With help from reserves, Celtics even NBA Finals with Lakers at two games apiece
Friday, June 11, 2010
BOSTON -- Glen "Big Baby" Davis let out a guttural scream, and drool dripped from his lips and splashed on the parquet floor. As he walked around at center court, staring at an approving audience, Nate Robinson climbed upon his back, wrapped his arms around Davis's neck and took a piggyback ride. Davis flexed and posed and more slobber fell on Robinson's wristband.
The Boston Celtics had been waiting for Paul Pierce to finally have an imprint, for Ray Allen to break from his shooting slump, for Kevin Garnett to get the upper hand against Pau Gasol and for Rajon Rondo to run circles around Derek Fisher. Once again, that didn't occur for the Celtics, but it wasn't a concern because of the most unlikely pair of reserves. Davis and Robinson, the heaviest player and the smallest player on the roster respectively, carried the team through a critical period in the fourth quarter, and eventually let Pierce provide the finishing touches on a 96-89 victory at TD Garden.
"We're like Shrek and Donkey," Robinson said. "You can't separate us."
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers had no reason to keep the pair from the floor, as they provided an emotional and enthusiastic rush -- with an unusual lineup that included lone starter Allen, Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen -- and overwhelmed the Los Angeles Lakers to even the best-of-seven NBA Finals at 2-2. Davis had 18 points, with eight coming during a game-changing 13-2 second-half run, and Robinson added 12, eliciting encouraging fist pumps from Pierce and Rondo after each made basket, with Garnett dropping on all fours to slap the floor and bark out inspiring words. Rondo even shouted at Rivers, "Don't take them out! Don't take them out!"
"It was beautiful to watch, just being a cheerleader on the sideline," Pierce said after scoring a team-high 19 points. "We're going to need it. We're going to need it from all 15 guys."
Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 33 points and went on a rampage near the end of the third period, as he hit three consecutive three-pointers to give the Lakers a 62-58 lead and revealed his angry, underbite glare that usually signals doom for the opponent. Davis, the portly, 289-pound forward, refused to relent. He threw around his weight to shove aside Lakers forward Pau Gasol for a put-back at the end of the third period. Davis then made a reverse layup to tie the game.
"I just felt like a beast," said Davis, who shot 7 of 10 from the floor and added five rebounds. "If a rebound was in my vicinity, or like if the ball was going to be laid up, I just felt like I just couldn't be denied. There's not too many times you get the chance to be in the Finals and be a part of something so great that you can never really imagine yourself even being here."
After Gasol (21 points, six rebounds) gave the Lakers a 64-62 lead, the Celtics scored the next nine points. Ray Allen (12 points) made a reverse layup, Davis caught a pass from Robinson for another layup and Allen made another jumper to push the lead to six. Then came an episode in hustle, as Lakers reserve Shannon Brown came down the lane for a layup and missed. The portly Davis dove to the ground to recover the rebound, then he tossed the ball out to Allen, who pushed the ball up the floor. The ball found its way to Tony Allen, who missed the layup, but Davis fought Gasol for the rebound, then made the put-back as he was fouled, forcing Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to call timeout.
Davis couldn't contain his emotions or his saliva. "I've seen that action before," Rivers said of Davis. "It's usually after we run in practice. That's who he is, though. He has a lot of passion. I mean, there's times you love him and times he drives you nuts. But overall, his heart is always in the right place, and you just take it."
Davis explained, "When you're in the moment, you're in the moment. If I slobber, snot, spit, please excuse me. Kids don't do that. Have manners and things like that. Sorry about that. Did I catch you with some?"
Davis made the free throw to give the Celtics a 71-64 lead. Robinson kept the Lakers on their heels with his drives, Wallace canned a three-pointer and slowed down Gasol, and Tony Allen made Bryant work for every shot he put up. When Rivers put Pierce, Garnett and Rondo back in the game with 2 minutes 51 seconds remaining, Bryant was shooting free throws to make the score 85-79. "They got all the energy points, the hustle points, the second-chance points in the paint, beat us to loose balls," Bryant said. "I mean, that's how the game turned around."
Pierce had struggled offensively the first three games, but he scored 10 of the Celtics' first 14 points. He was so excited that he celebrated what he thought was his 12th point in the first period by reaching back, swinging -- and inadvertently punching referee Eddie F. Rush in the left jaw. Rush immediately grabbed his face, and Pierce apologized; though it seemed as if several members of both teams wanted to do something similar to express their displeasure with the officiating this series.
When he returned in the fourth quarter, Pierce made a step back jumper, then drove to the basket for a three-point play, drawing a foul on Bryant. And Rondo put the game out of reach when Bryant threw a bad pass intended for Lamar Odom and Rondo finished with a layup on the other end.
Odom had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who were without Andrew Bynum in the second half. Bynum tried to play despite a torn meniscus in his right knee, but he was limited to just two points and three rebounds in 13 minutes.
"It bothered us in the second half not having Andrew be able to come out and play the start of the second half," Jackson said. "He tried a couple of minutes, but it just wasn't there for him."
But it was there for Davis and Robinson, who turned the post-game interview session into a lounge act. "We did our job today," Robinson said. "We went in, played hard, played smart, played together. And the starting five, they go in and bring us home. That's the beauty of our team."