As the Lakers walked out of the plane and stepped foot in Boston, the memories of June 17th, 2008 came rushing back. Despite the booing and the “Beat LA” chants, the Lakers were focused and understood the importance of Game 3. The Lakers entered the TD Garden tied up 1-1 with the Boston Celtics, and were hoping to regain the lead in the 2010 NBA Finals.
Although Kobe looked determined and ready to face the Boston Celtics, the opening minutes of the game did not go as planned. The rejuvenated Kevin Garnett scored the team’s first 6 points and the Celtics opened a 12-5 lead with 7:41 left in the first quarter. After the time-out called by Coach Jackson, the Lakers went on a 13-4 run and took an 18-16 lead with under three minutes left. During the stretch, everything was falling down for the Lakers, from Kobe’s and-one to Lamar’s three point bank. However, the Lakers still had trouble guarding Kevin Garnett, and Andrew Bynum had yet to score. The opening period ended with the Lakers leading 26-17, after going on a 21-5 run. The Lakers shot 44% from the field while holding the Celtics to only 34%. Kobe led the team in scoring with 7 points and Lamar Odom surprisingly had an effective quarter with 6 points and 3 rebounds.
The second period could not have started better for the Lakers, they kept on pounding the Celtics and took a 37-20 lead. Boston seemed to be out of character and they let the Lakers start the period on an 11-2 run. The Lakers’ bench played very well and kept the game under control. However, their Achilles’ heel all season long had been their addiction to the three point shot. After Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar missed their long-distance shots, the Celtics scored on consecutive possessions and cut the lead down to 13, 37-24. Phil put his starters back in the game, but it had no immediate effect. The Celtics, led by Rajon Rondo, attacked the basket and eventually brought the lead down to 8. However, the Lakers woke up and pushed the lead back to double digits with 3:27 left in the half. Kobe Bryant seemed to take over the game and he was out-hustling and out-playing the entire Celtics team. From his miraculous hustle play to his left handed shot, Kobe put his team in a comfortable position going into the break. The Lakers lead 52-40 at the half, and Kobe had 16 points on 5/13 shooting.
The Lakers started the second half playing sloppy basketball, which lead to the Celtics gathering up a small run and cutting the lead to 7. As the quarter progressed, both teams had difficultly scoring the basketball; the Lakers only scored 6 points at the half way point of the quarter. From the 4-minute mark on, the teams came out of their slumps and began to score the basketball. Kobe was being Kobe, and hitting deep three pointers, while Rajon Rondo was running up and down to court dishing the ball. The third quarter ended with the Lakers only up by 6, 67-61 and only scoring 15 points in the period. Kobe had 25 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds entering the final quarter, while Pau was the next leading scorer with 10 points.
Phil Jackson started the final period with Kobe on the bench, and only two starters on the floor. However, Kobe wasn’t on the sidelines for long, as he subbed in the game after the Celts cut the lead to 4 points. Even with Kobe on the floor, the Celtics rallied all the way back to cut the lead to 1 with 9:45 left in the fourth. Most people expected Pierce or Garnett to bring the Celtics back, but it was actually Rondo and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. The teams battled and each possession had a little more meaning to it down the final stretch. Instead of Kobe taking the big shots for the Lakers, it was actually Derek Fisher; with 4:27 left in the game, the Lakers were ahead 78-73. The other Lakers were stepping up big-time and were making all of their shots; Derek, Lamar and Pau carried the scoring load and were the ones who maintained the lead. With one minute left the, Lakers were clinging to a four point led, 84-80. Then, the ever- confident Derek Fisher converted on a fast break lay-up and put the Lakers ahead 87-80 with 48.3 seconds remaining. The Lakers held on to the lead and beat the Celtics, 91-84, to take a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. Kobe finished the game with 29 points and 7 assists while his backcourt mate came up clutch one again and scored 16 points.
The Lakers played a well rounded game, but have to maintain big leads. Derek Fisher has proven that he is one of the clutch-est players in the NBA, and one of the greatest human-beings in the NBA.
In Game 4, the Lakers have to come out with the same intensity and must maintain it throughout the game.
Winner – No one got the Predictions correct for the Book in time.