Lakers win Game 3 of the NBA Finals, 91-84
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
BOSTON -- Derek Fisher rebounded the final errant Ray Allen jumper, lowered his head and made a beeline toward the basket, looking off his teammates and focusing squarely on the basket. As three Boston Celtics closed in on him, Fisher lunged toward the basket and tossed the ball softly off the glass before a Glen Davis arm-chop sent Fisher sprawling toward the floor while Kevin Garnett and Allen dropped like bowling pins, stumbling over cameramen along the baseline.
An approving Kobe Bryant then pumped his fist, celebrating how his unheralded companion for four NBA championship runs had just bailed out Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Bryant scored a game-high 29 points, but Fisher, the Lakers' elder statesmen, scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to a 91-84 victory at TD Garden and a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
"I'm always excited for him when he does it," Bryant said of the 35-year-old Fisher. "He's been criticized quite a bit for his age, which is a huge thrill for him and all of us to see him come through in those moments. But truthfully, he's done it over and over and over again, so it's almost his responsibility to our team to do these things."
The memory remained fresh from the Lakers' last Finals game in Boston, when the Celtics handed out a 39-point shellacking and claimed a record 17th championship in the decisive sixth game. Adding to the humiliation that night were giddy Celtics fans who mobbed the Lakers' team bus on the way out, shaking it and shouting taunts, contributing to a long ride to the airport. But Fisher said the loss that stood out mostly for the Lakers, was their 103-94 defeat two days ago which momentarily lost home-court advantage for the Lakers.
"At the same time, we didn't doubt our ability to win here, although we hadn't done it in the playoffs," Fisher said. "We understand when you want to be the best, you have to win wherever, whenever."
Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 25 points, playing with an aggression that had been lacking in the first two games of the series. After absorbing a foul from Andrew Bynum in the third quarter, Garnett started thumping his chest with his right fist letting the fans know that he wasn't finished, as some suggested but back with a vengeance. Too bad he couldn't get any of his teammates to come along.
Allen set an NBA record with eight three-pointers and scored 32 points in Game 2, but he apparently forgot to pack his jumper on the flight from Los Angeles. To say Allen was off-target, is putting it mildly.
He missed all 13 of his field goal attempts and went 0 for 8 from from long distance -- with Pau Gasol swatting a three-point attempt from the left baseline. Many of his looks were perhaps better than or similar to shots he made two nights before, but his only two points came from the foul line.
"It's a hell of a swing, I'll tell you that," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "I didn't think he had any legs. Of the 13, I think eight of them were great looks, and all of them were short, all of them were flat. It happens to the best of us."
With 72 seconds remaining in the Celtics' win on Sunday, Paul Pierce was caught yelling, "We ain't going back to L.A.!" If the Celtics want to win this series, they had better hope it does. Pierce wasn't given much of an opportunity to help the cause, as he continued to struggle with his shot and spent most of the night in foul trouble and finished with 15 points.
"I don't care how I'm playing," Garnett said. "I played like [garbage] in Game 2, I thought, but I got some key rebounds in that game and we won. Tonight I had nice offensive flow and we lost. I'll take Game 2 and how I played there and win all day over a steady flow and a decent offensive game."
The Lakers needed Fisher to carry them, with Bryant shooting -- and missing -- with bull-headed determination. He missed 19 of his 29 field goal attempts. But they also were able to welcome their top reserve, Lamar Odom, to this series. Odom was absent in the first two games, as he played lethargically had more fouls (10) than points (eight). But Odom scored eight points in the first half, then added to two layups in the fourth period, forcing Coach Phil Jackson to keep him on the floor despite another effective outing for Bynum (nine points, 10 rebounds). Gasol added 13 points and 10 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Fisher came through with more than his play, offering an encouraging speech after the Celtics had a 17-point second-half deficit down to single digits. "Derek, he's our vocal leader," Bryant said. "He has a knack for saying the right thing at the right time."
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was limited to just 11 points and eight assists, but he brought the Celtics within 68-67 on a driving layup -- his first field goal since the first quarter. Fisher then took his turn playing the role of Bryant, as he answered with a driving layup. He added two jumpers to give the Lakers a 76-70 lead, and after Ron Artest forced a turnover off Davis's leg, Fisher rolled around a Bryant screen to hit another pull-up jumper to push the Lakers ahead by five. Fisher then put away the game with his rebound, mad dash and three-point play.
"Hitting the floor didn't feel that good to be honest, but to see Pau's reaction and Lamar and Kobe and what those guys were saying to me, those things feel so good," said Fisher, who was choked up immediately the game. "I love what I do and I love helping my team win." To come through again for this team, 14 years in, after so many great moments, it's always quite surreal and quite humbling to experience it again and do it again. It's like being a kid, man. You just never get tired of the candy. It feels good, and like I said, I'm happy, but my thoughts are going to Thursday [and Game 4] already."