Lakers 86, Celtics 92
The Finals are all about big players making big plays. Tonight, the entire Celtics team made those plays, while there was only one Laker who stepped up to the plate.
Boston used its team effort to open up and maintain an 11-point lead in the second half despite Kobe Bryant's 19 straight Laker points in the third quarter. Los Angeles did put together a run in the fourth, battling back to within five, but the Celtics responded with big play after big play.
There was one, however, that stood far above the rest. Rajon Rondo's final two points of the night were about as big as they come, and they pretty much closed the door on the Lakers' comeback bid.
With the C's leading by five and only 38.9 seconds remaining, the Celtics came out of a 20-second timeout with hopes of getting the ball into the hands of one of their top free throw shooters. Instead, a trio of Celtics combined to put together one of the riskiest plays this Finals has seen, and it wound up working.
Doc Rivers designated Kevin Garnett as the passer for the critical inbound play, and he was stationed on the sideline opposite Boston's bench (in the back court) and about 10 feet from the baseline. Paul Pierce was Garnett's primary target for the inbound pass, and as he streaked from the free throw line at one end of the court toward the 3-point line at the other end, KG threw an incredibly dangerous pass over Derek Fisher, who was trailing Pierce, and it dropped right into the captain's hands.
Unfortunately for Boston, Pierce's balance was taking him out of bounds and it looked as if the play was going to result in a turnover. But as he fell out of bounds, he surveyed the court and managed to find Rondo sprinting to the basket about 40 feet away. Pierce hurled a two-handed pass at Rondo that was slightly off line, but Boston's point guard reached back with his right hand and snagged it out of the air.
At that point, the logical move would have been to pull the ball out, get it into a free throw shooter's hands and run 20 more seconds off of the clock. But Rondo's killer instinct came out, and dribbling another 20 seconds off of the clock certainly wasn't on his mind.
Rondo grabbed the pass and, in stride, took two more steps and threw up a reverse layup as he pulled away from Ron Artest, who was originally trailing him and quit on the play once Pierce caught the first pass. The bucket dropped through and put Boston ahead by seven with 35.2 seconds remaining, which put a pivotal Game 5 win on ice.
Kevin Garnett described the importance of that play with the following: "A huge momentum play. I wouldn't say the dagger, but it was definitely a momentum shift carrying into our direction."
You can call it a dagger, because it put this game out of reach. The importance and risk of that play cannot be understated. Rondo went against the grain and took a shot that, had it missed, would have given the Lakers a chance to make it a one-possession game with plenty of time left on the clock. Instead, Rondo's risk was his reward and he locked up another victory for the C's in their final home game of the season.
Key Box Score Line
Kevin Garnett dropped 25 points in Game 3, which would lead you to believe that it was his best game of the Finals thus far. But take a look at his overall box score from tonight and you'll realize that this was by far his most productive game of the series.
The Big Ticket delivered 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field and also pulled in 10 boards, a series-high for him. Those are customary numbers you'd expect out of Garnett in a big game, but the defensive numbers he racked up were somewhat shocking. The Lakers must have felt like there were five Garnett's on the court all night, because he was flying around like a maniac at the defensive end. That activity helped KG rack up a season-high five steals to go along with two blocked shots.
Garnett seems to be back in 2008-mode right now, and the last person who wanted to see that was Pau Gasol. Gasol scored only 12 points tonight and was visibly frustrated by Garnett throughout the game.
This was a different KG on the floor in Game 5, one that was determined to take a series lead. After the game, he mentioned as much by stating a premise that had been eating away at him for the past two days.
"The severity of this game is huge, man," said Garnett. "You don't want to go back to LA with them having a chance to close out and it being on their floor."
His big performance was a main factor in not allowing that situation to arise, and so now it's the Celtics who will have that opportunity in the Staples Center Tuesday night.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston made nine more field goals than the Lakers while taking seven less attempts.
- Los Angeles recorded only 12 assists in the game, with Kobe Bryant's four leading the team.
- On the other side of the ball, Rajon Rondo recorded a game-high eight dimes to go along with 18 points and five boards.
- Tony Allen and Glen Davis each played exactly 13:09 of the game.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the floor.
- The Celtics shot 56.3 percent from the floor to LA's 39.7 percent.
- Andrew Bynum played 31:58, but he scored only six points and grabbed only one rebound
- Three Lakers players finished with the same amount of points as rebounds: Pau Gaol with 12 and 12, Lamar Odom with eight and eight, and Jordan Farmar with one and one.
- Kevin Garnett finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks.
- Rondo committed a game-high seven turnovers.
- Four Celtics starters accrued at least four fouls.
- Kobe Bryant finished with a game-high 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting. He scored 19 straight points for LA to open up the second half.
- Bryant also struggled taking care of the ball, connecting for only four assists while turning the ball over four times.
- LA grabbed 16 offensive rebounds but lost the overall rebounding margin by one, at 35-34.
- The Celtics shot only 3-of-12 from 3-point range.
- Rondo shot 9-of-12 from the field.
- The Celtics outscored the Lakers 46-32 in the paint and 14-3 on the fast break.
Quote of the Night
Kevin Garnett on defending the Kobe Bryant while was red-hot from the field: "Well, when a player is in that kind of mode, man, you just put a hand up and you trap him and you do different things. Other than that, you're at their mercy."