BOSTON -- Home-court advantage? What's that?
For the second time in three games, the visitor walked into unfriendly confines and walked out with a win. Tuesday night it was the Lakers stealing back the advantage they lost on Sunday with a 91-84 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Games 4 and 5 will be Thursday and Sunday in the TD (Boston) Garden.
It was clear from the start that Kobe Bryant was here to play. He had that certain kind of intensity that usually results in an elevated performance not only from himself but his teammates as well.
But he cooled in the fourth quarter shooting one for six, but the one basket gave the Lakers a four-point lead with 1:41 left to play. Instead the Lakers looked to veteran Derek Fisher, who scored 11 points in the final quarter, including a three-point play with 48 seconds left to give the Lakers a seven-point lead and eventually the win.
Bryant finished with 29 points on 10-for-29 shooting. He had seven rebounds and four assists. Fisher finished with 16 points.
It appeared the game was decided in the first quarter when the Lakers went on a 21-5 run and then started the second quarter with an 11-3 run. This all coming after the Celtics had a seven-point lead early in the game.
But the Celtics were able to chip away at it with a 21-15 third quarter and closed it to one point early in the fourth quarter. The largest Laker lead was 17 points in the first half.
Each team was able to find something missing from the first two games of the series.
The Celtics saw the return of Kevin Garnett, once a Bryant-like talent in the league who has been slowed by age (34). Garnett, who scored only six points in Game 2, came out fast and scored the first six points of the game and was a dominant factor throughout. He finished with 25 points.
The Lakers finally saw the re-emergence of Lamar Odom who put up only three and five points before Game 3. His presence was essential for the Lakers to give hurting center Andrew Bynum some rest. On Tuesday, he played 27 minutes and scored 12 points with five rebounds.
The crowd seemed to enjoy taunting Odom with chants of "Ugly sister" expressing their preference for reality star Kim Kardashian over Odom's wife Khloe, Kim's sister.
Perhaps a key reason the Celtics couldn't close the game was the awful performance of Ray Allen. In Game 2, he shot lights out with a Finals record eight three pointers, scoring 27 of his 32 points in the first half. Clearly, the Lakers figured out how to conatin him in that second half and were able to push that into Game 3. Tuesday he scored only two points, missing all 13 of his shots.
It was clear before Tuesday's game that both teams believed that winning this game was important, even more so for the Celtics who didn't want to surrender the homecourt advantage they just gained on Sunday.
But, with only one day in between games--and that was a travel day--making necessary changes wouldn't be easy.
"It's funny, the adjustments that both teams have talked about from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3 is better focus, better execution and doing it harder and doing it tougher," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers before the game. "(But at this stage of the season) there's not going to be a lot of changes. But, mental changes are going to be key, and it will be in this game."
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was more pragmatic in his view of the things both teams needed to do better.
"I think the two-day break in between (Games 1 and 2) . . . was an opportunity for the Celtics to really make some changes and adjustments," Jackson said. "And their adjustments were better than ours. We didn't meet what they were going to do, and they beat us to the punch."
There was no question the Lakers were not beaten to the punch on Tuesday. And if the Celtics can't rally on Tuesday, this series is close to a knockout.
John Cherwa reported from Los Angeles.
Final, Lakers 91, Celtics 84
The Lakers took back home-court advantage by holding on for a 91-84 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, overcoming a poor shooting night and the resurrection of Kevin Garnett, who had struggled in the first two games and finished with 25 points.
The victory gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 on Thursday and Game 5 Sunday, both in Boston before the series returns to Los Angeles, assuming the Lakers don't sweep in Boston.
With a minute left, Ray Allen missed an open three-pointer, the Lakers got the rebound and Derek Fisher drove the length of the court, made the bucket and went to the line with 48 seconds left. He made the shot for an 87-80 lead that they managed to hold onto.
Allen had a monumental turnaround from Game 2, when he made eight three-point shots and scored 32 points. The missed three-pointer left him 0 for 13 for the game.
Kobe Bryant scored 29 points but was 10 for 29 from the field. The Lakers shot 45% and the Celtics shot 44%.