The Los Angeles Lakers headed to Boston for the fourth of their six game road trip, hoping to turn the tables and start winning some games after their back to back losses to the Jazz and the 76ers. The Celtics entered the game with five straight wins, and were looking to send their long time rivals packing to New York beaten and bruised.
The Lakers left Philadelphia scratching their heads after a complete fourth quarter collapse, and were needing to step their game up if they were going to allow a player like Louis Williams take over the game and hand them another road loss. Thankfully for L.A. however, the Celtics haven’t exactly been impressive prior to their winning streak, and Mike Brown was set to return from his one-game suspension. With the Celtics having a similar record (14-10) in comparison to the Lakers (14-11), the Lakers entered the Garden in Boston preparing to play a must win game for both the fans and themselves. A road win against their green nemesis could possibly be the key to switching L.A.’s away game luck around.
With Kobe Bryant keeping mark on Rajon Rondo to open the game, this left Derek Fisher on Ray Allen, who opened the game up with five points to help the Celtics take an early lead. In the first six minutes of the quarter, the Celtics had four of their starting five with points on the board.
The Lakers being able to find and use Andrew Bynum early was the key to them withstanding the explosiveness Ray Allen opened up the game with, but his play wasn’t able to to make up for the lack of shooting from the rest of the guys on the floor. Although Gasol was the only other Laker with baskets in his name in the first eight minutes of the game, he started missing the shot opportunities the rest of the team was giving him, and entered the closing minutes of the quarter needing to improve on the mere 2-6 he was boasting.
Boston’s Brandon Bass entered the game with a bang of his own, hitting both of his first two shot attempts and helping Celtics push themselves to a five point lead with three minutes remaining, forcing a Lakers time out. L.A. came back on the floor looking ready to work, with Gasol and Bryant both hitting baskets and better defensive decisions becoming of it. With the the bench being emptied out to give a few starters a rest, the likes of Blake, Murphy and Barnes were able to start forcing Rondo to make some of the bad decisions with the ball he had been making this season, picking off a bad pass much to the dread of the home stands supporters.
Kobe Bryant closed out the quarter on a seven point run until he was able to feed the ball to Steve Blake, despite being help up court while being double teamed, and Blake hit a three-pointer with seconds remaining that cut the Celtics lead to only four points. Boston opened up the game with hotter shooting and more points to prove it, as they entered the second quarter on top of Los Angeles, 26-22.
Rajon Rondo sitting on the bench in the first three minutes of the quarter allowed the Lakers to excel on the lack of offensive rhythm that the Celtics opened the quarter with, tying the game back up at 28. A few key pieces of the Lakers bench were not finding the offensive rhythm of their own right away, however, with both Murphy and Goudelock missing an accumulated five of their shot attempts, sporting big goose eggs on the stats sheet. While Goudelock’s youth and Murphy’s additional rebounds are keys to the Lakers having a successful bench, their lack of scoring when the team is feeding them the ball is a clear instance of concern to the coaching staff.
A big play that brought the Garden to their feet was a tough reverse layup from Kevin Garnett, putting the Celtics up four and forcing the visitors to establish a quick response. Kobe did just that. Finding Gasol for one and then creating the play which put the ball in Barnes’ hands for the second, the Lakers tied the game up again, and this surprisingly resulted in Barnes tying as the leading scorer on the team with eight.
The Lakers looked to be moving the ball better and finding players in the paint more often than usual, keeping themselves in the game despite the lack of baskets that their front court was producing. Kobe Bryant versus Ray Allen became more apparent in the second quarter, as well. Bryant began lighting up the floor, hitting four of his first four shot attempts to eventually take himself to eleven points, one point over the ten Ray Allen had been carrying in the quarter.
Boston was able to go on a run in the final minute of the half, forcing ugly Lakers turnovers and giving themselves a five point lead they’ve been missing since the beginning of the game. Although Pau Gasol was able to make a layup, the momentum the Celtics closed the quarter out with looked to be a problem for L.A. This was until Andrew Bynum had a flashy play of his own, collecting a rebound in the paint and throwing up a hook shot all while drawing a foul, sending him to the line and ending the half with the Lakers only down two, 45-47.
In order to take control of this game in Boston, Los Angeles were needing to continue finding the big men in the paint, as the pressure was proving too much for the Celtics defense. With Bynum and Gasol collectively getting 21 points in the first half, they were needing to play harder and fight to the basket to continue allowing that number to grow. The Lakers bench was also needing to step up due to the fact that shooting a weak 3-11 in the first 24 minutes of the game wasn’t enough to compete with the bench the Celtics were currently blessed with. They were also needing to force Rondo to make mistakes in the front court, as a few turnovers could eventually result in a key play of the game for L.A. to get the victory.
The Lakers came back from the locker room looking to get Derek Fisher some baskets, feeding him the ball early. He was unable to capitalize on both of L.A.’s first two shot attempts of the half, allowing Pau Gasol to step up to the plate and execute consecutive baskets. The Celtics, on the other hand, had Ray Allen shooting hot as soon as he stepped onto the court, and being followed by a Rondo jumper, put Boston up by four early. Boston continued pulling away with the Lakers missing shot attempts and giving up the silly turnovers that they had been able to control in the first half.
Kobe Bryant was able to show us why he is one of the best again, silencing the fans in the Garden by helping the Lakers build to a 13-4 with the help of excellent footwork and jaw-dropping jump shots. With this, Los Angeles were finally able to find their biggest lead of the night at three, which they were able to finish the quarter with. The Lakers were headed into the final quarter of the game on top of the Celtics in Boston, 67-64.
Troy Murphy hit the Lakers first points of the quarter, draining a jumper from the outside which happened to be the benches first points of the second half. Matt Barnes was able to answer as well, getting a basket from the same location, putting his personal total up to 10. The Celtics were staying in the game early thanks to the play from Kevin Garnett, who was a factor both offensively and defensively in the opening minutes of the fourth, including playing big defense against Andrew Bynum. His luck seemed to run out as time ticked by, however, with missed shots keeping the Lakers ahead by a small margin.
The Lakers big play in the post allowed them to both draw in fouls and collect big rebounds when needed, and their success from the free throw line was arguably a reason why they were able to keep up with the Celtics point totals throughout the game. Derek Fisher was 0-7 in the game as the clock struck five minutes remaining, forcing him to become the orchestrator for L.A.’s play in the closing minutes. Bryant and Gasol continued being the duo that Boston were unable to cease, with Kobe hitting another beautiful jumper to put their combined total all the way at 48.
Bynum once again took advantage of the size he had facing him in the paint, picking off an offensive rebound to draw a foul and complete a three point play, giving L.A. the lead once again. The Lakers began stepping up defensively as the clock started running down, resulting in lack of conversions from Boston when they brought the ball down the court, forcing Doc Rivers to call a timeout with a minute remaining in the game. Ray Allen stepped baseline out of the time out and hit a big three, putting the Celtics back up three.
A missed three from Metta World Peace followed by a big miss from Garnett put the ball back in the Lakers hands with thirty seconds remaining. Kobe Bryant missed the pull up jumper he had been hitting all night, but Pau Gasol was right there to clean up after him, tipping the ball into the basket to tie the game with 9.8 seconds left. Pietrus had the ball for Boston in the final play of the quarter, but close defense by the Lakers forced him to take an undesirable long three, which was missed. The game was headed into overtime tied at 82.
Kobe Bryant hit the first basket in extra time with a wide jumper over two defenders after a long struggle to keep possession. Steve Blake hit a deep two as well, putting the Lakers up four right away. Paul Pierce showed up, hitting back to back baskets totaling five points, retaking the lead. Bynum persevered over the Celtics defense in the paint, tipping in another missed basket to take the lead again.
A big missed basket from Kevin Garnett with 30 seconds remaining dropped his shot attempts to a weak 6-23, putting the ball back in the Lakers hands. Kobe Bryant received the ball on the other end of the court, and he missed a 16 ft jumper, allowing the Celtics to grab the rebound and call for a timeout. Paul Pierce missed with seconds remaining, and the Lakers escaped overtime in Boston on top of the Celtics, 88-87.
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