The NBA Finals have now become a reclamation project for the Lakers, who lost the home-court advantage, a one-game lead and Game 2 itself, a bad triumvirate on a decidedly off night for the franchise.
The Lakers' problems began with Ray Allen's record-setting shooting, continued with Rajon Rondo's triple-double and Kobe Bryant's accuracy-and-foul issues, and ended Sunday in front of a hushed Staples Center crowd.
Instead of purple-and-gold streamers falling from the ceiling, green-and-white momentum rose from the floor, the NBA Finals now tied after the Boston Celtics took Game 2, 103-94.
Lakers fans trickled out quietly after solid games by Andrew Bynum (21 points, seven blocked shots) and Pau Gasol (25 points, six blocked shots) were wasted.
The Celtics, on the other hand, made Allen's effort stand up after he scored 32 points and made eight three-point baskets (in 11 attempts), the most ever in a Finals game. Rondo (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) was a big part of it, particularly in the fourth quarter.
The next three games in the best-of-seven series are in Boston, starting with Game 3 on Tuesday.
The Lakers have actually won the last two times they've been to Boston, taking regular-season victories each of the last two years thanks to a pair of one-point nail-biters, but they went 0-3 there in the 2008 NBA Finals, in case anybody forgot.
Bryant didn't want to discuss much of anything after making eight of 20 shots and finishing with 21 points, six assists, five turnovers and five fouls in only 34 minutes.
He was obviously peeved, talking to reporters in short, clipped sentences, his chin perched on his left hand.
On losing home-court advantage: "We've just got to go into Boston and win."
On getting his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter: "I don't expect to pick up five fouls the next game."
The one thing he expanded upon, sort of, was his reasoning for the Game 2 loss.
"It has nothing to do with scoring," he said. "Nothing. It's all defensively. We gave them too many easy baskets and blew too many defensive assignments. That's it."
And with that, he threw on a pair of sunglasses and stalked out to his car with a bodyguard.
The Lakers' big men almost carried the day on offense, but nobody could stop Allen or Rondo.
Lamar Odom did nothing of consequence other than collect fouls for a second straight game, and Ron Artest, though decent on defense — holding Paul Pierce to 10 points on two-for-11 shooting) — was fruitless on offense.
Artest had six points on one-for-10 shooting, including a curious clock-draining possession that started with just over a minute to play, Artest dribbling around the perimeter and driving down low before settling for an off-balance 21-footer as the Lakers trailed by eight.
"It's one of the more unusual sequences I've ever witnessed," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Odom had three points and five fouls in under 15 minutes of playing time, a poor follow-up to the five points and five fouls he had in Game 1.
The Lakers could have used a late contribution from him, the score tied at 72 going into the fourth quarter. Instead, a reserve for the Celtics, Nate Robinson, provided a boost with seven points in the final quarter. Rondo was also strong down the stretch, scoring 10 points and making all four of his shots in the last six minutes.
Both teams could have complained about fouls, but nobody did.
Bryant picked up his fifth with 11:15 to play and had to be careful the rest of the way, but the Lakers had the benefit of 41 free-throw attempts while the Celtics had only 26, a disparity that was even more one-sided until Boston had eight attempts in the final minute as the Lakers began to foul on purpose.
The Lakers somehow weathered Allen's first-half attack, which included seven-for-eight shooting from three-point range. Allen had more three-pointers in one half than anybody in Finals history, but Bryant brought the Lakers within 54-48 on a three-pointer with 0.2 seconds left until halftime.
Allen had already made his mark. He was the best shooting guard on the court Sunday night.
Early in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers held a brief lead, a fan unfurled a large banner that said, "You can't beat L.A."
Not true. Not in Game 2.
twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan'It has nothing to do with scoring. Nothing. It's all defensively. We gave them too many easy baskets and blew too many defensive assignments. That's it.'
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