In Game 4 of the 2008 Finals, Rondo watched as Eddie House sparked a 24-point comeback against the Lakers. This time, Rondo watched Nate Robinson rally the team. Still, Rondo made arguably the play of the game, a fourth-quarter steal-and-score from Bryant with :30 left that gave the Celtics a six-point lead.
Allen's shooting woes continue. He made just 1-of-6 shots in the first half, though he rallied to can three of his five second-half attempts to finish with a respectable 12 points. The good news is Allen now has two extra days to work on his struggling stroke.
Pierce had his most effective game since the series opener. He shrugged off Ron Artest's defense early (12 first-half points) and after watching the bench spark a comeback, Pierce came in late to bag seven points in the last 2:51 to seal the game.
Garnett wasn't as good as he was in Game 3, but he wasn't as bad as he was in the first two games, either. KG knocked down a few jump shots, but his defense on Pau Gasol was mediocre and he didn't rebound the ball especially well.
Davis was spectacular. How the (listed) 6-foot-9, 289-pound Davis was able to get his shots on the rim over the Lakers' towering big men is a mystery, but Big Baby's relentless drives keyed Boston's second half run. So too did Robinson, who once again capitalized on an opportunity to spell a struggling Rondo. Running Robinson out there was a risk -- he took several ill-advised shots and picked up a foolish fourth quarter technical foul -- but his instant offense (12 points) is something neither team can duplicate. On the defensive end, Tony Allen once again gave the Celtics valuable minutes on Kobe Bryant in the second half.
Doc Rivers, Head Coach
Credit Rivers for sticking with his bench. The temptation is always going to be to ride Rondo and the Big Three but with the second unit rolling, Rivers waited until all the way until the 2:51 mark of the fourth quarter to bring his first team back into the game. Nor did Rivers hesitate to play Davis heavy minutes over Perkins, who simply hasn't had a very effective series.
After a startling performance in Game 3, Fisher crashed back to earth. While Allen struggled early, it had little to do with Fisher, who was consistently run into screens and hacked Allen more than once. He wasn't looking for his shot offensively, either, severely limiting his effectiveness.
Bryant very nearly willed his team to a win it didn't deserve. He was magnificent, knocking down six of his 11 3-pointers despite being blanketed by multiple layers of the Celtics' defense. His late turnover cost L.A. a chance to sneak back into the game, but they wouldn't have been in position to win it if not for Bryant's brilliance.
Easily Bynum's worst game of the series, which will spark another round of questions about whether his troublesome knee injury has become more serious. Bynum got a quick hook whenever Davis checked in, with Phil Jackson not willing to risk his immobility on a quicker player.
Artest continues to look lost in this series. Pierce's struggles in Game 3 had little to do with his defense and in Game 4 Pierce outraced him to the spot. Artest's offense has always been unpredictable and the Lakers' facial expressions when Artest drives makes you wonder how confident they are when he has the ball.
Give Gasol credit: Boston seems determined to intimidate him with physical play and he refuses to back down. The Celtics again had few answers for Gasol on the post and didn't take advantage of his defense as often as they did in Game 3.
Lamar Odom is caught in limbo between playing well and playing poorly. Ten points and seven rebounds is a respectable line, but with an unpredictable bench -- Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic didn't do a whole lot of anything -- the Lakers need Odom to do more. Despite playing a lot of point forward, Odom finished with only one assist. That number needs to rise significantly.
Phil Jackson, Head Coach
Jackson rode Bryant's hot hand as long as he could, a strategy that nearly allowed the Lakers to steal the game. But with his team getting hammered on the glass, Jackson refused to give a banged up Bynum much of a shot to make an impact and struggled to devise a defensive strategy to keep Davis in check. Trying to stall momentum with timeouts has never been Jackson's M.O., but the Zen Master probably could have used another timeout or two in the fourth quarter to try and dampen Boston's energy.
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