Lakers Control the Paint; Use Late Bryant Surge to Down Celtics
The Lakers were in Boston for the first time since losing Game 5 of the NBA Finals last June. This was their first meeting with the Celtics since losing in Los Angeles last month. With all the trade rumors swirling, many felt that tonight was a must win game for the Lakers.
The game started with the Celtics shooting hot from the floor. Led by Ray Allen, who was seeking to become the all-time leader in three point shots made, the Celtics established an early lead against Los Angeles. Towards the end of the quarter Allen broke Miller’s record, and the Boston crowd erupted in applause.
Once the hoopla settled down the teams remembered it was time to play basketball. Unfortunately the Lakers didn’t get the memo. Boston ran all over Los Angeles in the opening quarter, and poor Laker defense didn’t help much. By the time the quarter ended the Celtics were leading the Lakers 27-20.
The second quarter was ugly for the Lakers. Poor defense and stagnant offense allowed Boston to build a 15 point lead. The Lakers were taking quick shots from long range, and weren’t taking advantage of their size in the paint. Even with the depleted Celtics bench in the game, Los Angeles couldn’t muster any momentum. Former Laker draft pick Von Wafer played a large role for the Celtics, including several long jump shots and a big block on Ron Artest.
The Lakers managed to pull things together near the end of the quarter, and went on a 10-0 run to get back into the game. The teams traded buckets at the end of the quarter, and the Celtics led the Lakers at halftime 53-45.
The Lakers continued their strong play at the end of the second quarter in the start of the third. They came all the way back to take the lead 55-53, and increased their run to 21-4 before the Celtics finally scored. The teams exchanged baskets and the rest of the quarter was very intense. The key for the Lakers in the third was Kobe Bryant. After scoring just three points in the first half, Kobe exploded in the third. The biggest key, though, was that he played within the offense, and got the rest of the team involved.
Much of the offensive burden that Kobe couldn’t carry was put on the broad shoulders of Andrew Bynum. Despite all the trade talk, Bynum picked things up in tonight’s game. He had a nice game brewing, and finished the third with 16 points and seven rebounds. After a collision between Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol temporarily sidelined Odom, the Lakers managed to hang on to their lead at the end of the quarter. Entering the fourth, the Lakers led the Celtics 72-68.
The start of the fourth looked similar to the start of the third for the Lakers. Lots of intensity and emotion from Los Angeles allowed them to increase their lead with Bryant and Pau Gasol on the bench. Led by an aggressive Lamar Odom, the Lakers increased their lead to eight heading into the first timeout of the fourth. His aggressive play also picked up the fourth and fifth fouls on Celtics’ center Kendrick Perkins.
Head coach Phil Jackson did something strange in the fourth. While Bryant and Gasol generally get a rest to start the fourth, Jackson kept the duo on the bench for an unusually long time. The Laker reserves managed to keep the lead for the Lakers, though. When Bryant and Gasol checked back in at the 5:04 mark of the fourth, the Lakers were still up by three.
After Bryant checked back in he instantly took over the game. Back to back jump shots followed by a beautiful drive to the hoop put the Lakers up by nine. After that the Lakers took control of the game and never looked back. Bryant hit a dagger jumper with 48.8 seconds left to put the Lakers up 8. In the end the Lakers held off the Celtics and won the game, 92-86, to improve to 3-0 on their season long road trip.