Two days after the Lakers posted an impressive 102-89 home victory over Boston in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Celtics returned the favor with a 103-94 victory in Game 2 that took home court advantage away from L.A.
Behind seven first half three-pointers from Ray Allen – one short of the Finals record he’d set in the third quarter – Boston led by as many as 14 before the Lakers took a lead early in the third and went into the fourth tied at 72-all.
L.A. did lead by as many as three when Kobe Bryant hit a baseline jumper with 5:21 remaining, but the home team couldn’t generate anything offensively from that point on, turning the ball over and clanking shots as Boston closed the game on a 16-7 run.
“It’s a disappointing loss for our ball club,” said Pau Gasol, who himself was terrific with 25 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. “They did a good job, really executed and had a good game plan. We definitely need to make sure we hustle a little more; they got to the ball tonight a lot of times quicker than we did.”
Getting to the ball quicker was most notable for Boston on the offensive glass, where they matched L.A.’s Game 1 effort with 13 rebounds, four of which came from Rajon Rondo, who finished the contest with a 19-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. More importantly, Rondo hit the game’s key shot when left open for a 20-foot jumper that opened a 95-90 lead with 1:59 remaining, and at the other end notched a block of a Derek Fisher three and steal of Bryant in the final minutes that helped seal the win.
“Tonight he was unbelievable,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He made the big shot … he just did a lot things, the blocked shots, the steals. He was special tonight.”
Several of Rondo’s early assists went to Allen, who finished with a game-high 32 points, while Glen Davis chipped in eight points and seven boards off the bench in relief of Kevin Garnett, who played just 23 minutes while saddled with foul trouble en route to six points and six assists.
L.A. was out-rebounded by five (44-39), gave up 11 fast break points while scoring just four, and finished with 15 turnovers while shooting 40.8 percent from the field.
Much of the Lakers’ offensive success came from Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who used a playoff-high 39 minutes to score 21 points with six rebounds and seven blocks in his best game of the postseason.
“Our big guys played great,” said Phil Jackson. “We didn’t get the ball often enough to them or in good enough position many times.”
But Bryant, also saddled with foul trouble, finished with 21 points, six assists and five rebounds while having to play the final minutes of the fourth with five personals.
Needless to say, Bryant wasn’t too pleased in his postgame presser.
“We fought pretty hard to get back in the game,” he said. “We let it slip away … It has nothing to do with scoring. We gave them too many easy opportunities (on offense), blew too many assignments. That’s it.”
If a lack of defense particularly down the stretch lost L.A. the game, foul trouble on Lamar Odom for the second straight game and poor shooting nights from Ron Artest and Derek Fisher didn’t help. Odom played only 14 minutes to score three points with five boards, Artest missed all but one of 10 shots even while holding Paul Pierce to 2-of-11 field goals himself, and Fisher made only 2-of-8 field goals.
The Lakers must now turn their attention immediately towards regaining home court advantage by claiming victory for the eighth consecutive playoff series on their opponent’s court, the first chance coming on Tuesday evening in Beantown.
“No doubt it’s a blow to lose the home-court, but we anticipated this might happen,” said Jackson. “We’re just going to have to go pick it up.”
Until then, your numbers:
2 Second half turnovers for Boston, which very effectively ran its offense in the fourth quarter in particular to outscore L.A. 31-22.
8 NBA Finals record made three-pointers from Ray Allen, who drained his first seven in the first half and hit another in the third quarter en route to 32 points.
14 NBA Finals single-game record in blocks for the Lakers, thanks mostly to seven swats from Andrew Bynum and six from Pau Gasol.
14:38 Minutes played by Lamar Odom, who for the second straight game was whistled for three fouls early in the contest. He finished with only three points and five boards.
21 Playoff-career-high tying points from Bynum, in addition to his seven blocks and six boards, in a terrific individual effort.