When the NBA finals between the L.A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics opened, I figured Kobe Bryant would be a waiting assassin and lead the Lakers to a championship in six games.
Obviously, things haven’t worked out that way, but I’m guessing few pundits would have figured that the C’s would be up 2-0 after the first two games.
The Lakers appear to be in trouble, but like they’ve been saying the last couple of days, all Boston did was hold home court. And as we’ve seen in two of the last three finals, the home team is capable of winning all three games in the 2-3-2 format.
And if anybody thinks the Lakers won’t shoot more than 20 foul shots than the Celtics tonight after the 38-10 edge Boston held from the stripe in Game 2, well, you haven’t watched much of the NBA over the last two decades. (And if you don’t think that kind of thing happens, click here.)
The made-for-TV miniseries begins anew tonight. Here’s a diary of Game 3.
10:55 Down 0-2, you knew Phil Jackson and the Lakers were going to make adjustments. One of them is having Bryant guard Rajon Rondo, which allows Bryant to essentially be a rover. The Lakers don’t trust Rondo’s jumper, so Bryant can leave him and double down or shade over to the wings. Plus, he won’t have to work as hard on defense, which should free up his offense.
7:32 Bryant already has five points, he’s heading back to the line and Vladimir Radmonivic is picking up where he left off in the fourth quarter with a 3. L.A. is rolling to a 9-2 lead as Boston can’t buy a field goal.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have already shot more foul shots — six, soon to be eight — than they did in all of the first half in Game 2.
This is why the extra Tim Donaghy revelations tonight are all the more damning for the league.
2:29 Lakers lead 17-14, but the C’s would be in a world of hurt if not for Rondo, who, though he’s thrown the ball away a couple of times, has hit a jumper, fed James Posey for a 3 and then hit a runner. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett haven’t even scored, yet Boston is in it early.
And then there’s this. Mark Jackson just said, “You don’t have to win it all to be a champion.”
Actually, that’s awesome. I’m Alex Podlogar, NBA champion!
:00 Celtics close the period on a 13-3 run to knot the game at 20. And this can’t be said enough — Boston is tied without a single point from Pierce and KG!
11:19 Four times Sam Cassell has touched the ball, four times he’s shot it without another player touching it. He’s missed three of them — badly — and all within seconds of him getting it. Get him out of there. He’s killing Boston.
7:70 Kobe drives hard inside and makes a tough lefty layup to give L.A. a 31-25 lead. Bryant has 17 already and may be on pace for a truly special night.
Jordan Farmar then hits a 3 and the Lakers are on a 14-5 spurt with a nine-point edge.
And Cassell is still on the floor, the time span of which corresponds with the Lakers’ run. Hello?
2:43 This is Bryant carrying the Lakers on his shoulders. He has 19 points while the rest of the Lakers have 21. 40-31, L.A.
As for foul shots? In Game 2, Boston had 19 first-half foul shots to L.A.’s two. Game 3? Lakers 18, Celtics 2.
You can’t just let the recent Donaghy allegations slide. You just can’t, no matter how much of a scumbag he is.
Halftime Lakers 43-37
To take nothing away from Bryant, the Lakers are lucky Sasha Vujacic has shown up with 12 points in the first half. At the same time, the Celtics, with Garnett and Pierce combining to shoot 2-for-16 for four points, are lucky to be hanging around, much of the thanks going to Ray Allen and his 12.
And so we have a first half with a total of 80 points. Um, can we put the Lakers/Celtics comparisons with the past series between the two to rest now?
11:16 Rondo twists his ankle on the break and has to go to the bench, which means Cassell again. Oh wait, Doc Rivers goes to Eddie House, who was great for two-thirds of the season before the Cassell signing. Good move.
4:43 A 12-2 Boston run capped by a pretty baseline J from Garnett, who’s come alive. The Celtics lead in a game in which they were flat-out awful in the first half.
3:02 Another long jumper from Garnett, who now has nine points, 11 boards and five assists. If he were a golfer, we’d be talking about how well Garnett is grinding out there. He’s toughing it out.
:00 The C’s end the period with a 62-60 lead, which should mean an entertaining fourth quarter with the Lakers’ championship hopes on the line.
Credit Doc with going with House, who hits a 3 and has three boards in place of Rondo. Granted, we all could’ve seen that Cassell was a liability out there, but at least Doc finally caught on. One other thing: the Celtics have finally gotten away from settling for jumpers all night and are pounding the post more. Pau Gasol has been as soft in this series — particularly tonight — as he was in Memphis, and the Boston bigs are schooling him. The Celtics are getting nice lifts in waves from Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and P.J. Brown.
10:37 OK, we’re less than 90 seconds into the fourth and Boston has three team fouls, all of them away from the ball. C’mon.
8:56 Pierce draws his fifth foul, which is bad for Boston, but he does only have two points tonight.
And Bryant is just 9-for-16 from the foul line. He’s 9 of 16 from the field. Unbelievable. Celtics still lead, 66-64.
6:57 Dribble penetration…blah…blah…blah.
Whatever. How does Kobe get that wide open? Lakers lead after the 3, 69-68.
6:05 And here it comes. Two foul shots by Derek Fisher and two more from Bryant, and it’s 73-68, Lakers. Look out.
4:26 Even though it’s only a five-point game, it might be over. The Celtics are settling for jumpers again, aren’t driving or using their advantage on the boards. Lakers feel like they’re in control.
3:22 Bryant’s chirping after getting whistled for a foul on Pierce, who can’t even seem to dribble tonight. Still, Lake Show leads by six, 78-72. Time running out on Boston.
2:01 Vujacic, who’s been brilliant tonight and has given the Lakers that second go-to guy they’ve been dying for, buries a huge 3 after the Celtics had trimmed it again to two. Vujacic has 20 big points.
57.0 House hits a long 3 for Boston, seemingly to get the C’s back in it, but here comes the assassin. Bryant hits two clutch jumpers. Silk. That’s it. 87-82.
Lakers win 87-82 after the Celtics inexplicably don’t foul, but as it is, L.A. is back in the series thanks to Kobe’s 36 and Vujacic’s 20.
Still, just like the Lakers in Games 1 and 2, the Celtics couldn’t have played much worse. Give the Lakers credit — they did a much, much better job defensively, but we have to expect both teams to play better basketball in Game 4 Thursday.
At least we can hope.