It’s advantage Lakers as Fisher rattles Celtics
Kevin Garnett was hot, showing up to TD Garden just when all of Boston was about to put his face on a milk carton. Kobe Bryant was dangerous, even on a night when he went 10-of-29 shooting. But Derek Fisher ended up being deadly last night.
Late in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics were threatening to erase a deficit that was once 17 points, the Lakers point guard was there to grab the rebound after Ray Allen missed his 13th shot. He raced down left side of the floor, three Celtics giving chase, and went up for the layup.
You could hear the collision, the thud as Fisher hit the floor, and the bounce of the ball on the hardwood after the layup dropped through the basket.
He took the hard foul and converted the 3-point play to give the Lakers an 87-80 lead. They would hold on to win Game 3, 91-84, taking a two-games-to-one lead in the NBA Finals.
Bryant cobbled together a game-high 29 points, outdueling Garnett, who turned out to be the Celtics’ primary scoring op tion after struggling the first two games of the series.
He put up his best line since Boston’s second-round series against Cleveland, going for 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each dealing with their own nightmare nights, Celtics coach Doc Rivers wished his team would have gone to Garnett more.
“KG was great,’’ Rivers said. “Didn’t get it enough. We talked about 20 shots before the game. He shot 16, should have had 25 as far as I was concerned. I thought there were a lot of times we still should have gotten the ball to him. I didn’t think we had a lot of great ball movement tonight. I thought, again, it was a half-court game because of the way they were playing.
“One of the things I told our team was, Game 2, Ray had it. We did a great job of getting it to Ray. Game 3, Kevin had it. I didn’t think we did as good of a job getting it to Kevin.’’
Allen looked like a man who had shot himself out after exploding for 32 points in the Boston’s Game 2 win at Staples Center. After torching the Lakers for a Finals record eight 3-pointers, Allen shot blanks last night, going 0 for 13 from the floor, 0 for 8 from long distance.
“It’s a hell of a swing, I’ll tell you that,’’ Rivers said. “You know, it’s basketball. That’s why you can’t worry about it. He’ll be back in the gym tomorrow and getting ready for the next game. I thought he was pressing early on some of them, and honestly, I thought all of his shots looked flat tonight. I didn’t think he had any legs. I don’t know if the knee and the thigh had anything to do with it, but I just thought he was short on most of his jump shots.’’
The Celtics struggled offensively most of night, missing 36 of 58 shots through three quarters, but the game changed the second Andrew Bynum left the floor. The Lakers were up comfortably late in the third quarter, when the 7-footer started hobbling, favoring the right knee he had drained before the start of the Finals.
Bynum had just swatted away a Kendrick Perkins layup but by the time he made it to the other end of the floor, limping the whole way, he hunched over not far from the Celtics bench grabbing the knee that was already heavily padded.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson took him off the floor with 4:59 left in the quarter, and with Los Angeles 7 feet shorter, the Celtics saw their chance to go on the attack. By the time Bynum returned with 9:45 left in the game, the Lakers from being comfortable to being in a 1-point game.
Fisher however ended up being the executioner, going 5 for 7 in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 16 points.
“He won the game for them,’’ Rivers said. “Derek Fisher was the difference in the game. You know, I thought we lost our composure a little bit down the stretch. A 4-point game, 47 seconds left, I’m not sure exact time. All you need is a stop.
“We let Derek Fisher dribble the ball all the way up the court, unattended, get a 3-point play. If you get a stop there, we had two timeouts left, three timeouts at the time, we had plenty of time. But that’s where we got the mental toughness part for us. We’ve got to hang in there. It’s not going to be an easy game, none of them are going to be, and that’s what we have to do.’’