Ball Don't Lie - NBA



It was all over so quickly.

Not too quickly, another 58 foul calls by the referees made sure of that, but within the span of one game, the Los Angeles Lakers managed to give up the home-court advantage they had worked so hard to defend in Game 1.

Ray Allen(notes) hit a Finals-record eight three-pointers and Boston point guard Rajon Rondo(notes) notched a sterling triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists as the Celtics pulled to a 1-1 Finals tie. And with the next three games in Boston, the Celtics have a chance at pulling off its third upset in three consecutive series, with the league's best, second-best and third-best regular season records going down in that order.

It was a scattered, disjointed effort for the Lakers, and though they made this a close game - actually leading by three points with five and a half minutes to go - Boston's spacing and activity on both ends allowed Doc Rivers' team to pull out the win. Kobe Bryant's(notes) foul trouble (he was whistled for his fifth just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter) also played a part. But as it has been for good chunks of their season, the Lakers' decision-making and patience had to be called into question.

Pau Gasol(notes), who put together a fantastic game with 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists, six blocks and just one turnover, attempted only four shots in the second half. Bryant tried to bring his team back in spite of the foul trouble in the fourth quarter, but he was relegated to desperate three-pointers both because of stout Celtic defense, and his own iffy decision-making early in the Laker possessions.

Worse, the team made several defensive miscues down the stretch, overplaying on the wrong Celtics at times, allowing for a 31-point fourth quarter for the visitors.

The Boston free throws, 8-for-12 in the quarter, helped. Phil Jackson was charitable to call the work of the refereeing crew "unusual" after the Game 2 loss, and while there wasn't a clear winner within all those missed calls and unnecessary whistles, Boston seemed to come out of the fray with a clearer collective head than the defending champs.

Paramount, amongst Los Angeles' muddled-headedness, seemed to be the way Phil Jackson's team kept missing Gasol on the offensive end. Jackson said the Laker bigs "did a good job," in the loss, but admitted that the Lakers "did not get the ball in to [Gasol] enough," later including a well-rested Andrew Bynum(notes) (seven blocks, 21 points) in on his analysis.

Adding weirdness to ineffectiveness was the odd play of Ron Artest(notes), who needlessly dribbled out the clock in one late-game possession, while shooting 1-for-10 (and 3-of-8 from the free-throw line) in the loss. Jackson admitted that Artest had "one of those flip-flop games" after Game 2, but in spite of holding Paul Pierce(notes) to 2-of-11 shooting, six points on 10 shot attempts with three turnovers and six personal fouls seems more "flop" than anything.

Ray Allen was as hot in the first half as Artest was cold throughout, nailing seven three-pointers in the first 24 minutes and finishing with 32 points on the night. After a frustrating Game 1 that saw Allen sit for most of the contest with foul trouble - in a type of "limbo," as Allen put it postgame - his 43 minutes in the win had to feel like a welcome relief.

"He stayed in his rhythm," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said afterward, "and we got him great shots. Our team could see it and you could see they were doing everything they could to find him."

The Celtics also found success in the open court, which Rivers mentioned was a point of emphasis after Game 1, declaring that sound defense was "the only way to be able to hit Rondo in transition. We had to get multiple misses, multiple stops."

Kobe Bryant also pointed to Boston's transition edge, but he seemed more upset with the team's 15 turnovers, five of which came from Bryant's paws.

"We can't turn the ball over," Bryant said during a dour postgame news conference, "and we can't give them looks in transition."

The quick turnaround - Game 3 is two days and an entire continent away in Boston on Tuesday - would seem to favor the Celtics and their winning momentum; but with the stop-start nature of a series featuring a total of 115 combined personal and technical fouls spread out over two contests, momentum itself doesn't seem to have much momentum behind it.

But you can bet, disjointed or not, the Celtics are happy with the split.

A full Behind the Box Score on Boston's Game 2 victory will follow on Ball Don't Lie later this morning.

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