This time the Los Angeles Lakers learned their lesson. The Celtics who are known as the comeback kids of the NBA played catch up the whole game but the Lakers were wiser in the end as Kobe sealed the deal with a steal and the Lakers finally doused fire on another Celtics endgame rally to win 103 – 98 and cut the series lead of the Celtics to 3-2.
Again the Lakers opened the first quarter with a bang and with much vengeance as they buried the with timely baskets and three pointers. Kobe Bryant scored 15 points as he sank 4 triples including three straight at one point to lead the Lakers onslaught together with Pau Gasol who had 9 points. The Celtics again never knew what hit them as they once again started slow and gave the Lakers plenty of chances to score. The Big Three combined for 16 points as the rest of the team could only produce 6 points. The Lakers ended the quarter with a 39-22 lead as seven Lakers scored in the quarter. Notably missing was Kendrick Perkins who is nursing a bruised shoulder.
The second quarter opened with the Celtics orchestrating a 17-4 run hinged on Paul Pierce’s 13 points as the Lakers clawed back to cut the Lakers lead to just four 39-43 with 6:44 to go. Just like that the Lakers lead was gone in a jiffy. To douse cold water on the Celtics rally, the Lakers relied this time on one of their forgotten stars- Lamar Odom. Odom scattered nine points as Kobe Bryant suddenly turned cold and could not buy a basket. Paul Pierce ended the quarter with 16 points as the Lakers held on to a precarious 55-52 first half lead. The first few minutes of the third quarter was what people were looking for, a battle of two giants with no one wanting to give up. Paul Pierce started where he left off as he brought the Celtics to life and the lead 58-57 with his first free throw and 9:59 to go. Then Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher went to work as they brought back the Lakers to life and more importantly combined to score on a mini run to give the Lakers the upper hand at the end of the third quarter 79-70.
The Lakers took the momentum of their third quarter run to the fourth quarter as they fended off the Celtics rally which was predicated on Paul Pierce’s offensive might. The Lakers scored as a team with Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher countering the Celtics with timely hits and showing the coolness of playing together in three championship teams. The Celtics caught up with the Lakers once again in the last 4:35 as their 14-2 run capped by Kevin Garnett's jumper made them tie the Lakers at 90-all. The key play of the game came in the last 50 seconds after Derek Fisher missed a three pointer and Pierce got the rebound. The Celtics were rarin' to equalize since they were only down by two 95-97 but didnt know what hit them when Bryant tapped the ball from Pierce and Odom who was the recepient of the steal returned the ball to Kobe who got away with the jam and enough cushion to seal the win. In the end , the Celtics were exhausted and couldn’t play catch up anymore. Kevin Garnett was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter and the Celtics became quite predictable from thereon.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 25 points but it was the strong support he got from his team mates that meted them the win. Lamar Odom showed his worth by scoring 20 points, Pau Gasol added 19 points , Derek Fisher 15 points and off the bench it was Jordan Farmar’s turn to shine as he chipped in 11 points. For the Celtics, it was just the Big Three as there bench was nowhere to be found in the game. Pierce ended the game with 38 monster points, Ray Allen had 16 points and Kevin Garnett a quiet 13 points. The Lakers out rebounded Celtics and had more steals and blocks.
Here is a side snide. Entering the 2008 NBA Finals, Luke Walton will try to become just the third father/son tandem in NBA history to play on NBA Championship winning teams. His father, Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, won championships with the Portland Trailblazers (1977) and Boston Celtics (1986). Should the Lakers win the title, the Waltons would join the Guokas and Barry families as the only other father/son duos to achieve this feat. This will be Walton’s second opportunity, having previously played in the 2004 NBA Finals during this rookie season.
The series shifts back to Boston and the momentum is clearly on the side of the Lakers this time. Kendrick Perkins is still questionable and if this is the way the Celtics will play in game 6 then this dream series might go the distance. Lets wait and see.