“A tale of two halves.”
Truer words have never been spoken.
The Lakers outscored the Celtics 58-40 in the first half.
They led 70-52 with 5:34 left in the 3rd quarter but were outscored 45-21 the rest of the way as the Celtics came back from the largest deficit in NBA Finals history to take hold of the series 3-1.
Boston ‘Big 3′ was as big as advertised.
Paul Pierce led the way for the C’s by scoring 20 points on 6-of-13 from the field. Kevin Garnett scored 16 points on 7-of-14 from the field. And Ray Allen put up 19 points on 6-of-11 from the field.
All three players delivered in the clutch.
KG hit an 8-foot jumper with 2:10 left. Allen drove to the cup and sealed the win with 0:16 remaining.
And Pierce’s defense on Kobe Bryant was phenomenal.
His block on Bryant’s jumper with 4:58 left in the 3rd quarter may have been the turning point of the game.
The Celtics also received huge minutes from James Posey and Eddie House.
The Lakers began the game by defending Rajon Rondo with Kobe Bryant. With Rondo limited by a sore ankle and struggling from outside, Bryant was free to roam the paint and double down on Pierce and Garnett in the post.
Doc Rivers countered that strategy in the second half by going with a small lineup that featured both Posey and House. House and Posey responded by keeping the defense honest and capitalizing on open looks. Posey was 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. House was 2-of-4. They combined for 29 points.
Los Angeles became increasingly hesitant as Boston chipped away at the lead.
Phil Jackson had Ronny Turiaf and Trevor Ariza in the game to start the 4th quarter.
As the pressure mounted, the Lakers were forced into several bad shots as the shot clock winded down. They lost their poise and failed to execute.
Credit Boston’s defense.
But Coach Jackson made a mistake by not having Derek Fisher in the game in the 4th quarter. Fisher exited the game with 2:58 left in the 3rd quarter and didn’t return until 2:10 left in the 4th. He hit a 23-foot jumper with 1:04 left to bring the Lakers within 3. He’s the only guy on the team besides Bryant who has delivered in pressure situations and Coach Jackson had him riding the pine.
There’s no excuse for an error of that proportion.
Bryant was 4-of-8 (10 pts.) in the 4th and totaled 10 assists (3 in the 4th quarter) but struggled with his shot for much of the game.
Lamar Odom started the game on fire. LO hit his first 7 shot attempts and finished the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Instead of isolating him at the free throw line, the Lakers did a much better job of getting Odom the ball in position to be successful. Lamar was receiving the ball on the move, on the baseline, and behind the defense.
But the passing, cutting, and ball movement that highlighted the first half disappeared in the 3rd quarter.
And so did any semblance of the Triangle.
The Lakers resorted to isolation basketball.
The rest is history.
For the Lakers, it’s one game at a time.
For the Celtics, it’s one more game.