The Boston Celtics rollercoaster ride of a postseason continued Thursday night as they overcame a 24 points first half deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-91 in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals. In one of the gutsiest team performances in Finals history, the Celtics were able to prevail over a hostile Staples Center crowd, the hometown officiating and a disgusting first half shooting display to pull out only their third road win of the 2008 playoffs.
In a game that for all intensive purposes should have been over at halftime, Boston was somehow able to find a way to dig down deep and come together for what could go down as the best come from behind Finals win ever.
“Some turnaround in that game. The air went out of the building,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was asked what he told his club afterward. “Well, it’s not over. This is not over. The series is not over.”
On paper, he’s right, the series is not over. Game 5 is scheduled for Sunday night at 9:00pm EST. However, no team has ever been able to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
All throughout the first half, the Lakers possessed a sense of urgency and attacked the hoop possession after possession. Lamar Odom, who had been a non-factor in the first three games of the Finals, provided an early spark hitting his first 7 shots and at one point was out scoring and rebounding the entire Celtics team.
At the end of the 1st quarter, the Lakers led 35-14.
The Celtics were able to make up a little ground in the 2nd quarter but a Jordan Farmar 3-point heave at the halftime buzzer killed any momentum the Celtics had established and they trailed 58-40 at the break.
Boston fans watching the game were disheartened. They knew that the C’s had lost a golden opportunity to steal a win in Game 3, and were now in the locker room trailing Game 4 by 18 points, on the road to Kobe Bryant and Co. Things just weren’t looking good.
And then something happened.
Maybe the water boys added a little something extra to their bottles for the 2nd half, but the Celtics team that came out of that locker room looked nothing like the rag-a-muffin bunch that had moped around the court for the first 24 minutes of play. This team looked inspired, as if it suddenly hit them that they have a once in a life time opportunity to do something special. They looked hungry with the need to feed, their only prey wearing yellow and purple.
Paul Pierce led the attack scoring 20 points, 14 coming in the 2nd half. He was fearless out of the court, demanding the ball in the right situations and creating for his teammates when his shot was not there. His play lifted the Celtics up and together they were able to cut the Lakers 18 point halftime lead to a 73-71 score by the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the comeback was the largest in the Finals since 1971, and that before last night, no team had ever come back to win a game after trailing by more the 15 points in the first quarter.
Boston tied the score at 73-73 on a Leon Powe jump shot with 10:13 remaining on the game clock. It was the first tie since the game was knotted at 2-2, 28 seconds into the game. Each possession became more important than the previous and both teams tried to pick up their defensive intensity. For the first time in the finals, the officials finally took a step back swallowing their whistles, allowing both teams to play without ticky-tack foul calls.
Three times the Celtics would tie the game only to see the Lakers score the next possession to regain the lead. It wasn’t until Eddie House nailed a long jumper on the wing that the Celtics took their first lead of the game, 83-82 with 4:07 remaining in the action.
Boston would not trail again.
“It’s definitely a great win, one that you’re going to put up there in the library and break back out one day for your kids to watch,” Pierce said. “But I want nothing more than that ring right now.”
With the Game 4 victory, Pierce and the rest of the Celtics find themselves one win away from their first NBA Championship since 1986.
But honestly, did that win really happen? Did the Lakers manage to blow a 24 point lead, on their home court where they had yet to lose a home playoff game and been winners of 15 straight? Where was Kobe during “Kobe Time” late in the game? And did Brian Scalabrine’s hair get redder during the Celtics huge 3rd quarter run?
Seriously though, the comeback was amazing, but the collapse is the real story here. After a huge Game 3 win, the Lakers had a chance to even the series and really take the advantage because they would be able to host Game 5 with a chance to take the lead and put the pressure back on Boston.
One problem, they forgot to play basketball in the second half of Thursday’s game.
You can’t even say that LA choked because they simply stopped breathing. Had they gone to the emergency room, they would have been declared dead upon arrival. This team that had so much energy and life in the first half took their large lead for granted and it came back to ultimately kill them.
If this sounds all too familiar that’s because the same thing happened to the Celtics in Game 2. Big lead, sloppy play and lack of effort equaled a 41 point Lakers 4th quarter and a few near heart attacks by Bostonians watching the whole debacle.
The only difference between the two comebacks was that the Lakers made their run in the 4th quarter and merely ran out of time on the clock where as the Celtics pulled close in the 3rd, swinging the momentum their way to take over the game in the 4th.
Even Kobe couldn’t save this one for his team.
“They were determined not to let me beat them tonight,” said Kobe Bryant in a post-game interview. “I saw three, four bodies every time I touched the ball.”
Bryant still managed to score 17 points and dish out 10 assists in the loss, but was never really able to kick his game up a notch during crunch time, which is usually one of his many specialties.
The stage for Sunday’s Game 5 is set. For the Lakers it’s simply win or go home. The Celtics, on the other hand, will try to win the organizations 17th overall championship on the road. If they can’t pull out the victory in LA, they now have the luxury of returning home with not one but two chances (if they need them) to raise another banner in Beantown.
The 2008 NBA Finals were supposed to be all about the match ups. Who would prevail as the dominant leader, Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce? Which big man would own the inside, Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol? What sharp shooter would rain down perimeter shots, Ray Allen or Sasha Vujacic?
With Boston’s 108-102 Game 2 victory in the books, one match up the Lakers never saw coming was the explosiveness of Celtics’ reserve Leon Powe. In one of the most impressive performances by a bench player in the 2008 playoffs, Powe went off for 21 points on 6-7 shooting in only 15 minutes of action to help lead the Celtics to their second win and a 2-0 series lead over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Powe, who scored a total of 8 points in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Detroit, made the most of his minutes and provided a huge spark off the bench in Sunday’s win. His performance may have instantly earned him the new title of fan favorite and Celtics broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn may just have to replace his famous “I love Waltah” saying with “I love Leon!”
Although the Celtics came away with an impressive win and head out to LA with a nice 2-0 cushion in the series, lots can be learned from the teams effort, or lack there of at times.
With 7:55 remaining in the game, the Celtics led by 24 points (96-73) and it appeared they would coast to another homecourt win. The purple and yellow jerseys scattered throughout the TD Banknorth Garden began turning around for the exits, probably hoping to catch the red eye back to LA. Over the next 7 minutes, the Lakers went on a serious tear, outscoring Boston 29-8 to make it a 2 point game with 38 seconds left to play.
“We’re happy because we won, but we definitely learned a lesson,” Paul Pierce said.
Aside from Powe’s impressive night, the Celtics were again led by Pierce who finished the game with 28 points and 8 assists. From behind the arc, Pierce was 4-4 on the night and didn’t look at all phased from his Game 1 knee injury. He made a key drive to the hoop with 23 seconds left to play in the game and was fouled hard. Once composed, he confidently stepped up to the line and nailed both free throws to secure a Celtics victory.
The Lakers comeback was too little too late but showed the Celtics that this series is going to be a fight until the end.
“We’ve got to play through the game for 48 minutes, and I didn’t think we did that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we got cute when we got the lead.”
Call Rivers captain obvious, but if the Celtics plan on winning in LA, they will need to protect any lead they can get. The environment will be hostile, the calls will not be going their way, and lets face it, Kobe will not shoot as poorly as he did in the first two games of the Finals.
Bryant finished Game 2 with 30 points on an 11-23 shooting performance but did not come out of his shell until the 4th quarter where he dropped 13 points leading the Lakers comeback.
“We’ve come too far to really sweat being down 2-0,” said Bryant, who scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. “We’re going to go home and handle our business.”
Looking at the box score, one stat that sticks out is the discrepancy in each team’s amount of attempted free throws. Boston got to the charity stripe 38 times compared to LA’s 10 attempts. For the Celtics, Powe actually had more attempts then the entire Lakers team, converting on 9 of 13 foul shots.
“I’ve never seen a game like that in all these years I’ve coached in the finals,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who is going for his 10th title in 11 finals appearances. “Unbelievable.”
Well Phil, believe it. Your team is now in an 0-2 hole that only three teams have ever been able to come back from to win a championship (Boston in 1969, Portland in 1977 and Miami in 2006). Your fearless leader in Kobe Bryant has done nothing but cry to officials which may or may not cost him some of those hometown calls you’re hoping for. Not to mention you’re team is letting the likes of Leon Powe score on uncontested dunks and coast to coast drives. Nothing against Powe, he’s my boy, but come on!
So far, the NBA Finals have been nothing but business for Boston and they aren’t about to let a different time zone change any of that.
“We’re not settling on a 2-0 lead,” Garnett said. “We want to go out there and win two games in L.A.”
Game 3 of the NBA Finals tips off Tuesday evening at 9:00pm EST.
And so, for the Boston Celtics, their quest for GREEN 17 continues. Next stop: Los Angeles. The only thing left to be said…BEAT L.A.!
With 6:49 remaining on the game clock in the 3rd quarter Thursday night, the TD Banknorth Garden grew very quiet. It was an awkward silence that sent chills down the spines of onlookers all around the city. Paul Pierce, the Celtics fearless leader, was down for the count with what appeared to be a serious knee injury and it didn’t look like he’d be getting up anytime soon. Boston fans feared the worst and knew that without ‘The Truth’ the 11th finals match up between Boston and Los Angeles was all but over.
As if scripted out of a Rocky movie, not only did Pierce get up when everyone knew he was in serious anguish, he delivered the knockout like blow by nailing back to back 3-point field goals in a 22-second span late in the 3rd quarter that gave the Boston Celtics the lead for good en route to their 98-88 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
The storied match up between the two most successful franchises in NBA history lived up to everything you thought it would in a game that featured 12 ties and 21 lead changes. With future hall-of-famers up and down both line ups, the excitement of fans was reminiscent to only that of Game 1 of the 2004 MLB World Series.
“I think this is a great thing not just for the NBA, but just for sports in general,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. “I think it’s a great thing when the best gets a chance to compete against the best, and whoever comes out on top, they earned it. I think both teams should be proud to be here.”
Fisher led the Lakers to a 51-46 first half lead scoring 13 points by the break but would only finish the 15 points on the night. His stat line was very similar to that of Rajon Rondo of the Celtics. Both PG’s finished with 15 points, while Rondo notched 7 assists compared to Fisher’s 6. Rondo would also one-upped Fisher in the rebound category grabbing 5, one more then Fisher’s 4 boards.
Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s reigning MVP, was held to 24 points on a 9-26 shooting performance. The majority of his shots were good looks that just weren’t going down. Ray Allen and Pierce both did an excellent job of trying to always have one hand in his face, limiting the wide open looks that the superstar knocks down with ease.
Besides Pierce’s heroic performance of 22 points (19 in the 2nd half), Kevin Garnett contributed to the win in a big way. KG recorded his 12th double-double of the ’08 playoffs scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He slammed home the victory with an emphatic dunk off of a James Posey miss that brought the Garden crowd to their feet with 1:32 to play in the game and gave the Celtics their largest lead at the time putting them ahead 94-86.
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Allen also hit some clutch shots and finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, but the big story on the night was still how Pierce managed to single handedly rejuvenate his team and home town crowd, making them all believers that Boston can win this series.
As Pierce jogged onto the court from the locker room with a black elastic wrap on his injured knee, Garnett clinched a fist and screamed, “Yes!”
“He was walking, he was up on his own strength and he rejuvenated us,” said Garnett, “He gave everybody life.”
Bottom line, Pierce’s performance was gutsy and will go down as just another magical moment to add to the countless number of highlights that already exist in the Celtics vs. Lakers finals rivalry. Shots of him being carried off the floor by teammates, to then only minutes later walk right past coach Doc Rivers to check himself back into the game will air next to those of Magic Johnson’s baby hook shot or Kevin McHale’s clothesline of Kurt Rambis in a montage that will remind generation after generation just how exciting this rivalry really is.
“I think God sent an angel down and said, ‘Hey you’re going to be all right. You need to get back out there’,” Pierce said.
There’s a very good chance that angel may have very well been smoking a cigar and the Celtics biggest fan.
Thanks Red, hope you’re enjoying the best seats in the house.
About one year ago this time, things weren’t looking so hot for the Boston Celtics organization. Boston was coming off a 24-58 season that included a streak of 18 consecutive losses, the death of franchise legend Red Auerbach and the 2nd worst record in the NBA that only resulted in the 5th overall lottery selection.
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise was also in the midst of much turmoil just having been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round for the 2nd straight season, with superstar guard Kobe Bryant demanding a trade publicly from the front office executives immediately.
How quickly things can change.
The two historic organizations find themselves in the 2008 NBA Finals, facing each other in the championship for the 11th time. The Celtics hold the 8-2 edge in head to head series play but the Lakers have captured the last two match ups in 1985 and 1987.
This rivalry has made the NBA what it is today. The Bird vs. Magic era brought excitement to the league like there had never been before and now both teams are loaded with future hall of famers and leaders like Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
Last summer, the two NBA All-Stars were playing pickup ball together at UCLA’s gym. Both were frustrated with the outcome of their seasons and knew that trade talks would be likely for both of them.
“I remember being in the gym with Kobe, and me and him were arguing over who was going to get traded first,” Pierce said Monday after the Celtics held their first practice in preparation for the NBA finals.
“He went public about getting traded, … and I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m going to getting traded before you,’ and betting that it would happen. That’s what so crazy, now we’re both here sitting in the finals, where a year ago we were both in the gym.”
Big reasons why both players find themselves 4 wins away from a championship are the acquisitions that were made to get their teams to where they are today. For the Celtics, the important moves were made before the season while the Lakers pulled some strings right at the trade deadline.
Boston acquired SG Ray Allen on draft day via trade and then shortly after made a 7 for 1 player swap to package former league MVP Kevin Garnett into beantown as the newest member to the Celtics organization. And as they say, the rest is history. Combined with the force of Pierce, the three have reenergized basketball fans in Boston for the first time since the mid 80′s. As for the Lakers, they were able to trade for All-Star PF Pau Gasol right before the trade deadline for almost nothing. His acquisition has sparked a 2nd half turnaround that put LA atop the Western Conference.
After the Celtics downed the Detroit Pistons in six games and the Lakers took care of the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs in five, the stage is set for what many are calling the best Finals match up in over 25 years.
Lets take a look at the probable match ups between teams and which club has the advantage at each position.
At points guard the Celtics will go with Rajon Rondo and he will be matched up against veteran Derek Fisher. Fisher certainly wins some points for experience but Rondo has been more of a contributing factor offensively dishing out assists and scoring big buckets when needed. The best part about this match up is that if Rondo needs a quick blow, veteran back up Sam Cassell will step right in and provide the veteran experience that Rondo lacks to equal that of Fishers.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The most important match up of the series will be at the shooting guard position featuring two of the NBA’s premiere perimeter players in Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Both can flat out shoot the ball and anything within a few steps over the half court line is in their range. Allen’s defense can be suspect at times due to ankle problems, while Kobe has been on the NBA’s Defensive 1st team multiple times. Allen will not be the only one covering the reigning MVP, look for some help from fellow wingman Paul Pierce but their job will be simple, hold Kobe to his averages and let the other Lakers beat you.
ADVANTAGE – L.A.
While Paul Pierce is not helping out with Bryant he’ll have his hands full guarding Lamar Odom. This match up will create problems for both sides because at 6’10″ tall, Odom has a 4 inch height advantage and will try to post up his smaller defender when the opportunity presents itself. However, Pierce has the speed advantage and will create for himself opportunities to take the ball to the hole off the dribble which could put LA’s big men in foul trouble.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
When it comes to Kevin Garnett, it really does not matter who’s covering him because he’s going to have the advantage regardless. The Lakers will send Vladimir Radmanovic for some KG duty but as we saw in both the Cleveland and Detroit series, it doesn’t matter who’s covering the big man because he can beat you in the paint or from the outside with his 18+ foot jumpers all night long.
ADVANTAGE – BOS
The match up at the center position between Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol could be a big factor one of the series. Perkins showed Boston fans that he’s capable of being a beast on the boards against Detroit when he hauled down 16 rebounds and dropped 18 points in their Game 5 win. Gasol lifted LA with a similar effort in their Game 5 win grabbing 19 boards and scoring 12 points. Gasol does have a little better offensive touch then Perkins which makes him more a threat in the paint.
ADANTAGE – LA
The series gets underway on Thursday night in Boston at 9:00pm EST. The home court advantage that the Celtics earned during the regular season may be a huge factor with possible Games 6 & 7 to be played at the TD Banknorth Garden in front of the hometown crowd. LA, who has yet to lose a playoff game at home, will try to steal one of the road before returning home for Games 3, 4 and if needed 5.
As the Lakers go for their 15th banner and the Celtics quest for Green 17 continues one thing that is certain, this match up has the potential to be one of the greatest of all time and all we can do now is enjoy every minute of it.
Celtics vs Lakers NBA Finals tickets now available.
Midway through the 2008 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers sat right in the middle of the pack of all the Western Conference powerhouses. The Rockets were in the midst of reeling off a 20+ game winning streak, the Suns had acquired Shaquille O’Neal and the defending champs in the Spurs were simply on fire. That’s right about when some guy named Kobe decided that it was time to start playing some ball, and he and the Lakers haven’t stopped since.
The reigning MVP dropped 39 points en route to Los Angeles’s 100-92 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, securing a spot in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“I think it is a tremendous accomplishment,” Bryant said. “I think the West is extremely tough. We’re all extremely excited and proud about it. Now, it’s time to go on and see if we can’t finish it off.”
The Lakers trailed by 13 points after one quarter and gradually chipped away from the deficit with the help of Bryant’s firepower. At the end of three quarters of play, the Lakers had gained a 1 point advantage on a 3-point field goal by Vladimir Radmanovic (8 pts) that came with :28 seconds left on the game clock. The teams would trade buckets for the first two minutes of play in the 4th quarter before Luke Walton (5 pts) nailed his only 3-pointer of the game giving L.A. the 70-68 edge, a lead they would not lose the rest of the game.
Midseason acquisition Pau Gasol might be the most excited member of this Lakers line-up to be heading to the finals. Halfway through his season he was stuck on an awful Memphis Grizzlies team that was already making golf reservations for their summer plans. A trade right before the deadline moved Gasol into Lakerland and both parties couldn’t be happier with what they got. In yesterday’s win, Gasol netted 12 points and grabbed a playoff career-high 19 rebounds.
The only other Laker in double-figures was veteran forward Lamar Odom. Odom finished with 13 points on a 5 for 10 shooting performance and grabbed 8 rebounds in 34 minutes of action.
“My heart’s still pumping, that adrenaline is still running from the game,” said Odom. “Maybe when I sit down and have something to eat, I’ll realize what just happened. We came out here, played our game, and won. It’s satisfying, but one more step.”
That next step will be against either the Boston Celtics or Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, which begin on June 5th. The Celtics currently hold a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 taking place tonight in Detroit. The Lakers will certainly be watching intently but coach Phil Jackson knows that no matter who the opponent, it will be a challenging series.
“We look at both those opponents (Boston and Detroit) with a great deal of respect and know that we have a great, great hill to climb to be able to finish in the finals and win,” said Jackson who will be going for his 10th NBA championship ring. Currently, he is tied with former Celtics coach and legend Red Auerbach with 9 titles as head coach.
While Jackson credits the Western Conference title win as a team effort, Spurs head coach Greg Popovich points out that his team’s offensive struggles combined with L.A.’s defensive intensity were the keys to them winning the series.
“I thought we did a fine job,” he said. “We just didn’t muster the offense, for a variety of reasons. The fact that we didn’t come through offensively is a disappointment, but part of that is a credit to the Lakers. We just played a team that was better. That’s why the Lakers won. The better team won. You get a seven-game series, you win four games, you’re the best team.”
Tim Duncan’s effort in the loss was outstanding. The former MVP scored 19 points, hauled down 15 boards and dished out 10 assists for a triple-double. It just wasn’t enough to lift the Spurs past Kobe and the rest of the Lakers lineup.
“Just got to gear it up again to go to next year,” Duncan said. “Love what we had this year. We just weren’t good enough through stretches.”
Now all the Lakers can do is sit and wait because their next stop is the 2008 NBA Finals.
It’s always nice to have the luxury of three all-stars in your starting line up but its even nicer when those all-stars combine to score 78 points in the biggest game of the year to date. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have individually had their struggles in the 2008 playoffs but Wednesday night they put the past behind them. The ‘Big Three’ put forth one of their most impressive outings as a trio during the Boston Celtics 106-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics now hold a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 6 on the horizon in Detroit on Friday night.
“We knew the significance of this game,” said Garnett, who dropped 33 in the win, the most he’s scored in the playoffs this year. “You don’t win this game, you put basically yourself in a corner. … They’re experienced, and they’ve been in a lot of pressure situations. Now it’s up to us to go up there and try to get one.”
Ahead by as many as 17 points in the 2nd half, the Celtics looked like they would coast to victory but the stingy Pistons defense began to slowly whittle away the lead, capitalizing on turnovers and missed free throws. Leading the charge was veteran point guard Chauncey Billups who scored 26 points in the game on a 7 for 17 shooting performance in the loss.
“The good thing about it is we’re going home,” said Billups, who took the ball to the basket twice in the final 10 seconds trying to draw a foul that was never called. “We’ve been here before, and we don’t like being in this position, but we’ve fought hard.”
The shot of the night came from Allen who nailed a bucket from the deep corner of the floor right in front of the Pistons bench with less then 2 seconds remaining on the shot clock and only 1:02 left on the game clock. The basket pulled the Celtics ahead 102-99 and sent the TD Banknorth Garden crowd to their feet in jubilation. On the night Allen scored 29 points and was 5-6 from 3-point land.
“My feeling right now is no different than if I scored 10 points and we won the game. It’s a great feeling,” Allen said. “Just winning gives me the greatest joy, regardless of what I’ve done.”
Rounding out the ‘Big Three’, Pierce chipped in scoring 16 points but contributed in a big way by playing great defense on Tayshaun Prince, holding the wingman to only 8 points on the night.
Aside for the trio of all-stars, the rest of Boston’s starting 5 also played outstanding basketball. Starting PG Rajon Rondo dished out 13 assists while scoring 7 points in the win. Kendrick Perkins notched a double-double in the first half alone, actually out rebounding the entire Pistons team at the break 13 to 11. He finished the game with 18 points and 16 boards and understands the importance of winning right now.
“I know our Big Three veteran guys. I know this opportunity doesn’t come much,” Perkins said. “I knew if I was up in age, up in my 30s, and a young fellow was there I’d want him to go all-out for me, too.”
The only Celtics points not scored by a starter came from James Posey’s 3-point field goal with 9:54 left in the 4th quarter making the score at the time 89-78.
The Celtics find themselves now only one win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 1987 season. Rondo and reserve Glen Davis were 1 year old when that last happened.
One thing is certain, if the ‘Big Three’ continue to play the way they did in Game 5, the Celtics quest for Green 17 could very well become a reality, but first they have to find a way to win one more time against Detroit before sending the team back to the NBA Finals for the first time since the original Big Three were in town.
With the Lakers up 3-1 over the Spurs, the possibility of a Celtics vs Lakers Finals is growing more likely.
You don’t win the MVP award in the NBA for mediocrity, you win it for having clutch performances in the games the that matter most. Welcome to the world of Kobe Bryant.
Tuesday night Bryant put on another impressive display that helped lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 93-91 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio. The defeat was the Spurs first loss at home during the 08′ postseason and could not have come at a worse time. The defending NBA Champions now find themselves trailing the series 3-1 and heading back into enemy territory, facing a must win situation.
Bryant dropped 28 points and grabbed 10 boards in the game that put the LA only 1 win away from returning to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2004.
“It is a big step for us,” said Bryant. “Tonight we came out and did a much, much better job to win in this building in this particular game. It’s big for us.”
Up two points with 2 seconds left the Lakers were in situation that called for one more stop to secure the victory. Coming out of a time out, the Spurs ran Brent Barry off of a double screen for the game’s final shot. Barry’s 3-point attempt to win the game did not connect, many believed that he was also fouled in the last ditch effort to pick up the victory.
“That’s not going to get called in the Western Conference finals,” Barry said. “Maybe in the regular season. But that call shouldn’t be called in the Western Conference finals.”
Tim Duncan led all scorers with 29 points while hammering down 17 rebounds but it was not enough to overcome the reigning MVP.
“Obviously we’re in a hole and it’s 3-1,” Duncan said. “It’s one loss and an elimination, but we really feel that if we clean a lot of this stuff up we have an opportunity to get right back in this series.”
Tony Parker and Barry both added 23 points a piece for the Spurs but throughout the game it was the Lakers lineup of youngsters that out hustled and out worked the veterans that just last season tasted what it was like to be crowned NBA Champions.
“I told them at the end of the ballgame, their energy was terrific,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Coming out and responding to a loss and getting a lead … and playing with that kind of energy, I think, carried us over and we responded every time that they came in, tied the ballgame.”
One statistic that San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs lineup can not be happy about is their rebounding effort as a team. They were out rebounded 46-37 on the night which led to 26 second chance points by the Lakers compared to only 4 for the Spurs. That can not happen again in LA if they expect to pull off a victory.
Game 5 will be on Thursday night at 9pm. The Spurs will look to extend the series at least another game so they can play Game 6 in front of their home crowd, while LA is looking to wrap things up in their own backyard.
One thing is certain; Kobe is going to continue to put up MVP numbers because that’s what MVP’s do. It’s now up to the Spurs to shut down the rest of the Lakers club to keep their hopes of repeating as champions alive.
Lakers vs Spurs Tickets available for all remaining games. Tickets also available for potential Lakers vs Celtics or Lakers vs Pistons NBA Finals.
The numbers don’t lie, the Boston Celtics shooting performance in Monday night’s 94-75 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was awful, and that might even be giving them too much credit.
As a team, Boston was a pathetic 21 of 66 from the floor for a .318 shooting percentage on the night. Of those 21 field goals, 11 were either dunks or layups which means that as a team they shot even worse from outside the paint (10-55 for a .182 shooting percentage). Those numbers are reminiscent of a middle school girl’s rec. basketball game, and unfortunately for the C’s that’s exactly how they played.
“We didn’t play well, but we hung in there by getting to the foul line,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Then, we just couldn’t make plays.”
If it weren’t for the charity stripe, this game could have been one of the biggest playoff blow outs in years. The Celtics we fortunate enough to get to the line 39 times during the night and connected on 32 of those attempts. Other then that, there wasn’t much happening for the team that finished the regular season with the NBA best record.
“They bumped us off spots and were more physical and aggressive all night,” Rivers said. “Usually the winner is the team that was more aggressive. They had a no-layup rule and that’s why we made it to the line so much.”
Before the first TV timeout, the Celtics were already trailing by double digits as the Pistons jumped ahead early scoring the games first 10 points in under 3 minutes. After the early run, Boston was forced to claw back but strong offensive nights by Rip Hamilton (20) and Antonio McDyess (21) were too much to overcome down the stretch.
“You only have so many opportunities, and they’re limited, especially for me,” McDyess said. “I’m at the end of my career, and I just feel like leaving everything out on the floor.” His teammates have recognized that he’s playing with the passion and desire to win like never before. McDyess was not part of the Pistons championship team in 2004 and wants so badly to be a contributing member of a team that can win it all.
“Dice has been our best player in the postseason, and we’re all feeding off his energy,” teammate and close friend Chauncey Billups said who scored 10 points on the game. “You see how hard he is working, and you can’t help but play hard.”
On the other end of the court, the Celtics Big Three struggled from the floor all night long. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett combined to go 11 for 38 from the field, the trio’s worst performance together in the playoffs. Pierce and Garnett each scored 16 points and Allen netted 11 but none of them were ever able to get it going and catch fire from the field.
“We pride ourselves on making our teammates better and allowing them to make us better,” Allen said.
Allen had been going through a large shooting slump entering the series but after an impressive Game 2 shooting performance, many believed he’d be able to turn in back on for the remainder of the Conference Finals. He’s averaging just less than 15 points a game for the series but still looks a little gun shy behind the arc.
As the series shifts back to Boston for Game 5, the attention of many will refocus on the Celtics defending their home court as they had done so well for the first 9 games on the playoffs. Detroit handed them their first defeat of the postseason at home in Game 2 last Thursday, but now the Celtics look to rebound for another win in front of the Boston crowds.
Boston has not lost back-to-back home games since mid March when they fell to Utah before going on the Texas road trip where they beat the Spurs, Rockets and Mavericks only to return home and fall to Philadelphia in their first game back.
For the Celtics to win this series they need to not repeat the shooting performance, or lack there of, from last nights game. This team is just full of too many talented players to be shooting anywhere under .400 percent from the floor every game. They need to go back to the tapes from Games 1 and 3 and realize that making the extra pass on the offensive end works. It tires the defense and creates better looks at the hoop for more players.
This Detroit team is very beatable. The Celtics just need to forget about their Game 4 display and get ready to defend their home court advantage once again on Wednesday. With the series knotted at 2-2, it now becomes a best of 3 match up, and if the Celtics can just manage to win at home, they will be heading to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1987.
Celtics vs Pistons Tickets are still available for Game 5!
It had been almost 2 months since the Boston Celtics suffered a loss on their home court. Thursday night, the Detroit Pistons reminded them just what it felt like; by beating the C’s 103-97 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals match up at the TD Banknorth Garden.
The loss snapped a 9-game playoff win streak at home and a 15-game win streak dating back to the regular season. Their last loss at the Garden came at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers on March 24th. Head coach Doc Rivers knows that his team will have to capture at least one victory on the road now to advance to the NBA Finals.
“I fully believe, and I’ve said many times, at some point we’re going to have to win on the road,” Rivers said. “We’ve gotten away with it thus far. That’s been taken away. And if we want what we want, we have to win on the road and that’s just the way it is.”
Boston’s Big Three did all that they could to try and pull off the win but got very little support from the rest of the line-up which ultimately cost them the game. Paul Pierce (26), Kevin Garnett (24) and Ray Allen (25) accounted for 75 of the teams 97 points. The Pistons used a balanced offensive attack with six players scoring in double figures including all of the starting five.
“It is even,” Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace said. “We don’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, look. They are undefeated at home,’ or ‘They didn’t win a game on the road.’ … A lot of the teams they played in the postseason and the regular season were scared of them, as far as KG and Ray and Paul. They are good players, but we have good players, also.”
Unlike Game 1, last night’s tempo was much more upbeat and both teams tried to run the ball and transition for fast break points. The Pistons did this more effectively behind the reigns of veteran PG Chauncey Billups who finished with 19 points and 7 assists. Teammate Richard Hamilton (25 points, 4 assists) wanted to make sure Billups was in the right state of mind for Game 2 after a sub par performance in the series opener.
“One thing I told Chaunce, you ain’t got to be overaggressive out there,” Hamilton said. “You can take your time and be the captain of our ship, and we’ll try to do a good job of helping you out.”
As the series now shifts to Detroit, the big question that everyone’s asking is can the Celtics win on the road? During the regular season they had no trouble away from Boston and actually had the NBA’s best road record. Since then it’s been a different story. The C’s are 0-6 away from home during the 2008 playoffs, and now will be forced to take at least one game on the road from the Pistons to win the series.
The first thing that needs to occur for them to be successful away from Boston is they need more production and better minutes from their bench. Guys like James Posey, Eddie House and Leon Powe need to step it up. All three of those guys are very capable of dropping 8-12 points a game. Last night the three combined for only 3 points on a Posey 3-point FG.
A great sign for the Celtics was seeing Allen find his shooting touch again after a prolonged slump that last over 3 weeks. He needs to continue to feel it from behind the arc so that the Pistons are forced to pull defenders from the middle to cover him on the perimeter, which will then open up the paint for guys like KG and Kendrick Perkins.
Another key to winning on the road for the Celtics will be to maintain their composure. Calls aren’t going to be going their way, the crowd will be loud and it can get intimidating but it’s very important for them to stay focused. The Pistons are going to be fired up and the Celtics will need to match that intensity.
“The atmosphere’s going to be crazy,” Hamilton said. “We’re geeked about getting back to our home court. The fans are excited, and now it’s our job to take care of home court.”
It is now the Celtics turn to play the role of the spoiler as they hope to take one if not both of the games in Detroit over the holiday weekend. The Big Three needs to continue to dominate and can only hope that the rest of their teammates pick up the slack a bit from their output in Game 2.
“We have no choice now but to get it done on the road,” Pierce said.
They did it all during the regular season and the time has come where they will now have to find a way to do it again. Their quest for Green 17 continues, next stop Detroit City.
The Eastern Conference Finals are underway and after another big performance by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics captured a Game 1 win by the score of 88-79 to take a 1-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons. The victory improves the C’s playoff home record to a perfect 9-0 and they continue to excel defensively holding opponents to a 79.2 points per game average at the TD Banknorth Garden.
“The defensive pressure was fantastic,” gushed Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “Offensively, we made the extra pass. The ball kept moving, finding the open guy, and that’s how we have to play.”
The Celtics team that showed up to play last night reminded everyone watching of the ball club that won 66 games during the regular season, breezed to the best record in the NBA and was a supposed lock to represent the East in the NBA Finals. It’s been three weeks since anyone had seen any sign of that team, but they definitely came out to play in the yesterdays dominating victory.
After a 41 point performance in Sunday’s Game 7 against Cleveland, Pierce picked up where he left off pouring in 22 points on 9-18 shooting, grabbing 6 boards and dishing out 6 assists for an impressive all around effort. No one on the Pistons lineup matches up well against him and ‘the truth’ was able to pick apart each defender by varying his shot selection with baseline fade away jumpers, free throw extended set shots and open looks on the wing. When defenders started to cheat closer trying to get the extra step, he’d slash to the basket which would result in either a bucket, a foul or defensive help opening up a shot for a teammate.
“You got Detroit coming in, well-rested,” Pierce said. “This was the perfect game for them to come in and try to steal one, and we were aware of that. They probably figured we were tired while they’ve been practicing. And we just came out with extra focus and extra energy at the start of the game.”
Speaking of extra energy, Garnett came out of the gates looking like he had been hooked up all day to a Red Bull I.V. drip. The defensive player of the year hit his first three shots from the floor, pounded his chest after every basket and screaming to the Boston fans fueling their energy for the rest of the game. KG finished the game with 26 points and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes of action.
“We just didn’t seem to be in a good flow, it might have had something to do with (the layoff). We were just a step slow,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “We didn’t get into the flow.”
Veteran guard Ray Allen has gotten used to the routine of playing every other day and thinks that it is working towards the Celtics advantage. “You have to figure, doing this every other day, you just get used to the same routine of coming out, being out this late, playing basketball,” Allen said. “I think when you get that break in between, you have to build yourself back up into it.”
Unlike some games in the first two playoffs series, the Celtics really had control of this one all throughout. They jumped out to an early 8-0 lead and then played the type of basketball that everyone expected to see in the playoffs, a team oriented style of play. Players were making the extra pass to find an open teammate and not forcing shots. The end result, 27 assists and a .522 shooting percentage from the floor.
If the Celtics can put up those types of numbers every game, next week the Pistons will be golfing while the C’s will be the team getting the week long layoff before the NBA finals begin on June 5th.
There’s only one thing that needs to take place for that to happen that has yet to… Boston needs to win on the road. They currently hold a 0-6 mark when playing away from the Garden but hope to turn it around this weekend when they head to Detroit for games 3 and 4 of the series.
Before they ship out of Boston, there is still work to be done in Game 2. The Celtics look to stay perfect at home while the Pistons will do everything in their power to stop the home win streak right where it is.
The players will be fired up, the Garden will be fired up and you should be fired up as the Celtics continue their quest for Green 17.
Celtics Tickets are still available for Game 2!