Stud Of The Night This time Paul Pierce (right) didn't need any theatrics. The Celtics forward shook off his sore knee to score a game-high 28 points, including two huge free throws and a block in the final 30 seconds, as Boston held off a furious L.A. rally to take a 2-0 series lead. Pierce hit a slew of big shots all game (including all four of his three-point attempts) and dished eight assists to help the Celtics build a 24-point lead with just over seven minutes to play. After L.A. staged an amazing comeback to cut the deficit to two points with 38 seconds left, he then drew a foul and sank both free throws to give Boston a 106-102 lead. Pierce then finished the deal by blocking Sasha Vujacic's three-point attempt with 14 seconds left.
Unsung Hero Of The Night It will forever be known in Celtics lore as the Leon Powe Game. The Celtics reserve forward came off the bench to score 21 points (on 6-of-7 shooting) in 15 minutes as Boston built up its huge lead. Thrust into the game because of foul trouble to starting center Kendrick Perkins, the 6-foot-8 Powe instantly changed the momentum with his hustle and work around the basket. He also provided two of the night's highlight plays (see below) with consecutive dunks in Boston's big third-quarter surge.
Dud Of The Night On a night when Kobe Bryant needed help, Lamar Odom couldn't deliver. The 6-10 forward finished with just 10 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes, as the Lakers came up just short in their quest to gain at least a split of the first two games in Boston. Odom had just two points and three boards in the third quarter before picking up his fifth foul with 1:07 left, then got a seat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. Without him in the lineup, the Lakers exploded for 41 fourth-quarter points to almost pull out the victory.
Play Of The Night With the Celtics leading 79-59 with a minute left in the third, Pierce stripped Vujacic, took off downcourt and found Powe streaking to the basket. Powe soared to the basket and hammered a right-handed jam to send the TD Banknorth Garden crowd into a frenzy. Moments later, he added another two-handed dunk off a nifty wraparound pass from Rajon Rondo to give Boston a seemingly insurmountable 83-61 lead heading into the fourth.
Courtside Confidential The Garden is a relatively new arena, but the Celtics do a good job bringing at least some of the feel of the old Garden. Security guards wear white shirts and those old police-style black hats, like something out of the '50s. A pipe organ plays at times. It's fitting for a retro series like Lakers-Celtics. ... Among the celebrities spotted in the crowd were Leonardo DiCaprio, Vince Young, Donovan McNabb, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Antoine Walker and Magic Johnson. Even though Jack Nicholson was not in attendance, he was on the minds of Boston fans. A sign behind the Boston bench read: Jack Flew East, Jack Flew West, Jack, Fly Back to the Cuckoo's Nest. ... The crowded press room erupted in laughter late in the game when Vladimir Radmanovic appeared to take about five steps while going in for a dunk off a steal.
Look Ahead The pressure is on the Lakers now. Only three teams in history have ever come back from an 0-2 deficit to win the Finals ('69 Celtics, '77 Blazers, '06 Heat). The good news for Kobe & Co. heading into Tuesday night's Game 3: They've been unbeatable at home so far, going 8-0 in the postseason and 14-0 since March 28. Plus, they finally got their offense untracked in the fourth quarter. But Boston's ability to put the clamps on the Lakers for most of the first two games does not bode well for L.A.'s long-term hopes. The Celtics have been the tougher, more aggressive and better overall team so far.
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