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While Pierce certainly deserved credit for his play on both ends of the floor, one Celtics veteran emerged from the bench to play a major role in the victory.
Forward James Posey gave his teammates a lift with 18 points on 5-for-10 shooting, including four 3-pointers, in 26 minutes. He entered the game late in the first quarter with Boston trailing by 14 and was in the lineup when the Celtics fell behind by 24 in the second quarter.
With the STAPLES crowd at a fever pitch, the Celtics refused to get down on themselves. As a member of the 2006 champion Miami Heat, Posey has experience on the biggest NBA stage and he helped encourage his teammates to get back into the game, one defensive stop at a time.
"Weíve got to get ourselves out of this hole -- and by doing so, weíve got to work on the defensive end," Posey said. "Weíve got to have multiple efforts and know when we start doing those things, everything else starts to fall in place for us and we were able to get ourselves back into the game."
One of the younger members of the Celtics, Leon Powe, said that it was Posey who helped keep things in perspective.
"When he came in, he brought that leadership in there," said the second-year forward. "He's a savvy veteran and he knew we weren't out of the game. He was telling us to stick together and we'll be all right."
Posey, who stands near the sideline at center court before the game and hugs his teammates just before tip-off, has taken on a leadership role in his first season with the Celtics.
"I've been in a situation like this before and I've been through that process," Posey said. "The respect that my teammates give me, first of all, of just listening at times about what I'm trying to get across in terms of the nature of the game. It just comes from the respect of my teammates."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers credited Posey for his ability to spread the Lakers defense, which had been swarming for the first two quarters. Posey knocked down his first three-pointer with 3:28 remaining in the second quarter to pull Boston within 14 points of L.A. at 45-31. Nearly two minutes later, Posey drained his second 3 to close the gap to 50-37.
"When Pose made those shots, I knew that from that point on, we were going to have one-on-one coverage," Rivers said. "Whether we made shots from that point on was up to us. But the trap stopped, the floor was spaced, and once the floor was spaced our scorers could score."
Posey was on the floor for much of the third quarter, and along with Pierce, Allen, Garnett and fellow bench-mate Eddie House, helped lead the C's on a 23-5 run to pull the Celtics within two points (73-71) to start the fourth.
With 5:25 left in the game, Posey hit his third 3-pointer to pull the Celtics within one point at 81-80 and then delivered the biggest blow of the game by drilling his final 3 from the left corner with 1:13 remaining to put Boston ahead, 92-87.
"I take my shots with confidence and tonight they fell," Posey said. "Everything was just within the flow of the offense. That's all."
As the game ended, the Celtics celebrated on the floor and let the reality of now having a 3-1 lead in the series sink in. But Posey and Sam Cassell, another veteran with championship rings, were quick to temper their teammates' excitement.
"We're not done yet," Posey said. "Be excited for these two minutes, but in the end, we still have a job to do on Sunday. In the end, when we finish that job, then we can celebrate and be happy about what we accomplished for the season. But it's not over with. We've got to continue to work hard these next couple of days and just stay focused."
This House was a Rockin': Posey was not the only player to give the Celtics a lift from off the bench. Eddie House put together another solid effort for Boston, scoring 11 points in 25 minutes and a team-high +20 point differential.
House was 1-for-4 in the first half for two points, but turned it around in the second half to go 4-for-9 overall. Never one to lack confidence in his shooting abilities, House said that it's all just a part of his game.
"You know, you donít take the next one when you canít make the next one," House said. "Thatís what I do, I shoot the basketball. Iím not going to let them take me out of the game. They were open shots. They were good looks. They were my shots, so I just continued to take them."
Houseís biggest make of the night came with 4:07 remaining to give the Celtics an 84-83 lead, Bostonís first of the night and one that the team would never relinquish.
All Night Long: If there's one Celtics player who deserves the day off that the team has been granted on Friday, it is Ray Allen. The veteran shooting guard played all 48 minutes, scoring 19 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
"Oh, I look forward to the two days, although I would love to play again on Saturday having the time off," Allen said. "Sometimes it can break you up a little bit too much, but being able to play is what we would love to do.
"There was a point out there in the game where I knew I wasn't coming out, and I just said I have to suck it up. I have plenty of time to rest the next couple of months, so suck it up."
Rondo Returns: Point guard Rajon Rondo was in the starting lineup for Boston on Thursday and said after the game that his left ankle felt fine. Rondo had five points and two assists in 18 minutes as Rivers opted to go with House for much of the second half.
Rondo suffered a bone bruise in the second half of Game 3 on Tuesday and had his foot in a bucket of ice following Game 4.
Quick Hits: Kendrick Perkins strained his left shoulder after committing his fourth foul at 9:35 of the third quarter. Perkins went to the locker room after being subbed out by P.J. Brown and did not return to the game. "It was a little too sore [for me] to go back in tonight, but I'll be ready on Sunday," he said. Perkins injured his left ankle in the third quarter of Game 1. ... Tony Allen saw his first action of the Finals, playing three minutes in the second half during Boston's spirited comeback. Allen had not played since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. ... The Celtics' 21-point deficit after the first quarter is the largest for any opening quarter in NBA Finals history. ... Prior to the game, Rivers was asked about the emergence of player blogs, such as the one updated by Rajon Rondo: "Guys like them, so I don't get in the way of them, as long as what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas if you know what I'm saying." ... Game 5 will be Sunday at the STAPLES Center at 9 p.m. ET on ABC. The good news for the Celtics is that no team has ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win the NBA Finals.