Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both struggled in this game and the Lakers were much more aggressive, but the Celtics still hung around all game. The first quarter was one of runs. The Lakers jumped out to a 9-2 lead before the Celtics cut it to 2 with 5:42 left in the first. The Lakers then ran off 6 straight points to make it 15-7. The Celtics then tied the game at 18 with 1:14 to go in the quarter. The quarter ended with the game tied at 20. Neither team shot well in the first quarter as the Celtics shot 32% and the Lakers shot 25%. The free throw discrepancy was 14-2 in the Lakers favor while the Celtics won the battle of the boards by 2.
The Lakers came out strong in the second quarter and built the lead to 11 with 3:52 left. But once again, the Celtics came back and cut the lead 43-37 at the half. KG and Paul were a combined 2-16 for the half and the Celtics shot 32% for the half while the Lakers shot 54% in the second quarter. The Lakers shot 22 free throws to 7 for the Celtics. Yet, the Celtics were down just 6 at the half.
Rondo went down with 1 minute gone in the third quarter and was helped off the court. The early reports were that it was a mild sprain and he later returned but played only 5 minutes in the second half. Eddie House came in for him in light of Sam's poor play in the first half and although he shot just 2-8, he had a solid game and brought energy with him and with him at the point, they won their only quarter of the game. Eddie finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 19 minutes of play. The Celtics were more aggressive in the third quarter and went on a 12-2 run to take a 51-49 lead with 4:50 left in the third. The Celtics held onto the lead that stayed between 2 and 4 points and finished the quarter up 62-60.
The team exchanged leads through the first half of the 4th quarter. LA took the lead at 69-68 with 6:42 left in the game and never trailed again. They went up by 7 with just over 4 minutes to go and the Celtics cut it to 78-76 with 2:36 left. But the Lakers went on a run to end the game as the Celtics failed to get stops and didn't execute on offense. The final score was 87-81.
Paul Pierce shot just 2-14 from the field for 6 points to go with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He spent much of the game in foul trouble and played only 31 minutes. Kevin Garnett also struggled with just 13 points on 6-21 shooting but he also pulled down 12 rebounds and dished out 5 assists. He said in the post game press conference that he felt he settled for too many quick jumpers and needs to go inside more. Hopefully we will see him playing with his back to the basket more in game 4.
That was the bad news, the good news is that Ray Allen has found his shot again and was 8-13 from the field for 25 points to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Perk played well, especially in the third quarter and finished with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in just 28 minutes. Doc opted to go with PJ Brown down the stretch and PJ finished with 3 points and 2 rebounds in 17 minutes. In spite of Leon Powe's big game 2, Doc only played him 6 minutes and he finished with 1 point and 2 rebounds. James Posey once again brought energy and tough play off the bench as he finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds and several hustle plays.
The story for the Lakers was Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic. Kobe had 36 points on 12-20 shooting and Vujacic had 20 points including a big 3 down the stretch. Both teams had only 2 players in double figures.
The Celtics shot just 35% from the field while allowing the Lakers to shoot 44%. The Celtics out rebounded the Lakers by one and also had one more turnover than the Lakers. The Lakers shot 34 free throws to 22 for the Celtics, but the Lakers were the more aggressive team and in spite of the refs missing calls on both sides, they called it pretty evenly. The Celtics had 32 points in the paint to 30 for the Lakers, but it was the aggressiveness on offense that allowed the Lakers to get to the line. In his post game press conference, Doc joked that he was surprised that Phil wasn't complaining about the officials after this game. But Doc also showed class and instead of whining about the fouls, he told it like it was. There was a big disparity just as there was in game 2, but also just as in game 2, the team that was more aggressive got to the line.
The Celtics didn't move the ball very well and the offense was out of sync for most of the game. They played defense in spurts and allowed the Lakers to get too many open looks. KG and Pierce played their worst games of the playoffs, and the Celtics still were in it most of the game. KG and Pierce are not likely to play that poorly two games in a row and will likely bounce back to have big games on Thursday. The Celtics have to feel good that they still had a chance to win it in spite of playing so poorly on both ends of the court. Hopefully, Rondo will be ok for game 4 and if he is, the Celtics have a good chance of stealing one on the road.