To be honest, I think you would have taken 1-of-2 from Lamar in that situation. But how ’bout both? Lakers 110, Celtics 109.

0:03 After Pierce missed a jumper from 20 feet away on the far side of the floor, Rondo grabbed the long rebound and eventually fell over Fisher – who seemed to have been pushed down. However, it was only the second foul in the last two minutes for the Lakers, so Boston would be inbounding the ball with three seconds remaining, not shooting free throws.

0:00 So it was Ray Allen inbounding the ball to Big Baby, who immediately gave Allen the ball back. With Fisher draped to him, Allen tried to sell a foul as he was running to his right, but Fish did a great job to get close but not too close as the Lakers found a way to gut out a win.

Check back soon for reaction and postgame interviews with various Lakers. Thanks for hanging out.