In Game 1, the story was the lack of production out of the Laker bench and the swarming defense that held down the MVP, Kobe Bryant to only 24-points and two in the fourth quarter. The Big 3 combined for 65 of the Celtics' 98-points, as the C's took control of the series going up 1-0.
Game 2 was for a while all Celtics. And then at the 7:40 mark of the fourth quarter, the Lakers decided they would not go quietly into the night.
Los Angeles actually started the game pretty well. LA had a lead of at least seven-points in the first quarter, as guys like Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol were crashing the boards and scoring at will -- mostly over Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett.
Eventually, fouls caught up with the Lakers as Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant saw limited minutes in the opening half due to foul trouble. Feeding off the lack of fire power of the Lakers was Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Leon Powe; Pierce dropped 16-points hitting three three-pointers and throwing in five assits. Rondo orchestrated the Celtic offense, and would finish the night with 16-assists. The Celtics took control of the game in the second quarter with a 34-point output, only lacking offense from Kevin Garnett who was constantly being doubled and forced to take jump shots.
At the half, it was a twelve point game at 54-42. Kobe Bryant only had nine-points, while the Lakers were turning the ball over immensely, even topping their eight they had in Game 1 in the first half alone.
And sadly for the Lakers, that trend would continue. Into the third quarter the game went, where the C's took a commanding stranglehold on the game. The defense became absolutely unpennetrable. Leon Powe became an unstoppable force, dunking over any big-man the Lakers had in their roster. Pierce and Allen continued to chip in three-pointers, helping their Celtics outscore the Lakers by 10-points and pushing the lead to as much as 22-points. Even when Kobe Bryant put up eight early points in the quarter, bringing the lead down to nine, the Celtics put the pressure back on by firing off shot after shot to eventually get the lead up to 22 and the game looking to be in hand as the fourth came.
The Celtics never relinquished their hold as they continued to build and sustain the lead into the fourth quarter. Up as much as 24-points, the Celtics were rolling on all cylinders.
And then, as pointed out in the intro, the 7:40 mark came in the fourth and the Lakers turned it on. Watching the game myself, I could see the Celtics were believing the game was in hand. Their fans were going berserk, and they looked to be shutting it down defensively. Never did they stop putting pressure on LA's horrendous defense, it was the defensive end of the floor that they started to take breaks on. And then suddenly, the lead was cut to 15. Then 11. Then four. And then two.
Los Angeles hit an NBA Finals record seven three-pointers in the final quarter. Kobe Bryant slashed to the basket, throwing up alley-oops to Ronny Turiaf on two occasions and himself put up 13-points in the final quarter -- 11 more than he did in Game 1. The shock induced awe in the Garden was ominous as the game neared its conclusion. Eventually, time ran out for the Lakers and finally, the defense that had been so dominately enforced during the course of the game by the Celtics came back at the most opportune time, as Paul Pierce blocked a three from Vujocic.
Boston survived rather than coasted through Game 2, winning 108-102.
Keys to the Game
Kobe Bryant: 30-points. 13 in the 4th Qtr.
Pau Gasol: 17-points, 10-rebounds.
Bench: 14-points. Nine under playoff average.
Free Throws: Only 10 attempts. (100%)
Kevin Garnett: 17-points, 14-rebounds. Limited shot attempts in paint.
Leon Powe: 21-points in 15-minutes of play.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: Combine for 45-points. 7 of 10 from Three.
Player of the Game: Leon Powe
Looking Ahead to Game 3
For Los Angeles, yet again your bench didnt show up. Yet again, the bench players got plenty of minutes (67-min total) and still failed to contribute near their playoff average. Defensively the Lakers were atrocious, a down right embarassment. Even as they forged their comeback late in Game 2, they could not make any stops whatsoever. They were able to do a solid job once again in keeping Garnett off the block and a non-factor in paint points, but everyone else was left to do whatever they deemed necessary. Open three's, slashing forwards and dunks. Most Embarrasing Moment of the Game: Leon Powe looking like Doctor J. in a dunk contest driving three-fourths of the court for an easy as pie slam. (thanks Mark Jackson)
But alas, they didnt give up. Seven three's in the fourth and a hot as hades Kobe. They saw the C's were letting up and took advantage. They have some confidence despite being down two games going back to the Staples Center. They know they can establish Gasol in the paint, as he and Lamar Odom embarassed interior defenders of the Celtics on numerous occasions. They did better on the boards and the fact that Bryant showed up and led his team to a near improbable victory in the 4th is promising.
For the Celtics, very impressive for the majority of the game. Rajon Rondo was electric with 16-assists. Leon Powe had the game of his life, and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were lights out from behind the arc. Defensively they were formidable... until the fourth quarter.
Everything the Celtics did positively is wiped away by what happened in the final seven and a half minutes of the game. Letting a 24-point lead slip away they did is inexcusable. You could see that they got swept up in the ecstasy of being ahead by so much, and let off the gas. With a team like the Lakers there's no room for pulling any punches. Los Angeles can take things back to the Staples Center feeling pretty good about themselves knowing they can just about weather any storm against the Celtics.
Game 3 will be played in Los Angeles at 8:30 PM ET on ABC.