Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 109, Lakers 96
Celtics 109, Lakers 96
Just more than seven months ago, the C’s squandered a fourth-quarter lead in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and watched the Lakers celebrate another championship in the Staples Center. The stakes may not have been as high this afternoon, but Boston grabbed some vindication for that loss with a dominant fourth-quarter performance en route to a 109-96 victory in L.A.
The Celtics headed into the final period leading by only five, and that lead was cut down to three when Steve Blake swished home a jumper to open up the quarter’s scoring. We hope the Lakers and their fans took a look at the scoreboard at that very moment, because it was their last opportunity of the day to feel any shot of grabbing a win.
Boston answered Blake’s jumper with back-to-back 3-pointers, nailed home by Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, to bump its lead up to nine and the team never looked back from there.
Rajon Rondo, who assisted on both of those 3s, came out of his shell and turned on his aggressiveness in the fourth to help spark the C’s. He totaled nine assists in the fourth quarter alone. While Rondo carved up Los Angeles’ defense, his teammates became the beneficiaries. Boston’s first six baskets of the fourth quarter were scored by six different players, giving you an idea of the type of team ball the Celtics displayed in crunch time.
While the C’e were busy showing off why they are quite possibly the greatest team in the NBA at the end of January, the Lakers were stuck playng Kobe Ball. Kobe Bryant had a fantastic game today, scoring a game-high 41 points, but his abilities alone are not enough to defeat the Celtics. From the 8:54 mark of the fourth until only 44.7 seconds remained in the game, no Laker outside of Bryant scored a single point. He scored 11 points during that time span.
All in all, the Celtics outscored the Lakers 32-24 in the fourth quarter. It was Boston’s third straight quarter in which it scored at least 27 points in the game. The C’s shot 60.3 percent in the game, but the efficiency they showed in the fourth quarter was essentially unstoppable.
It may have come about seven months after the Celtics would have liked, but they showed this afternoon that they are more than capable of closing a game out in crunch time in the Staples Center. The overall performance put a cap on an emotional seven-month span and may have told Celtics Nation that it should no longer look back on the past and wonder what could have been. Today’s performance was a sign that we should instead be looking ahead to what might be in the cards when June rolls around in 2011.
Key Box Score Line
Paul Pierce has been involved in plenty of epic battles. He has played in back-and-forth games and he has gone shot-for-shot with opposing superstars. After today’s contest against the Lakers, Pierce can add another checkmark next to each of those categories.
Boston and Los Angeles battled from start to finish this afternoon and Pierce was the main reason why the C’s kept their mojo throughout. He was unstoppable for much of the game, dropping a team-high 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the floor. Thirty of those points were scored in the first three quarters. He canned three of his five 3-pointers and made all seven of his free throws. In addition to his scoring, Pierce was also able to pull in five rebounds and dish out three assists.
Pierce and Kobe Bryant put on a show for much of the game by going basket-for-basket. Bryant finished with nine more points than Pierce, with 41, but he needed 11 more shot attempts to score those extra points.
The Celtics got only two points from Pierce in the final period, but he and his teammates couldn’t care less. This was one of those games where, as Pierce likes to say, he gave what the game needed, and that was a stellar offensive performance through three quarters and great team basketball in the fourth.
Box Score Nuggets
- Boston shot 60.3 percent from the field, compared to only 44.4 percent shooting by Los Angeles.
- Rajon Rondo dished out a game-high 16 assists, including nine in the fourth quarter and 15 in the second half.
- Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 41 points.
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 32 points.
- Bryant scored nine more points than Pierce, but needed 11 more shot attempts to score them.
- Boston totaled 34 assists, more than three times as many as Los Angeles, which had only 10 assists.
- Kevin Garnett had a monster game with 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
- Not a single Laker finished with more than two assists, and the starting five accounted for only four total assists.
- Bryant attempted 29 shots in the game (11 more than Pierce, who took the second-most) and did not record an assist.
- The Celtics outrebounded the Lakers 43-30.
- Ray Allen scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
- Glen Davis (13 points) and Nate Robinson (11 points) totaled 24 points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench.
- Los Angeles attempted 27 free throws to Boston's 18.
- Garnett was the only player in the game to grab more than seven rebounds.
- Lamar Odom scored 15 points off the bench for the Lakers.
- Boston made as many 3s, nine, as Los Angeles attempted.
- Both teams blocked four shots.
- Shaquille O'Neal did not score a point against his former team, but he did account for six rebounds and two blocks in only 12:42 of playing time.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on the importance of winning this game: "It is another game but it’s definitely an emotional game especially since losing Game 7 here. The thing is when you win a game here now it’s not for the championship. It’s definitely a regular season game. When we play against the Lakers it really get’s our juices going on they are our rivals. It’s a big game just knowing that we can come into this building and get a win."