LOS ANGELES—It's said to win any NBA Final series you have to know how to win on the road and that's exactly what the Boston Celtics did as they shocked the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-94, Sunday night to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1.
Game 3 is set for Tuesday in Boston, where Games 4 and 5 will also be played in the Finals 2-3-2 format.
The Celtics took final control when they took a five-point lead with just under two minutes to play on a 20-foot jumper by Rajon Rondo, his eighth point of the quarter. In fact, the Celtics were on a 11-0 run until Kobe Bryant hit a three to cut the lead to five with 52 seconds to play. But by then it was in the books for the Celtics.
The win should have come more easily for the Celtics, especially after Ray Allen put up 17 of his game-high 32 points in the second quarter as the Celtics rode his three-point shooting to a 14-point lead. But, as the game progessed the Lakers got back into it even grabbing a three-point lead with five minutes to play.
Allen scored 27 in the first half. He set a NBA Finals record with eight three pointers.
"(Allen) makes me a better coach," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He's a perfectionist. The last two days he took a million shots and it's no coincidence why great shooters are great shooters. . . . It's amazing we had a player that had 27 points in the first half and we're only up six. It's going to be that kind of series."
But if the first half belonged to Allen, the second easily belonged to Rondo. He finished with a triple double (19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.)
"Tonight he was unbelieveable," Rivers added. "He made the big shot. He just did a lot of things. The blocked shots, the steals. He's our quarterback."
Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson couldn't deny that assessment.
"Rondo's offensive rebounds were a difference maker in the second half," Jackson said. "In the first half it was Ray's shooting. But Rondo had some key plays that changed the course of the game."
If there was any good news for the Lakers it was play of Andrew Bynum, whose name was heretofore only connected to discussions of his ailing knee. Bynum finished with 21 points.
The Lakers needed help from someone other than Kobe Bryant (21 points) who had to alter his aggressive play when he kept picking up fouls. Jackson even elected to keep Bryant in the game when he picked up his fifth foul with 11 minutes to play. Bryant finished with 21 points. "I wasn't happy with those foul calls," Jackson said risking yet another fine from the NBA. "He tried to play aggressively and got called for it. It changed the complexity of the ball game."
Pau Gasol was the high scorer for the Lakers with 25.
"Our big guys played great — Bynum and Gasol — but we didn't get the ball into them enough," Jackson said.
The Lakers early strategy was to win the game in the paint with Gasol and Bynum. In fact Bryant only scored two points in the first quarter instead settling for five first-quarter assists. But, when they fell behind by 14 in the second quarter the strategy changed at least until Bryant got in foul trouble.
The second quarter is when Allen took over the game. He hit his first five three-pointers of the quarter and finally missed on his eighth attempt of the game. He was two-for-two on threes in the first quarter.