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Something foul in Boston

June 09, 2008|BILL PLASCHKE

BOSTON — Is that wheelchair still around?

Somebody needs to pull it out of the Boston Celtics locker room and pour the Lakers in it.

Push them to the airport. Carry them to the plane. Fly them back to safety with bandages and balm.

After two games of the NBA Finals, your heroes are coming home in a heap.

This is no fake. This is a forearm. And an elbow. And a shove. Lots of shoves.

The final images of Sunday's 108-102 Celtics victory were of a different type of green and purple.

The Lakers' faces are green, and their bodies are purple.

The Lakers trail this series two games to none after being embarrassed by the actor who previously used that wheelchair -- Paul Pierce bravely scored 28 points! -- and being beaten up by everyone else.

A toughness that was questioned has been answered. Right now, they're not tough enough.

A youthfulness that was feared has been realized. Right now, their kids are playing like kids.

Yes, the Lakers scored an amazing 31 points in the final eight minutes to cut a 24-point lead to four points.

But, no, it didn't matter, not when they didn't have anybody big and strong enough to stop Pierce from driving the lane and forcing two free throws.

And not when headstrong Sasha Vujacic didn't look for an open Kobe Bryant and threw up a three-point attempt that was blocked in the final seconds to essentially end it.

Their night in 10 seconds.

Their coach in a rage.

Phil Jackson agreed later that his team was pounded, but he didn't agree that it was legal.

In the manner that the Celtics attacked his players,

he attacked the officials in a rant that will cost him money in a fine, but probably earn him an advantage in future calls.

"I've never seen a game like that in all these years I've coached the Finals," said a man coaching in his 11th Finals. "Unbelievable."

He was angry that the Celtics shot 38 free throws while the Lakers shot 10.

He was really angry that Leon Powe, the Celtics young reserve who scored just four points in the opener, was able to muscle for 21 points while shooting 13 free throws in the process.

He was so mad about Powe, he even mispronounced the kid's name, calling him "Pow," as in "Ka-Pow."

While that would have worked on this night, his name is actually pronounced "Poe," as in Edgar Allan.

That works even better.

"I'm more struck at the fact that Leon Powe gets more foul shots than our whole team does in 14 minutes of play," Jackson said. "That's ridiculous."

Jackson was so mad, he accused the officials and the loud TD Banknorth Garden crowd of conspiring on some sort of black-and-white-striped magic.

"I have no question about the fact that my players got fouled but didn't get to the line," he said.

"It's the illusion that's created. The referees referee an illusion."

Say what?

"Our guys look like maybe the ball was partially stripped when they were getting raked . . . but it was in the crowd, so the referees let that type of thing go," he said.

I'm not sure what he just said. But whatever he just said, I don't agree.

From my vantage point beneath the basket, it was clear that the Celtics were forcing the action, forcing the momentum, forcing the Lakers to foul.

There was Kevin Garnett, ripping loose rebounds from Pau Gasol, throwing huge picks on Lamar Odom.

There was Pierce blocking Derek Fisher through the lane, elbowing Vladimir Radmanovic out of the paint.

There was everybody bumping Bryant every play, every minute.

The Celtics fought to the basket; the Lakers mostly stayed on the perimeter. The Celtics acted; the Lakers reacted.

Neither of the two Lakers starting forwards, Odom or Radmanovic, drove enough to get to the foul line even once, while center Gasol shot just one free throw.

"I thought we were the team driving in the paint, and that's why we shot 38 free throws," said Celtic Coach Doc Rivers.

Two things to consider as the Finals moves to Los Angeles for as many as three games this week.

First, the Lakers have yet to beat the Celtics this season in four games.

Second, the team hosting the middle three games of the NBA Finals has swept those games just twice in 23 years since the league adopted its current format.

"It's not the end of the world," Bryant said, still calm. "We've come too far to really sweat being down 2-0. We're going to go home and handle our business."

I believe the Lakers must sweep their business at Staples to have a chance of winning the championship.

But don't listen me, I picked them to win the series in five games.

So far, they have been knocked flat in two rounds.

--

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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