Lakers Gameday | 06/13/10 | Celtics

ROUND 4 GAME 5 | JUNE 13 | SUN | 5:00 PM | TD GARDEN
GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Los Angeles
20 19 26 21 86
by Play
Boston Celtics 22 23 28 19 92


Lakers-Celtics Highlights


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Celtics handle Kobe onslaught and lead LA 3-2

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer

BOSTON (AP)—It’s looking a lot like 2008 again, with Paul Pierce carrying the Boston Celtics to victory in the NBA finals and leading them to the brink of yet another title.

Pierce scored 27 points—his best performance of this year’s finals—and the Celtics withstood 38 points from Kobe Bryant to beat the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers 92-86 on Sunday night and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and a victory then or in Game 7 in L.A. on Thursday would give the Celtics a record 18th NBA title.

The Celtics have never blown a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals.

“It was our biggest game of the year,” Pierce said. “We’re in a good spot. We have two games in L.A.; now we have to get one.”

Bryant was the MVP of the finals last year, when the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win their 15th championship. But Pierce earned the honor at his expense in ’08, when the new Big Three beat the Lakers to raise an NBA-record 17th banner to the rafters at Boston’s TD Garden.

Bryant outscored Pierce this time, but the Lakers’ guard got little help from his teammates. And the stretch where he was most dominant was also the time when the Celtics pulled away.

“I wasn’t in a personal duel,” Pierce said. “I didn’t notice that we were going back-and-forth scoring at the time. He’s a tough player. He makes shots.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson defended Bryant’s attempts to take over the offense.

“He’s the kind of guy (where) you ride the hot hand, that’s for sure,” Jackson said. “We were waiting for him to do that. … He went out there and found a rhythm.”

With the “Beat L.A!” chant reverberating at the Garden, Kevin Garnettscored 18 points with 10 rebounds and Rajon Rondo had 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds to help Boston become the first team in the series to win two games in a row. If Los Angeles can’t do the same at home, the Celtics will improve to 10-2 against them in the finals, from a 4-0 sweep over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1959 through the Bird-and-Magic era of the ’80s and Boston’s win in ’08.

But Bryant said neither the rivalry nor revenge that should be motivating his teammates when they try to stave off elimination at home.

“Just man up and play. What the hell is the big deal?” he said. “If I have to say something to them, then we don’t deserve to be champions. We’re down 3-2: Go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that.”

Bryant did everything he could to send the Lakers home with the edge.

He scored 23 straight Lakers points between the 4:23 mark of the second quarter until there was 2:16 left in the third. But over that span, the Celtics expanded the lead from one point to 13.

“I just tried to keep telling them, it’s only 2 points each time he scores. It’s not 10,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s just like if someone else was scoring. … I love that our guys for the most part, they understood what he was doing. But we defended everyone else. And I thought it was big.”

And Pierce was having his best game of the series, too.

The Celtics’ captain scored seven points in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the second quarter and added nine more in the first 5 minutes of the third.Ray Allen, who hasn’t hit a 3-pointer since making an NBA-record eight in Game 2, made a pair of baskets that gave Boston a 71-58 lead with 3:08 left in the third.

Jackson, wearing a microphone for the TV broadcast, told his players during a late timeout, “This team loses more games in the fourth quarter than any team in the league. They know how to lose games, and they’re showing us that now.”

The Lakers got within six points several times, but never within five until Bryant made three free throws to make it 87-82 with 90 seconds left.

The Celtics got a break from a review when replays showed Allen’s 3-pointer barely nicked the rim, giving them the ball with a fresh 24 seconds and 1:05 left. Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer, but the rebound wound up tied up between the 6-foot-11 Garnett and 6-foot-1Derek Fisher.

Fisher won the jump ball, tipping the ball ahead to Ron Artest for a breakaway; Pierce fouled him to keep him from scoring an easy layup, and he missed both free throws. Bryant grabbed the rebound, but Pierce ripped it out of his arms and dribbled off to the side to call timeout.

A desperate inbound pass went to Pierce, who fed Rondo under the basket before falling out of bounds, and Rondo made an over-the-head layup to make it 89-82 with 36 seconds left.

“I was just showing off my Randy Moss and my (Tom) Brady the whole play,” Pierce said. “I was Randy when I caught it; then Brady on my pass to Rondo.”

Bryant missed a series of desperation 3-pointers down the stretch, and when Allen made two free throws with 19 seconds left and Garnett one of two with 8.9 to play, it was over.

“He’s the best shot-maker in the game. There’s probably better athletes and all that, but there’s no better shot-maker than Kobe Bryant,” Rivers said. “You’ve just got to live with it and play through it.”

Pau Gasol scored 12 points with 12 rebounds and Fisher, the Game 3 star, scored all nine of his points in the first quarter as no other Laker reached double figures in scoring until Gasol hit a free throw with 2:25 left.Andrew Bynum played on his sore right knee for 31 minutes, but he scored all six of his points and his only rebound in the first quarter.

NOTES: Of the 25 finals that have been tied at 2-all, the winner of Game 5 has won 19 of them. … Rondo was called for a technical foul in the second quarter when he pushed Artest in retaliation for a hard foul on Garnett. Artest embellished the shove, but got the call. … Celebrities in the crowd: sprinter Usain Bolt, actress Eliza Dushku, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and singers Glen Frey and Jimmy Buffett, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

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1 Slim rebounding advantage for Boston (35-34), despite L.A.’s 16 offensive window cleans due to a major discrepancy in shooting percentage (see below). The boards stat has decided the winner of each of five games

14 Fast break points for Boston, to just three for the Lakers.

16 Boston’s percentage points advantage in field goal percentage (56.3 to 39.7 percent).

38 Points for Kobe Bryant on 13-of-27 field goals, including a 7-for-7 start to the third quarter. He added 8-of-9 free throws, five boards and five assists.

86 L.A.’s point total, a low for the 2010 postseason.

Mike Trudell,

Lakers-Celtics Quotes

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson

PHIL JACKSON: They broke the game open in the third quarter, and it was a struggle for us to get ourselves back into that ballgame. We came back at the end of the third and narrowed the margin, but sequences of plays, turnovers, a couple turnovers by Kobe and run‑outs created that 10‑point gap at the end in which we had to really struggle to get back in the game.
You know, Ron had an opportunity, an unusual situation ‑ Fish elevated, beat Garnett to the ball on a tip, which is kind of unusual, and they weren't ready for the run‑out. But we couldn't make the play on that.
Kobe struggled the first half. The second half I thought he was his dynamic self again and got us back and going.

Q. The effort in the third period looked pretty ragged. I think the Celtics scored on 12 of their first 13 possessions. When they made it, they either made it or rebounded and made it. You guys didn't seem to touch rebounds for about six minutes.

Q. Is there any way to account for that, or what were you saying?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, we called a time‑out and got into their face a little bit about how we got ourselves on the wrong side of people and gave up lay‑ups. I know they were shooting a high percentage, but it gets that way when you shoot lay‑ups in this game.

Q. Generally what do you attribute the defensive breakdowns to? It seemed like they were able to get what they wanted, especially in the first half.
PHIL JACKSON: If I'm not mistaken they scored 92 points, right? We'll live with that, and we'll come back and play that game again regardless of what they shot. That sequence at the start of the third quarter didn't demoralize our guys. We kept coming back and coming in the ballgame. They had their run. We know they're going to have a run. And as I told the players before the game, this team is going to shoot well in one of these games. They haven't shot yet on their home court, so they're going to have a game where they shoot well. You just have to hang with them.

Q. What was going on with Pau out there? He was 4 for 11, a late put‑back. Seemed like he was getting a lot of shots blocked, too. What was going on with him?
PHIL JACKSON: He didn't have a lot of opportunities in the first half, and in the second half it looked like he broke away, went by Garnett, got to the front of the hoop, and he blocked it from behind. He had another one blocked. You know, until I see the edit, I can't make a comment on what happened out there, whether he was tentative or whether he had good defensive plays made against him. I thought Garnett made a couple good defensive plays.

Q. You're so big on team work, how did you think about using Kobe and kind of eliminating everybody else in the third quarter?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, he's the kind of guy you ride a hot hand, that's for sure.
Q. So you had no problem with that?
PHIL JACKSON: We were waiting for him to do that, and he came in at halftime and got his ankle retaped again and went out there and found a rhythm on the game.
You know, other than that, you look at the assists, we had 12; they had 21. That's a big differential in a game like this. It's a struggle.
Q. What's your mentality going into these two elimination games? You haven't had an elimination game in these playoffs, what do you tell the team? How much do you use Andrew Bynum? What's your mentality going into 6 and 7?
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, if you look at it, they've come home and carried the 3‑2 lead back. It's basically home court, home court. Now we're going back to home court to win it. That's the way it's supposed to be, isn't it? Unfortunately we couldn't get this win here but we got the one to count to bring us back home.
Sorry I didn't answer your question on that, but that's as good as I'll do.

Q. You said this week that Kobe has to play better in order for you guys to win. Over these past few games do you think he's gotten better against the defense? The Celtics have kind of been up in his chest.
PHIL JACKSON: Yeah, he was brimming with confidence in the second half. He felt like he had some things that he felt comfortable doing, and we found a way to do it. I thought he had good position in the first half, it just didn't look like he could get up and elevate and get the shots he wanted and missed some easy shots for him.
Q. Was his inability to elevate because of the ankle or because of the defense?
PHIL JACKSON: No, I thought he really ‑‑ it was just a lack of getting up over the other shot. He got his ankle retaped and came back and played well.

Q. Pierce has been relatively quiet other than a quarter or two. Today it was pretty consistent four quarters, a lot of energy. Can you talk about the difficulty Pierce can give not just your team but any team.
PHIL JACKSON: Well, you know, Paul is a very deliberate ballplayer, and when he's comfortable out there, he can be very difficult to guard. He's got a step‑back, he's got a nice shot that he takes off the dribble. His post‑up game is good. There's a lot of things that he has as weapons out there. He had Ron guessing out there for much of the game. I thought Ron finally got a little bit of a defensive game against him in the fourth quarter. He was in foul trouble, Luke came out and gave a hand at it, but I thought Ron finally got a little feel for it and Paul missed a couple for us.

Q. As a coach, how do you go about dealing with the psychological equation of it being an elimination game with a team that recently eliminated you, like in terms of that part of it?
PHIL JACKSON: I don't know how recent that is. That's two years. I guess that's recent, huh?

Q. Fairly.
PHIL JACKSON: Fairly recent. Well, it doesn't feel like it. I thought we had a spirited locker room at the end of our session there. We felt like we came away with a couple things that didn't happen for us, an air ball shot that went their direction, a run‑out at a segment where we tried to get a backcourt violation. They had a couple things fall into place and we felt pretty good about our comeback and the way we played at the end of the game. We come away with a play that could have been a three‑point play and see what would happen, but we didn't get anything out of it.
We're upbeat about going into this game.

Q. You're still dealing with the uncertainty with Andrew, how do you go forward with that?
PHIL JACKSON: You know, more than anything else, Andrew was out of rhythm in the game. I think he'll feel much more comfortable getting back and playing. He's really only played limited minutes since Tuesday night, so we anticipate that he'll have some opportunity to kind of get himself out there, shoot the ball a little bit and give us more than just a big body in the sixth game.
Q. Would you say that the sheer effort was a factor with what happened in the third quarter? And if so, is that acceptable in a game like this?
PHIL JACKSON: No, you know, I think it was ‑‑ I thought they used position very well in that quarter. They got guys off line, as we say in the game, instead of playing ‑‑ basketball is a pretty simple game. You try and stay between the basket and your man, and we had three situations where they displaced our man and had some easy baskets, and I thought they did a really good job of passing the ball from Rondo, Garnett, Allen, et cetera. I don't think it was lack of effort as much as being prepared for what they thought, what they could do when they came out.

Guard Kobe Bryant

Q. Phil mentioned something happened to your ankle. What was that exactly? He said you had to have it retaped.
KOBE BRYANT: No, I just tweaked it a little bit, just retaped it, and it felt a lot better.

Q. What did you think of Pau tonight? He was the only guy who scored in double figures besides you, but he kind of struggled with his shot.
KOBE BRYANT: He's been consistent for us for a while now, so he can afford to have a bad game every once in a while.

Q. You're obviously such a great competitor. Do you look at a game like this, I did all I can do, or do you look at it as if only I had done this or done this, it could have been opposite result?
KOBE BRYANT: I've forgotten about it.

Q. You've just put it behind you, you're that focused?
KOBE BRYANT: Yeah, I mean, you just go into the next game. We have a challenge obviously down 3‑2. We let a couple opportunities slip away. But it is what it is. Now you go home, you've got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.

Q. Was there a part tonight in the game where you thought you guys let the game slip away?
KOBE BRYANT: I mean, we're knocking at the door there a couple times and just couldn't get through. Again tonight they got all the hustle points in terms of loose balls and offensive rebounds down the stretch. We didn't convert.

Q. How confident are you in yourself of your ability to win two games back to back on your home court?
KOBE BRYANT: I'm not very confident at all (laughing).

Q. First eight minutes of the third quarter, I think they scored on 12 of 13 possessions. The one they didn't was a turnover. And I think they rebounded ‑‑ four of them were second‑chance shots. You went eight minutes and didn't touch a rebound. Was that effort to some extent? And if so, how can that be?
KOBE BRYANT: They just got to every ball. Again, they played with more tenacity than we did in that stretch, and we have to do a much better job Game 6.

Q. You guys had 12 assists tonight. How do you explain you guys' performance? Was that the Celtics' defense smothering you guys or do you need to look for your open man more?
KOBE BRYANT: They do a great job defensively. We're normally good at moving the ball. We missed a lot of shots. We shot 30 something percent. That's a testament to their defense, as well. So there's some adjustments we have to make for the next game.

Q. You did your thing, but the total lack of an inside game, Bynum 3 for 6, one rebound the first six minutes, added nothing the rest of the game. Artest had a tough game on the inside. How much did the lack of any inside game hurt your chances tonight to win this game?
KOBE BRYANT: You know, to be honest with you, the offensive part of the game kind of comes and goes. He does a great job giving us great production most nights. I just thought defensively were weren't very good at all. Last game it was the fourth quarter, this game it was the third quarter. We didn't get any stops. They got lay‑up after lay‑up after lay‑up, and you can't survive a team that shots 56 percent. We're normally a great defensive team.

Q. There's been a lot of guys on the team who have talked openly about how much this means to them because of what happened in 2008. How much do you talk with guys about not letting it get too personal or getting too consumed?
KOBE BRYANT: Just man up and play. What the hell is the big deal? I don't see it as a big deal. If I have to say something to them, then we don't deserve to be champions. We're down 3‑2, go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that.

Lakers' Center Andrew Bynum

Q: Is it frustrating thinking everyday about your knee and wondering if it’s going swell up?
Bynum: Yes, it’s frustrating. Especially times like now. I was a little disappointed, but I’m going to be playing in Game 6. We are going to attack. We have to force a Game 7.

Q: How is your knee holding up?
Bynum: I’m all right. My knee is alright.

Q: How do you avoid getting caught up in the fact that Game 6 is a possible elimination game?
Bynum: I’m not getting caught up in that. We understand that these guys had home court. We have to force Game 7. It’s going to be very tough for them to beat us in a Game 7 on our court. We got to get back and we got to get ready.

Q: Do you feel like not playing that much or practicing that much in the last couple of days affected your play tonight?
Bynum: Some of that’s true, but I was ready to go out and play today and play hard. Just got to come back out there on Tuesday.

Celtics Coach Doc

Q. You've been saying all series that you were going to have to win a game when Kobe went off. Is it fair to say that this qualifies?
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, I hope so. I think it was, what, 19 straight points? I'm not sure. It felt like more. You know, it's amazing what that does to your team. We were up, I think, 12 or 10 when he was making that run, and we had to use a time‑out to settle our guys down. What we talked about before the game, you could see they wanted to change the defense, they wanted to start trapping, and I just tried to keep telling them, it's only two points each time he scores. It's not ten. It's just like if someone else was scoring. As long as we were going to keep scoring the way we were scoring, we were going to be good. But it makes you question your defense because he was terrific.
I love that our guys for the most part, they held it in, they understood what he was doing, but we defended everyone else, and I thought it was big.

Q. You've dealt with some MVP top vote‑getters in this playoff. Can anyone else do what he does?
DOC RIVERS: No, no, he's the best shot maker in the game. There's probably better athletes and all that, but there's no better shot maker than Kobe Bryant. I mean, you know, in that stretch I kept turning to Tibs and Armond and saying, those are tough shots. He was making tough shots.
You know, you've just got to live with it and play through it.

Q. I wanted you to talk about Paul just in general. And also the inbounds play that Kevin lofted to Paul in a tight spot and then he buzzed it off to Rondo for the lay‑up.
DOC RIVERS: Well, Paul has said for years that he could play for the Patriots, and maybe we might have to believe him.
We had a time‑out. We had one time‑out. I didn't want to use it because we could advance the ball with the time‑out. So we were going to count to four, and if Kevin didn't have anybody open, I was going to call it. Before I could get there, I see the ball in the air, and it was a great catch. And then I thought the pass and the catch by Rondo in the finish was huge for us. And I told Rondo I was so happy that he attacked the basket on that. A lot of guys would have dribbled it out. I think if you can get to the basket and get a lay‑up, you take the lay‑up in that situation, and I think did he that.

Q. Can you talk about Paul in that situation.
DOC RIVERS: Paul was terrific. He attacked all night. He did it through the offense, he did it through isos, he did it in pick‑and‑rolls, he made big shots for us. He has a great rhythm right now, and we need it.

Q. At one point you had Rondo giving Artest a little shove, you had Ray and Fish ‑‑
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, I don't like that stuff. Let's just play. It was physical. There was a lot of pushing going on, but we kept getting the technicals. You know, and I understand you want to take up for your teammates, and that is good, but strength sometimes is walking away, and I tell our guys that all the time. If you want to show toughness, toughness is walking away from all the other stuff.

Q. Does that show a little more the urgency of winning this one now?
DOC RIVERS: Well, this was huge for us. Let's just be honest. For us, we had to win this game, and that's the way we felt going into it. For them they still have two home games, and they understand that. That's how you have to think.

Q. Obviously it made your feature of your benches the high energy level. Does that ever make you nervous it might be too high and lead to bad decisions?
DOC RIVERS: You mean like tonight?

Q. Maybe.
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, I thought the first half, though, they had one little stretch there that was terrific. I thought they stretched the lead for us again. They did it again. In the second half not as good, but that's okay, you can't expect them to be great every night. I understand that. But I did think there were little efforts by each guy here and there. Rasheed had a couple of great plays. I thought the three he made for us was huge for us. Nate gets to the basket and makes a lay‑up. Obviously it wasn't the same impact as the other night, but they still had an impact for us.

Q. Is it a mistake to try to calm down someone like Nate? Do you want him to play at that high energy level?
DOC RIVERS: Listen, I've tried with all of them. Clearly none of that has worked. We have two guys one tech away. I don't know if calming down and us goes together. I would love that but it hasn't worked out very well.

Q. Although you're relatively new to this rivalry, you've obviously been around the game a long time. Do you get the sense it would be a special moment for this team to be able to follow in the old Celtics' teams as the group that continuously keeps the Lakers away from a championship?
DOC RIVERS: Well, I'm going to focus on Game 6. I think it would be special in any situation, but I'm not even going to go there right now. I told our guys that, as well. You've got to play 48 minutes. You've got to play the game, and that's where we need to stay.

Q. Kevin said yesterday, he said, "We haven't had all of our big guys click, click, clicking," the way he put it, "all at once." You got all of that today. Why do you think they were able to do that?

DOC RIVERS: Well, because we got stops on defense, and I think at one time we were almost shooting 70 percent. I kept telling them it was our defense, it's the defense, it's the stops, it's the transition. You're getting Rondo out on the fast break, you're getting Kevin early posts, you're getting Ray out on the fast breaks and that's why we were scoring.
And then it was the unselfishness. At the start of the third quarter Ray had a shot and passed it back to Paul for a shot. That's letting the ball find the open guy. That's who we are when we're good, and when we're not, we're not very good. It's the way we should play.

Q. You guys trailed twice in this series and several other times in the postseason where it didn't look as bright as it might have been. What is it about the mental toughness of these players that's let them get to this point?
DOC RIVERS: Well, I think we have a lot of veterans, number one, and we just think one game. We don't look ‑‑ we got off of that early on, looking at the whole picture and all that stuff. That makes it fuzzy for us. I think our team has a very good ability to just focus on the next game. Through the playoffs that's been very good for us, and that's the way we have to stay.

Q. I want to ask you about Game 6: If you can think back to the Knicks team that you were on, even though you weren't playing, you went into Houston with a 3‑2 lead ‑‑
DOC RIVERS: I thought about that the other day when John Starks called me and reminded me of that.

Q. Just how hard is it to do that? Do you really figure you've got to get Game 6 and that's how you have to look at it?
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, you do. Bottom line is when they won Game 3, from that point on we felt every next game is a must game. We've had the same, each game is Game 7. We said it in Game 4, we said it again today and we'll say it again. That's how we have to approach the game. We lost our wiggle room by losing that home game. The Lakers played well enough to have home‑court advantage all year, and so it's to their advantage.

Q. Do you remember Riley stressing that back in '94, as well, with you guys, you've got to win that Game 6?
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, and we had opportunities, obviously, in Games 6 and 7. You know, that's a bitter memory obviously for me. I was injured sitting on the bench. You know, so it just felt like you couldn't help individually. You know, as a team we had a lot of great opportunities in that series, in Game 6 and 7 if you remember. But it just didn't happen. For me obviously a learning experience, but I can't use that experience for the players on this team. Hell, half of them are too young to remember, and half of them probably don't care.

Q. Along the same lines you had said going into the playoffs that you were going to have to win on the road at some point. You didn't know it was going to be literally, but talk about having to close out at somebody else's home.
DOC RIVERS: Well, the Lakers have played the best between us to get home‑court advantage, but we've played the best all year on the road. So our team will be ready, and it's going to be a hell of a challenge for us because they're going to be great, and we're going to have to beat them at their best because they're going to be great there, and we can't expect anything else.

Q. Do you have anything hidden in the locker room this time?
DOC RIVERS: No, no. I was hoping we wouldn't have to see it.

Q. Going back to that third quarter, you guys were scrambling defensively you said, but how were you able to keep yourselves so focused offensively? You matched every basket Kobe made.
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, that's the point I was trying to stress. It would have been one thing if he had been scoring and we had not been scoring, then it would have been an issue. But we were scoring and we had great rhythm and we had great offensive rhythm and you could see that. That's what made me tell them to just keep playing. I was very concerned when Kobe did that, that we were going to stop playing offense because we were so concerned defensively. Paul switched on Kobe and that's why I got Tony in, because I didn't like that because Paul was our offensive guy. I didn't need him using all his energy to guard Kobe. That's part of what we were going through. The scoring was huge for us.

Q. Some of what they were doing defensively they were sort of doing on their own?
DOC RIVERS: No, no, he was scoring. We wanted to change. We didn't change ‑‑ guys on the floor, they wanted to change it. If I thought he was beating us with our defense, with bad defense, but he was beating us with good defense and that's what good players do, and you've got to breathe through it.

Q. How is Rasheed tonight physically? And what was the deal with Paul the last play of the first half?
DOC RIVERS: Well, he thought he was getting the ball, didn't get it, so he was walking away. Then Rondo was going to give him the ball and held it, so it was just miscommunication. We want the ball in Paul's hands at the end of the quarters, if we can do it because we haven't been very good ending quarters as of late. We wanted a pick‑and‑roll with Paul and a big, and it just never happened.
Rasheed is good. He was really good in the first half, so he's fine.

Q. Paul just walked away when there was still time on the shot clock?
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, because when Rondo gets it, it's get away and let Rondo go. That's what he thought Rondo was doing. Rondo thought Paul was going to come back. That's our team. You've been around us to know that's us.

Q. Could you talk about Kevin, his all‑around game, he had 18 points, 10 rebounds, but particularly the steals, the defense.
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, he was a great defensive player tonight. The offense was great, as well. But he just had great energy. We extended his minutes a little more tonight than we thought we would have to. He was sensational. That's what we need from him. He's one of those guys that just does a lot of stuff for your team, and a lot of it goes unnoticed, but tonight on the stats sheet it doesn't. The only thing I told our group again, we played three quarters. I thought in the fourth quarter we tried to hold onto the game and we didn't go get the game. We stopped playing the way we had played for three quarters. We can't do that in LA. We have to play for four and play through the game.

Q. Do you think that was his best game or among the best games he's played in The Finals this year all‑around?
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, all‑around, definitely. Maybe Game 3 offensively, but all‑around, this was terrific.

Q. Again on Kevin, he also seemed like the guy who was calming everyone down at certain points ‑‑
DOC RIVERS: That tells you how screwed up we are. Kevin Garnett is calming our team down. It's funny now, but it was Kevin and Tony Allen in the huddle telling everyone to calm down. I jokingly told Armond this is a crazy basketball team here.
But he was trying. I thought he actually did it too much. I thought he had two or three shots, you remember, in the fourth where he was open and he was trying to slow everything down, and that's when I told him, "Hey, let's speed your game up."
But that's who we are. We are an emotional team, and we're not going to hide from that.

Q. There was also a moment where things were getting a little crazy and you called a time‑out and you went right to him on the post and he was able to get you two points. It still seems like when you need those two ‑‑
DOC RIVERS: Yeah, he's able to get them for us. That's where early in the year health‑wise he couldn't do it, and as the year has gone on now you can see he's very comfortable down there.

Q. He had a key inbounds play there with about 40 seconds left, Kevin hit Paul and Paul passed to Rajon. How did that play evolve in relation to how you had designed it?
DOC RIVERS: Well, the spacing was exactly the way we had designed it. We wanted either Paul to loop around, pass or Rondo. It went to Paul and then Paul threw it to Rondo, and what we told everybody, stay away from each other because that's how they trap.
Honestly I would have rather had the time‑out because I thought Kevin's pass was a hard pass. He saw something that clearly I didn't see. But Paul made a catch, and the other thing we told him to do was keep playing through the catch. Don't stop and hold the ball. Play and attack. If we get a lay‑up, we'll take it.

Celtics Forward Paul

Q. Doc was up here saying that you always wanted to play for the Patriots, and on that long inbounds pass from Kevin Garnett that you caught there, could you talk about that play?
PAUL PIERCE: I was just showing off my Randy Moss and my Tom Brady in one play, that's all. (Laughter).
Going up to catch it, then I went to my Brady mode when I was falling out of bounds to find Rondo for the receiving end.

Q. How close did that come to a turnover?
PAUL PIERCE: I don't know, it was all instinctive. I took off long, and that was part of the play. I was supposed to come Ray and go long. We tried to get Ray the ball actually, and I think Kevin saw Derek Fisher was on me so he just threw it up. It was like about three or four seconds on the out of bounds before he got the violation, and I just went up and caught it. I know I was on the sideline falling out, and I turned and I saw Rondo streaking and I was able to get it to him and he made a great play. We didn't have to shoot the ball, I was a little nervous when he shot it but he made a great play.

Q. Can you talk about the flow you were in personally.
PAUL PIERCE: Like I said, wanted to just be aggressive from the jump. Coach came out, ran the first play for me, came off the pick‑and‑roll, got a nice look and just wanted to continue throughout the rest of the game. Teammates did a good job of finding me open, setting picks. But it was all in the team flow, and it was great. I was just a little disappointed I wasn't able to get to the line as much as I shot the ball. I usually get to the line a little bit more. But it was a good win.

Q. Talk about how big it was to get this one tonight, and going out to LA in the position that you guys are in.
PAUL PIERCE: Well, you don't want to go into LA down 3‑2 with two games in LA. So this was the biggest game of the year. You know, every game gets bigger. Great opportunity for us, got two games in LA, we've just got to get one. I think we've been a great road team all year. We're just going to try to get it done.

Q. Just talk about the prediction that was caught on air in LA. You didn't get your sweep here, but you're still in an enviable position. Look at what was caught on the air ‑‑
PAUL PIERCE: My prediction? I never gave a prediction to you guys.

Q. The prediction that was caught on air during the ‑‑
PAUL PIERCE: That was a rumor. (Laughter). They said I said that?

Q. What did you think about that being caught on the air and your confidence at that time?
PAUL PIERCE: I mean, I didn't think nothing. I'm not supposed to think that my team is going to come back here and lose a game at home. You know, I'm just thinking, hey, we've got to go home, if we get all three of these wins, we win the series. I'm not about to say we're going to get two out of three. That's what we try to do. I don't regret that. I wasn't being cocky about it, I was just confident in my team. I didn't say anything negative about the Lakers. I was just referring to what I wanted my team to do, that's all.

Q. What was your frame of mind coming to this game after the previous games of the series?
PAUL PIERCE: The same mindset, just come here, attack. The thing about me, when I step on this court, NBA Finals, I don't want to have no regrets at the end of the series. Whatever I do I want to be aggressive with the ball, go out and play as hard as I can 48 minutes. That's what I'm trying to do to finish out this series.

Q. Talk about the first half and your squad, ten less shots, seven more buckets than the Lakers. You guys were really selective.
PAUL PIERCE: Yeah, I mean, we looked at the half and we looked that we were shooting like 60 percent, they were shooting like 33 percent. We weren't real satisfied with the way we played on the defensive end as far as our rebounding. We gave up offensive rebounds and we fouled ‑‑ usually when you go in at halftime and look at the stats and you see we were shooting 60 percent and they're shooting 33 and you're only up six, that says something about the other things we weren't doing. We were playing well and shooting well but we didn't rebound well, and we got them to the line too many times. That's why they stayed in the game for most of the game.

Q. Several times during this series Doc has talked about how you're going to have to win when Kobe gets a big number, and he sounded almost calm about it. How calm were things when it was going on in the third quarter and Kobe is getting 19?
PAUL PIERCE: Well, I would say it was the toughest shot that I ever seen somebody hit while I was on the court. It was like everything was ‑‑ he was shooting fadeaway threes, fadeaway jumpers off the double‑team. You knew he was going to come out and be aggressive and try to carry his team. He's a heck of a player. You've got to expect that from him. You've got to expect he's going to come out and play his best game. I thought we did a good job with the other guys containing them.
You know, it's going to happen. Kobe is the one guy that you probably can't stop in this league, but we feel like with these other guys we can slow them down and almost shut them down, and we'll give ourselves a great chance at winning.

Q. How hard was it to stick to the plan? Doc made it sound like he was afraid you were going to get out of your own offense.

PAUL PIERCE: No, I think we've been a disciplined team for most of the playoffs. Usually when things ain't going right for us defensively, we say we've got to do it faster or harder. There wasn't nothing to change off the game plan, we just wanted to be real aggressive with Kobe in the pick‑and‑roll when he got to the lane, but hey, he was hitting those shots. What do you expect? He's one of the greatest players ever to play this game. At the end of the day we get the win and that's the most important thing.

Q. Two plays, the last play of the first half, could you describe what was going on there? And the play where you wrestled the ball from Kobe late in the game and Kobe thought he got fouled on that play.
PAUL PIERCE: Well, the first half ‑‑

Q. You and Rajon.
PAUL PIERCE: Oh, it was nothing. I told Rajon at halftime, I had a couple buckets going and I wanted the ball, and he wanted to do something different, and I was a little upset at that. Hey, he's our point guard and I trust him. He's made so many great plays for us throughout the year and throughout the playoffs. It wasn't nothing. I went and told him at halftime that it was nothing. We've got spats with our team all the time. We always have spats. But the good thing about it, we always clean it right up. I was a little mad but I went in the locker room and told him don't sweat it, we're in this to get a win. It isn't about who gets the last shot.

Q. And the Kobe play?
PAUL PIERCE: I just saw the ball in front of me and I just wanted to go at it as hard as I could. I saw a rebound, Artest missed, and I thought Kevin had it and the ball was in front of me, and I just wanted to aggressively grab it. And I was able to do that and get a time‑out before the ball went out of bounds or they tried to foul me.

Q. You guys hold them to 12 assists tonight. Can you talk a little bit about your team defense and limiting their ball movement all night long.
PAUL PIERCE: Yeah, I mean, our defense was pretty good for the most part, but they kept rebounding. That's why they were in the game. 16 offensive rebounds, and they got on the break a little bit, they shot the three better tonight, better than they have in the past few games. But overall definitely we've got to do a better job rebounding.

But I was happy with our defensive effort. We scrapped, we got them in the half court for the most part, and that's the type of game we like. We like to look up and see the score in the 80s and 90s for the most part. You don't want to get into a running game because that's what they thrive in. They're one of the best offensive teams in the league and they've done it all year long. It would be tough for us to beat them if they go out and score 120 points.

Q. Take us through your mindset in the third quarter when you and Kobe are playing dueling banjoes and he had the 19 and you had the 11. As a scorer were there any moments where you said, man, I've got to keep up with this kid? And second part of the question, they doubled you in free‑throw attempts, 26 to 13. Do you guys think you can go to LA and win knowing that they went to the line twice as much as you did?
PAUL PIERCE: The beautiful thing about this game, each game plays out a little different. Just because one thing happens one game doesn't mean it's going to happen the next.
As far as Kobe going at it, I wasn't in no personal duel with him. I really didn't even take the notice that we were going, I guess, back and forth at the time. I'm out there trying to help my ballclub to win. Kobe is doing what he does for his ballclub. He has to score the ball night in and night out. That's about it, man. I mean, great player. He makes tough shots, and he's a proven winner. I'm not in the one‑on‑one deal with Kobe at all.

Q. You've already been asked in this press conference about things that you've been caught on camera saying or whatever, but apparently Phil Jackson was caught in a huddle saying in the fourth quarter that they're one of the best teams at blowing fourth quarter leads and they're showing it now. When a coach says something like that, what do you think?
PAUL PIERCE: You know, he's right. (Laughter). What you just said, that's been the truth for us throughout the regular season. I haven't really seen too much of that in the playoffs, but coaches say things to try to motivate their team. He's supposed to give them confidence. He's supposed to say something like that. I probably would say the same thing if I was a coach in that situation. It doesn't bother me at all.

Q. That you held onto the lead obviously is proven in the fact that you're not that team I'm assuming.
PAUL PIERCE: We don't want to be that team like we were in the regular season. So hopefully we can go out here and try to win one of these two games and not give up a fourth quarter lead, I guess.

Q. Other than a few probably great quarters in the first four games, it's been somewhat frustrating for you offensively ‑‑
PAUL PIERCE: No, it hasn't.

Q. It seemed like this game from start to finish you had a little extra bounce in your step. Can you talk about how you came out tonight and stayed on fire the entire game.
PAUL PIERCE: I haven't really been frustrated with my offense in this series truthfully. Just trying to play a solid game, take what the defense gives me. Today Coach just put me in more pick‑and‑roll, I think. I was given more opportunity. If you have a chance to watch our team, we're not a team that goes out and highlights one player where he gets all the shots, scores all the points. We run more of an equal opportunity offense to if a guy gets going then we'll go to him a little bit more, and I just think that was the case today. He saw I made a few shots, they went to me a little bit more. I think that's something with our offense, when a guy gets going, you earn touches, and it's been like that. That's why throughout the course of playoffs you see different guys that's leading us in scoring each game.
So I think today I was able to get going a little more than normal in the first quarter and they just kept going to me, and it carried over for the rest of the game.

Q. Have you thought about the possibility of winning a title in your hometown on their court? I mean, has that crossed your mind the last 30 minutes?
PAUL PIERCE: No, it hasn't crossed me the last 30 minutes, but it's going to have to happen if we're going to win the title. I mean, that would be great. I'm not going to try to jinx it right now. We've got to win one game, that's the goal. But it would be amazing if we get it done.

Celtics Guard Rajon

Q. Talk about that last hoop that you scored, the one that probably maybe sealed the game. Kind of reminded us of the steal that sealed it, too, but talk about this one in particular.
RAJON RONDO: You know, Doc told Kevin to take the ball out of bounds and he wanted myself or P to get open. Kevin ended up throwing it to Paul and Paul looked like he was leaning out of bounds, so he tried to make a break for the play and he hit me in stride, and I thought I had an easy lay‑up. They thought it was difficult, but I thought I had an easy look at the rim.

Q. Paul and Doc were talking about the end of the half, the miscommunication, whatever you want to call it. Kind of talk about from your perspective what happened there.
RAJON RONDO: I knew Paul had it going, and Luke Walton was really hard trying to deny him the ball, and I tried to look him off knowing that I was going to Paul, but it was just communication, and I just wanted to make a play.

Q. I don't know if this was related, but it seemed like the ball movement was better in the second half. Was that related or just kind of happened?
RAJON RONDO: No, it just kind of happened. Nobody said anything except for me and Paul at halftime, but that wasn't a point of emphasis at halftime. I think they had eight offensive rebounds at halftime out of 16 total, so we wanted to keep them off the glass.

Q. After Game 4 you said winning back‑to‑back games would be key. You guys did that tonight. Now is this your series to win and the Lakers' series to lose headed out west?
RAJON RONDO: Yeah, we're up 3‑2 but the other five games are in the past. We have to focus on one game, playing great or close to great, for 48 minutes and taking advantage of the opportunity that we have up 3‑2.

Q. Any added pressure playing in enemy territory?
RAJON RONDO: No, we play better on the road anyway, I think.

Q. You guys beat them two years ago, now you're up on them, you have them on the brink again this season. Can it start to become a mental thing for them about whether they can beat you in a series?
RAJON RONDO: Only until we win the Game 4 I can answer that question. It's still anybody's series. They're the world champions. They're the defending champions. I'm sure they're going to come out and fight hard, so it's not over ‑‑ the series is not over yet.

Q. Do you think the people here, whether the team or the fans, would enjoy it more because it comes against the Lakers if you do get one more win in the next two games?
RAJON RONDO: Yeah, definitely. It would be something special because it is the Lakers, the history that these two franchises have had in the past couple years and almost a century. It would be great to get the win against the Lakers.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about KG and just the complete game he seemed to have, the rebounds, the points, and even with all those steals and a few blocked shots, how critical was that to see him put it all together?
RAJON RONDO: Very critical. I think a couple of guys maybe thought KG lost a step or something when he struggled in the first few games, but he's caught his rhythm, doing intangibles on the court, scoring, rebounding, assisting, blocking shots, he's changing the game. That's what he's been doing for us all year. He's big for us. He may not score 27 points, 26 points, but he's happy with his role, and he's doing it well.

Q. Doc said KG and Tony were calming people down in the huddle. Was that unusual from Kevin?
RAJON RONDO: Yeah. He's the leader, and today he was the leader. He very seldom loses his composure and tonight was an example of what he did. He just kept guys calm in the huddle and kept focus.

Q. What is it about the mental toughness of this team that's let you guys get to this point especially the way you ended the regular season?
RAJON RONDO: Just each individual guy, just the fight. No one wants to lose. We want to give it all we have, and when one guy doesn't have it going, it seems like each game someone else is stepping up and making plays for our team. I said a couple press conferences ago that we have great camaraderie on the team and we're very close off the court and guys are always supportive of one another.

Q. What do you think it was about tonight that you got a lot of your bigger name players playing well at the same time?
RAJON RONDO: They stayed in the game, they didn't get in foul trouble tonight, got easy looks in transition. We didn't get to the line as much as possible, but they got a lot of easy good looks. Paul had a lot of wide open threes. Ray had some good looks, a couple lay‑ups to start the second half. Kevin was finding his rhythm, taking his time on the block. Knowing when he has to be aggressive, knowing when he makes the pass. They're in the game for one, like I said, out of foul trouble, and for two they're just in a good rhythm right now, perfect timing.

Q. Talk about the play in the second quarter when you got called for the technical. Artest seemed to shove Kevin and you seemed to shove back. Talk about that play.
RAJON RONDO: Pretty self‑explanatory really. I felt that Kevin ‑‑ that Artest pushed Kevin. It wasn't just a regular foul. We weren't going anywhere, so in Kevin's defense I pushed him back.

Q. Do you think Artest flopped on that play?
RAJON RONDO: I'm not that strong. (Laughter). He did a little bit. He's probably the strongest guy on the court in this series. I've been lifting a little bit, but other than that, I didn't push him that hard.

Celtics Forward Kevin Garnett

Q. Talk about the position that you guys have put yourselves in, first team to win two in a row, heading out west up 3‑2.
KEVIN GARNETT: Just that. I thought the defense was consistent tonight throughout four quarters. I thought we moved the ball really well, and we put ourselves in position to close this thing out.

Q. You've seen Kobe have a hot hand many times. For a defense, how much is that something to dread, how much is that maybe a good thing if other guys fall out of rhythm on his side, and how much is that something to ignore and stick to your own game plan?
KEVIN GARNETT: From the standpoint that he's providing points for his team and he's in a rhythm, it's a bit dangerous. But for the rhythm of his team, then it works in our favor. I can't even come up with any kind of words because his flow is just deliberate. He was very keen on what he wanted to do, he got the shots that he wanted. I thought the second half he was really keen and hitting threes. He was in a nice rhythm. I thought for the most part we pretty much controlled everybody else, but in that scenario you put your hand up and play the best D that you can. And strategically and all our defensive schemes and stuff that we have, you just hope that he misses.

Q. Is it tempting to try to do everything, throw out the kitchen sink defensively to try and change what's going on when he's that hot?
KEVIN GARNETT: 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.

Q. Big game for you tonight, but talk about the ability to limit LA's big men to 26 points.
KEVIN GARNETT: Well, like I said, I thought Kobe for the most part provided a lot of the offense. He provided a lot of scoring. They usually run the triangle, and it really wasn't typical for what they did tonight. Our thing was to come in and rebound. That's the thing for these Finals. We've definitely got to do better on the boards as a group.
But for the most part those guys ‑‑ you know, I thought Pau did a good job when he did have it. He tried to get aggressive towards the end or whatever. But like I said, Kobe provided a lot of points for them. He was in a rhythm, and that's what it was.

Q. Kobe also said he has all the confidence in the world that his team can win two at the house. How do you feel about that?
KEVIN GARNETT: That's Kobe. He's got a lot of confidence. I've got confidence that my team can go out there and get a win. So we'll see.

Q. In the fourth quarter Phil Jackson was wired, and he was heard saying that the Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at blowing fourth quarter leads and they're showing it right now. As a player how do you react to that?
KEVIN GARNETT: No reaction at all. I'm looking forward to Game 6. I couldn't care less what Phil Jackson is talking about.

Q. When the Lakers signed Ron last summer, conceivably it was partly to add some toughness that maybe they didn't have two years ago when they faced you guys. Today Rajon has your back when you hit the deck. Toughness is something you guys are pretty darned good at. What role is that playing at this point in the season?
KEVIN GARNETT: At the end of the day it's basketball. We're not out here boxing and guys are not out here ‑‑ everybody has played tough when it's out here with three refs and a crowd full of people. We try to just tell everybody to control their emotions and protect one another, but you know, they way they call the game and the way they hand fines out and flagrants, all that goes out the window to be honest.

Q. Earlier Doc mentioned that you were responsible for calming most of your team's nerves late in the game. Can you mention what you did to accomplish that?
KEVIN GARNETT: I have no idea what Doc is talking about. (Laughter).
You know, I just try to talk to guys. I try get in guys' faces and be one‑on‑one versus say it in group, or if I've got to say it in a group, so be it. That's funny that he says that. Sometimes I might have all my emotions together, but in situations where I can be a decent teammate, if not a better teammate and try to help a guy out, I do that. I try to be very upfront and truthful with them, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But it's for me to say it.

Q. You mentioned a little bit earlier about when Kobe got hot, the Lakers' offense might have got a little bit out of rhythm. Does that kind of play into your defense's hands a little bit?
KEVIN GARNETT: No, I wouldn't say that because he's scoring the ball and you have to give him the attention that's needed, and if not double‑teams, if it's sometimes triple‑teams or whatever the scheme is, we try to apply that type of pressure. But he's scoring the ball, and when he's in a rhythm like that, it's very hard to stop him.

Q. Talk about the play that Rondo made that kind of sealed the game. And talk about just how big that was.
KEVIN GARNETT: Which one, where he got the tip or when I threw it to P and we got the lay‑up?

Q. Right, the one you threw to P.
KEVIN GARNETT: Well, it was designed for him to get it on the run and they took that away, and Derek Fisher was guarding Paul, and I threw it over him and he found Rondo cutting back door. A huge momentum play. I wouldn't say the dagger, but it was definitely a momentum shift carrying into our direction. Huge play because if we don't get that play, then they come out, and if they score it's a tighter game, so I thought we did a good job of just holding onto the game and ending it.

Q. Two‑parter: How much of your physical play down low intimidated the Lakers from finishing tonight? And what do you expect to see Tuesday night at Staples?
KEVIN GARNETT: I think both teams are playing very physical basketball. I think the intimidation factor is not even a question or even an issue. They're playing at home. Home is always where your heart is. And with the severity of the game, it's all out on both ends, for both teams. This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of the series, if not of everybody's career, this game coming up.

Q. You guys have always been brutally honest with each other in the locker room, on the court. How important is that when you guys are on the floor, things are getting frantic or emotional that you guys can communicate that way?
KEVIN GARNETT: It's very important. A lot of times it ain't what you say, it's how you say it. We've been around each other for a while, and we've had numerous and different type of conversations. We know how to deal with each other, and obviously when things get heated, I think we do a good job of communicating the right way, versus just saying anything. But it's been situations where we've had to learn from that, what we've learned over these years of dealing with one another, and it's definitely helped us in games.

Q. Was that something tonight? It seemed like it was a very emotional game, very kind of frantic from where we were sitting. Was that in play for you guys tonight?
KEVIN GARNETT: It's damn near every game. But we're a very passionate team, man. Our practices are the same. If not even more passionate. Our practices are very, very emotional. We carry some of that over to games. You've got to know how to communicate with a teammate and talk to him, definitely when things are either going well or when they're not. You've got to have a level of communication and you've got to have a level of ‑‑ you can't be sensitive. You've got to hear what a guy is saying to you and vice versa. And I think we communicate really well on this team, A through Z.

Q. I'm looking at your stats for this game. Overall your best game of the series. What do you think accounted for that?
KEVIN GARNETT: I don't know. The severity of this game is huge, man. You don't want to go back to LA with them having a chance to close out and it being on their floor. Tonight I thought for the most part I was active. I got my hands on a lot of loose balls. Some knucklehead plays in the fourth quarter that I would like to take back, but I'll watch film and apply them to the next game. But for the most part, I was talkative, I was loud. Just got to carry that over and be all out. We've got, what, four, five days left, so it's all or nothing from this point on.

Celtics Forward Glen Davis

Q: What was the mindset going into Game 6?
Davis: One more. That’s all I’m thinking about: one more. What can I do for my team to win one more game – that’s all I’m concentrating on. We played a great game tonight. Everybody did their job, everybody was out there performing. Paul [Pierce] … stepped up huge today; the “Big Three” – the “Big Four,” really – those guys did a lot of huge things out there. Our bench did a great job, and we won the game.

Q: Talking about the shooting today, which was much better.
Davis: Yeah, most definitely. We’re locked and loaded, ready to shoot, go out there and deliver. I thought it was great.

Q: Talk about the job Ray [Allen] did …
Davis: I feel like if Ray didn’t do for us defensively, Kobe [Bryant] scores 50. He made shots for Kobe difficult. Kobe hit some really difficult shots today. Ray did a great job.

Q: How were you able to shut down the rest of the team outside of Kobe?
Davis: We just played ball. Kobe took a lot of shots; so we were hoping he’d take a lot of shots to take away from everyone else. So that’s what happened. A lot of guys didn’t have the ball in their hands because Kobe had the ball in his hands. If he can score, we’ll let him score. But we’ll make sure we try to hold everyone else defensively …

Lakers-Celtics Preview

By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer

BOSTON (AP)—The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are headed to a pivotal Game 5 of the NBA finals, the latest big moment in basketball’s biggest rivalry.

The Celtics can move a win away from an 18th championship, and a 10th in 12 meetings with the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant can inch closer to a fifth title, a chance to further cement his legacy.

Have to love it, right?

Not if you’re Bryant.

“I’m miserable,” he said Saturday.

That’s because of the Celtics, who guarded him well in the fourth quarter of their 96-89 victory Thursday that evened the series at two games apiece, and simply won’t allow him to be as spectacular as he was against Phoenix in the previous round.

Game 5 is Sunday, and the Lakers expect to have centerAndrew Bynum back after he played only 12 minutes in Game 4 because of a sore right knee.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson thought Bryant looked tired in that game, and Bryant was even asked if he’d tweaked his knee. Combine that with all the talk of how well the Celtics have defended him, and suddenly those doubters that surfaced when Bryant looked so worn down late in the regular season are popping up again.

“That’s what they do,” Bryant said. “They show up, disappear, show up, disappear. That’s part of it.”

He can silence them again with a big effort Sunday. That’s not easy against these Celtics, who didn’t flinch when they had to faceDwyane Wade in the first round or LeBron James in the second, and weren’t fazed when Bryant scored 30 in the Lakers’ series-opening victory.

Bryant managed only two field goals in the decisive fourth quarter of Game 4, and Boston limited him to only one in the last 12 minutes of the previous game.

“They don’t want me to beat them, so they put three guys there,” Bryant said. “Nothing we haven’t seen before, it’s just when you win those games, like Game 3, nobody talks about that because we take advantage of it. And if you lose the game, everybody talks about that. It’s part of the process.”

Moody but not as angry as he was during most of last year’s finals, when his own kids were calling him “Grumpy,” Bryant said he hadn’t been watching any coverage during the off days. So he’s missed the highlights of Nate Robinson leaping onto Glen Davis’ back as those reserves powered the Celtics down the stretch of Game 4.

But he may have heard some of the talk about how well another reserve—Tony Allen—and the Celtics have contained him, so Boston coach Doc Rivers would like to quiet that chatter so Bryant doesn’t find himself with even more motivation Sunday.

“Definitely that’s one, but you also know it’s a Game 5 and it’s 2-2. I don’t think there’s anything either one of us can say that is going to rile us up any more than being in a Game 5 in the finals tied 2-2,” Rivers said.

“But, yeah, Kobe is pretty competitive from what I hear, so there’s no doubt that the more you talk about it, the more the target is on. But that’s fine. The one thing I know about Tony, he’s not going anywhere. He’ll be there.”

And he’ll have help. With Pau Gasol the only other Laker who’s hurt them, the Celtics can afford to turn even more attention to Bryant, who is averaging 28.3 points but on just 41 percent shooting.

“Our whole thing is all five guys doing it together,” Allen said. “And when you got all five guys on the same page and focused and in tune on (assistant) Tom Thibodeau’s defensive strategies, I think it makes it difficult for guys, superstars.”

The finals are tied after four games for the first time since 2006. Of the 25 series that were tied 2-all, the winner of Game 5 won 19 of them.

A victory in Boston on Sunday gives the Lakers two chances to wrap it up at home, while a loss means Bryant is closer to going 0-2 against Boston in the finals. He said he couldn’t go down as the greatest Lakers player ever if he never beats the Celtics.

Bryant considers Jerry West to have that title. Yet he never beat the Celtics either, whereas Magic Johnson did it twice.

“What is everybody’s fascination with the Celtics in terms of going down in history?” Bryant said. “It’s a little weird to me.”

With Bynum’s injury, and Ron Artest and Lamar Odom’s inconsistency, the Lakers have had to play Bryant and Gasol major minutes. The burden is heavier on Bryant, who has battled injuries throughout the second half of the season, and it’s likely the reason for his fourth-quarter struggles.

The Celtics are the older team but seem fresher, since a more productive bench has allowed their starters to get some rest during the series. Jackson would like to give Bryant the same opportunity.

“I’ve got to find a little space and time for him to give him some rest in that situation so he can come back with renewed energy,” Jackson said. “But after he’s played 30-plus minutes, to have that kind of energy to finish a game out is important to us, and we’ve got to get that back.”

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited


Lakers-Celtics Scouting Report

There are two main areas that we need to improve upon in order to win this crucial game 5 in the Garden. First, we must simply be the aggressors. In game 4 the Celtics were in a must win situation and played like it. We did not meet their level of intensity and as a consequence find ourselves in a tied series. Big Baby Davis threw his ample weight around and was able to leave his mark on the series with his work on the boards and offensively. We must make sure he does not have this kind of impact in Game 5.

Regster to Lakers Courtside Connection to read more.

Lakers-Celtics Injury Report

Shannon Brown (sprained right thumb) will play.
Kobe Bryant (arthritis, right index finger) will play.
Andrew Bynum (slight tear, lateral meniscus, right knee) is questionable.
Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.


Lakers-Celtics Game Notes

The Lakers split their 2009-10 season series with the Celtics 1-1 after sweeping last season’s series with Boston 2-0. The two teams have met 181 times since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles prior to the 1960- 61 season with Los Angeles trailing the series 83-98. Including their time in Minneapolis, the Lakers and Celtics have met 272 times in all with Boston leading the all-time series 152-120. The Lakers are 6-4 against the Celtics in their last 10 overall regular season meetings. In Boston, the Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 regular season games at TD Garden while in Los Angeles, the Lakers are 7-4 all-time against the Celtics at STAPLES Center (regular season). Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 13-7 against Boston during the regular season. With the Lakers 92-83 Christmas Day victory in 2008, Phil Jackson recorded his 1,000th career victory as an NBA head coach. Under Jackson, the Lakers have swept Boston on five occasions while twice being swept by the Celtics during the regular season. In 22 career regular season games against Boston including 19 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 24.8 points, but missed their most recent meeting (2/18/10) with a left ankle injury. Pau Gasol is the next highest scoring Laker career-wise versus Boston, averaging 17.9 points in 15 career regular season games against the Celtics. Celtics forward Paul Pierce grew up in Southern California, attending Inglewood High. Last season, Phil Jackson surpassed legendary Celtics head coach Red Auerbach (9) with his 10th NBA championship as a head coach, an NBA record. Jackson surpassed Auerbach in all-time victories during the 2007-08 season and in games coached during the 2008-09 season. Losing to the Celtics in six games during the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers and Celtics are now meeting in their 12th NBA Finals dating back to Minneapolis in 1959. The Lakers are 2-9 in NBA Finals series against Boston, with the Celtics taking the first eight before Los Angeles won in 1985 and 1987.


In the Lakers Game 4 loss to the Celtics, Kobe Bryant shot 6-of-11 from behind the three-point arc, matching his playoff career-high for three-point field goals made in a game. It was the third time Bryant has hit six three-pointers in a playoff game, also doing so on 6/2/00 in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals and on 5/25/10 in Game Four of this year’s Western Conference Finals. Bryant, who holds the NBA regular season record with 12 three-point field goals made in a game on 1/7/03 vs. Seattle, also moved into second place on the all-time NBA Finals list for three-pointers made (Robert Horry (1st/56), Kobe Bryant (2nd/43), Michael Jordan (3rd/42) and Derek Fisher (4th/41)). Furthermore, Bryant (258) and Fisher (210) rank 1st and 2nd respectively for the playoff franchise record in three-point field goals made. Bryant’s total of 258 three-point field goals made ranks him 4th in NBA playoff history behind Chauncey Billups (259), while Fisher’s total of 222 ranks him 6th on the NBA’s all-time playoff list behind Ray Allen (246).


In the Lakers 96-89 loss to the Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers held a two point lead going into the fourth quarter. The Lakers also led by as many as three points in the fourth quarter in the Lakers 103-94 Game 2 loss to the Celtics. This marks only the second time that a team coached by Phil Jackson has lost twice after leading in the fourth quarter in one NBA Finals. The only other time came in the 1992 NBA Finals, when the Chicago Bulls lost two games in which they had a fourth quarter lead against Portland.*

In the Lakers 91-84 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers bench combined for 9-of-11 shooting from the field, marking the best percentage (minimum ten attempts) by a team’s bench in an NBA Finals game since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77. (Lamar Odom 5-5 FG, Shannon Brown 2-3 FG, Luke Walton 1-1 FG, Jordan Farmar 1-2 FG).

In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Andrew Bynum (playoff career-high 7 blocks) and Pau Gasol (playoff career-high 6 blocks) helped the Lakers to 14 blocks on the night, establishing a new NBA Finals single-game record for blocks in a game. The previous Finals record of 13 blocks occurred multiple times, most recently in the 2003 Finals when the Spurs blocked 13 shots against the Nets. The mark also tied a Lakers franchise playoff record for blocks in a game, with the Lakers last blocking 14 shots in the postseason on 4/24/98 at Portland.

Furthermore, Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals marked the first time since the league began to track blocked shots prior to 1973-74 season that a pair of teammates each had at least five blocks in an NBA Finals game.*


In the Lakers Game 4 loss to the Celtics, Kobe Bryant scored 33 points, marking the 12th time in his career that he has posted a 30+ point game in the NBA Finals (only Shaquille O’Neal (16) has more 30+ point games in the Finals among all active players). Jerry West holds the NBA Finals record for most 30+ point games with 31 during his Hall-of-Fame career. Additionally, Bryant scored 30+ points in four consecutive Finals game dating back to last year (2009 NBA Finals Games 3-5 and 2010 NBA Finals Game 1), the longest such streak since Dwyane Wade tallied four straight 30+ point games in the 2006 NBA Finals.*

With their 103-94 loss to the Celtics in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers failed to score 100+ points after doing so in 11 straight playoff games (9-2). The streak was the longest by an NBA team in one playoff year since Phoenix did so in 12 straight games during the 2005 postseason. It marked the longest such streak by a Lakers team since the 1986 Lakers scored 100+ points in 12 consecutive playoff games.*

With 33 points 6/10 at Boston, Kobe Bryant recorded his 77th career 30+ point playoff game, moving him past both Jerry West (74) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (75) for the second most 30+ point playoff games in NBA history. Only Michael Jordan (109) has more 30+ point playoff games than Bryant. Elgin Baylor (60) and Shaquille O’Neal (55) round out the all-time list. Bryant, who recorded his first 30+ point playoff game in the 2000 NBA Playoffs, has posted 13 30+ point games this postseason alone. The most 30+ point games Bryant has ever recorded in a single postseason came last year when he posted 15 such games.

Since moving to STAPLES Center prior to the 1999-2000 season, the Lakers have won 84% of their postseason home games (72-14). The Lakers have topped the century mark in over half of their postseason home games at STAPLES Center (51-of-86) while the opposition has been held under 100 points in all but 26 of those games. Since the start of the 2008 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers are 29-4 in games played at STAPLES Center. In their last 49 home playoff games, the Lakers are 42-7. The Lakers had won 12 straight home playoff games dating back to the 2009 Western Conference Finals before losing Game 2 of to 2010 NBA Finals at home.

The Lakers 102-89 victory over the Celtics in Game 1 matched Boston’s largest previous margin of defeat in the first game of the NBA Finals. Their other 13-point opening game loss also came to the Lakers in Game 1 of the 1987 NBA Finals. Since the current NBA Playoff format was established in 1984, the Game 1 winner has won The Finals 19 times while losing on seven occasions. The last Game 1 winner to lose in The Finals was Dallas in 2006. Prior to that, it was Philadelphia in 2001. All-time in the NBA Finals, the Game 1 winner has won the series 46 times while losing on 17 occasions.*


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