Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 94, Lakers 97
Celtics 94, Lakers 97
You never want Kobe Bryant to have the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. He showed why this afternoon, and he had some company, too.
Boston led 94-89 with 2:41 remaining in the contest after Ray Allen drilled a 3-pointer from downtown off of a Kevin Garnett pass. The Celtics seemed to be in control of the game at that moment, but Bryant stepped up and changed that just 15 seconds later.
Bryant controlled the Lakers’ next possession while he was defended by Paul Pierce, which is clearly a matchup that favored Los Angeles. Pierce was forced to defend Bryant due to Ray Allen having already racked up five fouls. Bryant drove into the paint and tossed up a fade-away jumper, which was contested perfectly by Pierce, that dropped through the net with 2:16 remaining.
That shot took some wind out of Boston’s sails and pumped some energy into the Staples Center crowd. The momentum had begun its swing toward the Lakers, and that continued about a minute later.
After Boston missed two consecutive shots on its next possession, Los Angeles went right back to Bryant at the other end. He drove past Pierce on the right wing and tossed up a pass that likely would have grazed the front of the rim had it not been touched. But as it approached the basket, Andrew Bynum and his incredible wingspan reached above everyone else and somehow managed to tip the ball in as Brandon Bass nudged him from behind.
When that basket went in, Boston knew it was in trouble. Doc Rivers called an immediate timeout with 1:17 remaining and his team leading by one, but the Lakers, not the Celtics, was the team heading to its bench with a collective smile on its face.
The Celtics got an open jumper for Allen on their next possession but he missed and Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound. At the other end of the floor, Bryant went to work yet again and drilled a 14-foot, pull-up jumper as Bass reached up to contest the shot.
Bryant’s second bucket in crunch time put Los Angeles ahead 95-94 with 41.7 seconds remaining. The Celtics called yet another timeout and Rivers drew up a play that worked to perfection. That play resulted in a wide-open jumper for Bass, who had already canned two mid-range jumpers in the fourth, from 19 feet. This time, however, Bass couldn’t get the shot to fall.
Gasol grabbed the miss yet again and Mike Brown called for a timeout after Bryant advanced the ball over half court. As Bryant suggested after the game, Brown may have drawn up a play that went to the wayside. Bryant instead told his teammates that the ball was going down into the post to Bynum. Period.
Metta World Peace is the man who made the entry pass to Bynum, who had gained great position on the undersized Garnett on the block. Bynum quickly made a move and tossed up a hook shot from six feet out that put the Lakers ahead by three with 15.5 seconds remaining.
Boston had two opportunities to tie the game on the final possession, but Pierce’s 3-pointer from 29 feet was partially blocked by Bryant, and then Rajon Rondo’s 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim after an offensive board from Garnett.
All in all, Los Angeles strung together an 8-0 run over the final 2:16 of the game and wound up winning 97-94. The Lakers did not miss a shot during that stretch and Bryant and Bynum each accounted for four points apiece. The Celtics, on the other hand, missed their final six shots, which allowed Bryant and his new partner in crunch time crime to steal the win in Los Angeles.
Key Box Score Line
Rajon Rondo continued his stat stuffing ways on Sunday by dropping in 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting and dishing out a game-high 10 assists. His stellar production was somewhat of a surprise for Boston, seeing as the point guard was notified by the league moments before the game that he could not wear protective sunglasses during game action.
Rondo was poked in the eye during Friday’s win over Portland and that resulted in him having some sensitivity to light. He was planning on wearing dark sunglasses during today’s game, but the league nixed that plan. Still, Rondo went onto the floor and dominated in several facets of the game.
Boston’s point guard was a consistent scorer from all over the floor. He made mid-range jumpers, a 3-pointer and several tough layups all while being defended by one of the league’s best in Kobe Bryant. Rondo also chipped in two boards and a steal in the contest.
Box Score Nuggets
- Derek Fisher (nine points) was the only starter in the game not to score in double-figures.
- Andrew Bynum (14) and Pau Gasol (13) combined for 27 rebounds.
- The Celtics were outrebounded 42-34 overall.
- Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 26 points and led the Lakers with seven assists.
- Rajon Rondo dished out a game-high 10 assists and led the Celtics with 24 points.
- Los Angeles made half of its 16 3-point attempts.
- Boston assisted on 33 of its 39 made field goals.
- All 33 of Boston's assists were accumulated by the team's starters, led by Rondo's 10 and Paul Pierce's nine.
- There were 11 ties and 14 lead changes in the game.
- The teams were nearly identical in scoring in the second half, with both teams scoring 28 points in the third and then L.A. scoring 25 in the fourth to Boston's 24.
- The Celtics scored 21 fast-break points.
- Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 11 rebounds.
- Steve Blake recorded six assists off the bench for Los Angeles.
- Garnett and Brandon Bass combined to shoot 14-for-23 from the field. Garnett scored 14 points and Bass scored 15
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Boston's defensive strategy against Andrew Bynum: "Whatever it was, it wasn’t very good."