LOS ANGELES — Ray Allen was focused. Rajon Rondo wasn’t fazed. Kevin Garnett knew what he and his team were capable of doing. Doc Rivers reminded us constantly there was nothing to worry about.
Remember, this starting five has never lost a series.
The Celtics did everything they said they needed to do in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, banging out an ugly 103-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to even the series at one game apiece.
Allen, who broke an NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made with eight on the night, finished with 32 points to lead the Celtics offense. But it was the hustle plays of the night — that were so visibly missing in Game 1 — that turned the tide in the Celtics’ favor. Rondo was key in that regard. In the final minute, he poked a ball away from Kobe Bryant, forcing a Lakers turnover, chased down a rebound and fed his teammates down the stretch to push the Celtics across the finish line. He ended the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple double.
“Rondo’s offensive rebounds and the things he did out there were really the difference in the second half,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. “Ray’s shooting was obviously the difference in the first half. But (in the second half) Rondo had some key plays that changed the course of the game.”
Rondo peppered the media for the past two days about moving on and working on the team’s effort. When those plays started piling up across the board, it showed where the Celtics’ confidence was. And it showed Rivers something something from Rondo that he’d never seen before.
“Tonight was unbelievable,” Rivers said. “He made the big shot. He made the elbow shot. I’m thinking Mark Price is somewhere celebrating. He took a million of those shots this summer and he didn’t hesitate. That was my favorite play for him. He just did a lot of things, the blocked shots, the steals. He’s our quarterback, and he does a lot of stuff for us. He was special tonight.”
The Celtics needed the unbelievable play of two of their stars, after getting caught up in yet another game where the referees blew whistles like a marching band. The game featured 58 fouls — 29 by each team. Garnett, Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace all found themselves in foul trouble in the second and third quarters.
And yet Garnett was still key down the stretch. A basket at the 2:40 mark in the fourth quarter helped push the Celtics lead to three points, giving the team some breathing room before he dumped off a pass off to Kendrick Perkins for a basket down the stretch. Garnett finished the night with six points, four rebounds and four assists.
Kobe Bryant also found himself in foul trouble, picking up two quick fouls in the fourth to finish with five. But because of those five fouls, he laid off on a number of Celtics baskets in the paint where he was the closest defender.
“You’ve got to play,” Bryant said afterward. “You’ve got to play your game and let the whistles sort themselves out.”
The Celtics finished with more points in the paint (36) than the Lakers (26) and won the fast break battle, 11-4. However, the Lakers outscored the Celtics on second-chance points 17-13. In Game 1, the Celtics didn’t score any second-chance points.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 25 points and eight rebounds on the night. He was helped by dual 21-point outings from Bryant and Andrew Bynum.
4th quarter, 33.0, Celtics 100, Lakers 93: Despite a 3-pointer from Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo has taken over the quarter, draining 3-of-4 free throws with less than a minute left and poking a ball away from Bryant to help the Celtics keep their lead.
4th quarter, 1:12, Celtics 98, Lakers 90: Kendrick Perkins layup and subsequent free throw pushed the Celtics lead to eight points.
4th quarter, 1:26, Celtics 95, Lakers 90: Rajon Rondo pushed the Celtics lead to five points on a 22-foot jumper as Kobe Bryant laid off of him. Doc Rivers, watching Paul Pierce on the floor because of a scuffle for a loose ball, almost ran to center court to call a timeout. Kevin Garnett congratulated his coach with a slap on the head.
4th quarter, 2:07, Celtics 93, Lakers 90: What looked like a foul on Kobe Bryant — his possible sixth of the game — was just a missed layup for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. Just prior, Kevin Garnett hit a big shot at the 2:40 mark. He has four points, three rebounds and five assists.
4th quarter, 3:06, Celtics 91, Lakers 90: Th refs are calling it pretty close right now. Ron Artest just picked up two quick fouls and Kevin Garnett just picked up his fifth foul.
4th quarter, 6:18, Lakers 85, Celtics 83: The length of Andrew Bynum is hurting the Celtics right now. He just grabbed a pass over the heads of Glen Davis and Tony Allen only to drop in two more of his 21 points. He also has six rebounds.
4th quarter, 8:52, Celtics 83, Lakers 80: Nate Robinson is making an immediate impact. He just hit a 3-pointer and scored on a fastbreak. There was no telling he would get minutes in this game, so any production is more than satisfactory.
4th quarter, 11:14, Celtics 74, Lakers 72: Kobe Bryant picked up his fifth personal foul. He just cautioned Phil Jackson to keep him in the game. This could be an early night for the Lakers star. The Celtics have done a great job of keeping him out of rhythm.
End of the third quarter, Celtics 72, Lakers 72: We’re going into the fourth the way we went into the game. It’s all notched up. Ray Allen is leading the game with 30 points. His last 3-pointer secured an NBA Finals record for an individual. He has eight in the game.
3rd quarter, 3:28, Celtics 68, Lakers 68: The Celtics have closed the gap on Ray Allen 3-pointer and Paul Pierce on a putback. Ray Allen has shot 8-for-10 on 3-pointers and has 30 points on the night.
3rd quarter, 5:25, Lakers 66, Celtics 63: Rasheed Wallace has now picked up his fourth foul. That’s Wallace, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett with fouls up front.
3rd quarter, 5:46, Lakers 63, Celtics 63: Glen Davis picked up his fourth foul after subbing in for Kevin Garnett.
3rd quarter, 6:00, Lakers 63, Celtics 63: Kevin Garnett got his fourth foul defending against Andrew Bynum. Bynum and Gasol have led the Lakers in this spurt. Kobe Bryant picked up his fourth foul as well defending against Rajon Rondo.
3rd quarter, 10:02, Lakers 57, Celtics 56: The Lakers just took a one-point lead on a Pau Gasol jumper over Kendrick Perkins. The Lakers have outscored the Celtics in the quarter 9-2.
3rd quarter, 11:14, Celtics 54, Lakers 52: Kendrick Perkins just picked up his fourth foul of the game. Meanwhile, Ron Artest is trying to tie the game on foul shots after a 3-pointer.
End of the first half, Celtics 54, Lakers 48: Kobe Bryant just hit a three to end the half as the Lakers pulled to within six points. But the story of the half is Ray Allen and his 7-of-8 3-pointers. He’s tearing up the Lakers and he’s doing it the Reggie Miller way — racing back and forth through two or three screens before firing away. It’s an amazing spectacle.
Leading the Lakers are Pau Gasol (14 points), Bryant (11) and Andrew Bynum (11).
Paul Pierce has six points so far.
2nd quarter, 23.6, Celtics 54, Lakers 45: The Lakers are edging back into the game. They’ve brough the lead back down to nine points by sticking the ball down low with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. However, Ray Allen is still on fire. I have a feeling he’s making up for all those lost minutes in Game 1.
2nd quarter, 3:03, Celtics 52, Lakers 39: A string of offensive personal fouls by Kobe Bryant (three fouls) and Ray Allen (two fouls) has got the Staples Center riled. No worries, Allen follows it up with another 3-pointer. He’s got 26 in the game and 16 in the quarter.
2nd quarter, 4:13, Celtics 47, Lakers 35: Kobe Bryant just took a bad spill after driving against Rasheed Wallace. Wallace got his third foul on the play. That means Wallace, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis all have three fouls in the second quarter.
2nd quarter, 6:16, Celtics 42, Lakers 30: Kobe Bryant is now defending Ray Allen after checking back in and Derek Fisher is defending Rajon Rondo. Allen lit up Shannon Brown as he was on the court for five minutes.
2nd quarter, 6:35, Celtics 42, Lakers 28: Ray Allen is now 5-for-5 from 3-point range. He has 19 points in the game after hitting back-to-back threes.
2nd quarter, 7:30, Celtics 39, Lakers 28: This is turning into the Ray Allen show. He just drained another 3-pointer, giving him 16 points in the game to lead all scorers.
2nd quarter, 8:09, Celtics 36, Lakers 28: Kevin Garnett just got his third personal foul, bringing back in Rasheed Wallace.
2nd quarter, 9:30, Celtics 36, Lakers 26: The Celtics have pushed it to a 10-point lead on a Ray Allen 3-pointer. Rajon Rondo is pulling out his bag of tricks again, faking out Andrew Bynum for two of his six points. Rondo also has five assists so far, including the dish to Allen for that last 3-pointer.
2nd quarter, 10:46, Celtics 31, Lakers 22: Glen Davis just picked up his third personal foul. Davis is replaced with Kevin Garnett, who has two fouls.
End of the first quarter, Celtics 29, Lakers 22: Ray Allen has led the Celtics with 10 points in the quarter. But Rajon Rondo’s aggressive play, pushing the ball to the basket on almost every possession, has also been vital.
Pau Gasol leads the Lakers with nine points and Kobe Bryant was held to 1-of-5 shooting.
1st quarter, 27.7, Celtics 28, Lakers 22: We’re not out of the first quarter and Lamar Odom is trying to outdo his Game 1 performance of five fouls. He’s got three in the game already. Also, Rajon Rondo blew past Jordan Farmar to set up a Rasheed Wallace basket. That’s what Farmar gets for trying to man him up at half court.
1st quarter, 1:21, Celtics 25, Lakers 21: Rasheed Wallace has already made his mark, draining a 3-pointer to give the Celtics the lead. Paul Pirce followed up with a couple of free throws.
1st quarter, 3:06, Lakers 21, Celtics 20: Rajon Rondo is definitely being more aggressive this game. He’s taken the rock to the hoop three times, the latest of which he drew a foul on Kobe Bryant.
1st quarter, 4:38, Celtics 18, Lakers 17: A Ray Allen shot at the 6:37 mark was changed from a two to a three.
1st quarter, 4:38, Celtics 17, Lakers 17: Ray Allen has nine points to start the game and Kevin Garnett has two fouls. Oh, and Glen Davis has two fouls after coming in the game to replace him. Looks like this game may be called as close as Game 1.
1st quarter, 5:00, Lakers 17, Celtics 15: Ray Allen has come out to play. He’s hit 3-for-4 already to help keep the Celtics in it.
1st quarter, 8:40, Celtics 8, Lakers 7: Rajon Rondo just led the Celtics to two fast break buckets, scoring on one over Kobe Bryant. In the mean time, the refs are calling it fairly close with Kevin Garnett getting an off the ball foul called early.
1st quarter, 9:46, Lakers 6, Celtics 2: Out the gates, Kobe Bryant is picking up Rajon Rondo on defense and Derek Fisher is on Ray Allen. But Bryant is switching with Ron Artest, who is tasked with guarding Paul Pierce.
After a strong first bucket from Kevin Garnett, the Lakers have reeled off six straight points.
Pregame: Back from a two-day hiatus, the NBA Finals is about to be underway. No injuries. No excuses. Let’s go Celtics.