BOSTON -- Of course the Celtics expected to win Game 4 to even the NBA Finals at 2-2. But they did not expect to win with
The two backups sat beside each other Thursday night in front of the TV cameras and microphones. They sounded like normal, everyday citizens who would be featured on the local news for doing something unpredictably remarkable.
"I was really looking at the clock,'' said Davis after scoring 18 points in 22 minutes. "Like, when is he going to come get me?''
He was trying to say how surprised he was that Celtics coach
"I want to give Doc a hug, man,'' said Davis. "I love Doc.''
"Tell him thank you,'' agreed Robinson.
The roundabout, unexplored path to a 96-89 victory was managed by Rivers' decision to start the fourth quarter with a most unlikely lineup. The Celtics were trailing the game they had to win, 62-60, and on the floor for the final 12 minutes were 34-year-old
The bench was a Celtics weakness as they launched their unsettled postseason not quite two months ago. But that weakness has turned into a strength based on the play of
The first sign came when Robinson stripped Lakers guard
"I just felt like a beast,'' said Davis, who scored his nine fourth-quarter points after being angered by a couple of earlier misses. "I just felt like I couldn't be denied.''
He wasn't the only one. Davis' heat was warming Allen, who finished a drive and then recovered a bobbled dribble to can a mid-range jumper without thinking, which is the best way for any shooter to escape a slump. There was a lot of that going on now -- instinctive, impulsive, high-strung basketball that is not usually associated with a team of so much age and experience as these Celtics. Which is why Rivers kept the young legs in the game. The tired legs of the starters were replaced by jumpy agitation as the Celtics chased down a loose ball and passed it ahead to
"You were on my back?'' asked Davis at the news conference.
"You didn't even notice,'' said Robinson. "We're like Shrek and Donkey. You can't separate us.''
"You shouldn't have let us two get up here,'' said Davis to the audience of reporters.
I was going to compare the scream to a performance by
There were two points to be made of this primal scream. The first was that Davis has benefited from three seasons alongside Garnett, who has taught him to channel his emotions (when he hasn't been forcing Davis to cry, like during his second year). The second was that Rivers was sticking out his own neck by investing so much fourth-quarter time in Robinson and Davis, because if it backfired, then guess who would be blamed for keeping his three stars on the bench? But Rivers was believing what he was seeing, and when Robinson finished a runner in the lane to build the lead to 83-74, Rivers responded by calling Rondo, Pierce and Garnett away from the scorers' table and back to the sideline with 4 minutes remaining.
"All I was doing was looking at the score,'' said Rivers. "I told my coaches at the six-minute mark, 'Six points is the number.'''
Had the Lakers come within two possessions, Rivers explained that he would have begun shuttling scorers back into the game one at a time. He added that none of his starters was complaining about his view of the game. "I'm glad to know that now,'' said Davis. "So we won't let it get to six points.''
The secret of this Celtics season is that another cavalry is always on the way. First came young Rondo to create open shots for his older teammates, then the revival of Rasheed, and the multifaceted rehabilitations of Tony Allen and Davis, who missed the opening weeks of the season after a silly punching incident with a friend resulted in a broken right thumb. Then came Robinson to the audacious rescue in the Eastern Conference finale against Orlando after Rondo had injured his back. The risk of relying on young legs is that young heads are attached to them, and so when Robinson earned a fourth-quarter technical for taunting
"They had their backs against the wall tonight, and they played desperate and they got away with it,'' said Lakers coach
Every night seems to turn this Finals on its head. Now the Lakers approach Game 5 here Sunday -- usually the crucial game in a tight series -- wondering if center
Now it's up to the old legs to carry them through Game 5, knowing they might not be two wins away from a championship, if not for the young. "I don't think that what we did today was on the scouting report,'' said Davis. Be assured, Mr. Shrek, the scouting report is longer this morning.