LOS ANGELES -- How did the Celtics even this NBA Finals on a Sunday night when the Lakers attempted 15 more free throws, scored 46 points through big men
Fans of Lakers-Celtics past will be reminded of the 1984 Finals, when Boston appeared grossly outmatched in the opener, yet stole Game 2 on its way to a championship in seven games. This Game 2 was robbed in a different way by
"Anything else going on in my life is put on hold because it's hard to focus on anything else,'' said Allen, who had been limited by foul trouble in Game 1 (12 points in 27 minutes). "Like I tried to play golf a couple of days ago, and I really couldn't focus on it because my mind was thinking every second, 'How am I going to guard
But he was there anytime Rondo asked anything of him Sunday. Each question was delivered with a pass in transition, and each time Allen knew the answer. He hit his first seven threes to tie the Finals record from the arc with 26 minutes still to play, and so did he plant a flag on enemy territory in the name of resiliency and versatility. Want to blunt Rondo's drives by shifting Bryant onto him defensively? Then the Celtics will exploit Allen's four-inch height advantage over
The larger turn of events, hidden among Allen's curls and flash-out threes, is that Game 2 was divided unevenly according to height. The Lakers' 7-footers were unstoppable stoppers, and one should think their advantage inside would put L.A. over the top. Gasol and Bynum together blocked 13 shots -- every Celtic but
For all of the talk of Boston's paint defense, Los Angeles has been the more physical team throughout these two games. (Now I'm going to shout hopelessly into the wind: Can the referees please lighten up? These two games have been blighted by 134 attempted free throws. One hundred thirty-four in 96 minutes! I registered this complaint immediately after Game 2 to a senior NBA officer, but my reading of his response is that the league is concerned more than anything about preventing a brawl between these two highlyambitious teams; to enable them to play freely could encourage one hard foul to lead to a harder foul and so on. But it remains ashame that these games are being played to a stop-and-go tempo as if orchestrated by traffic cops' whistles.)
The Lakers' advantages inside were overwhelmed by the perimeter play of Allen and Rondo, who is now threatening to do to Bryant's Lakers as he did to
Bryant appeared to be declaring his ownership of the final six minutes when he finished a traditional three-point play in the lane to give the Lakers an 88-85 advantage. He was well-rested after suffering continuous foul trouble; little did he realize the Celtics' perimeter superiority would be extended through crunch time by Rondo.
Upon returning to the game (following six crucially productive minutes from his backup
In between those two burglaries came the open jumper that Rondo has made with enormous confidence throughout these playoffs -- the kind he didn't dare attempt two years ago. "He made the big shot,'' said Rivers of Rondo's open jumper from the elbow with 1:50 remaining -- much the same as a jumper that finished off a game at Orlando in the previous round. "He took a million of those shots this summer, and he didn't hesitate, and that was my favorite play for him.''
Rondo's goal had been to control the open spaces, and there is a lot of that when the Celtics are creating transition opportunities with their defense and spacing the floor with ball movement. "The best part of getting a triple-double is getting a win,'' he said. "To go out of here with a loss would be devastating for me personally.''
The backcourt of Allen and Rondo -- the old and the young -- took pressure off Pierce and Garnett, who can look forward to a much better three-game homestand knowing they didn't ruin the Finals; not only did Rondo score as many points in the fourth quarter (10) as Pierce created throughout his 40 minutes against