This is one of those matchups that really doesn’t need introduction. Everybody knows the fabled history. The thorough beatdown the Celtics gave the Lakers the last time they were on this court is still fresh in everyone’s mind. The Lakers showed they didn’t want to be bullied around anymore. Never folding to the pressure, the Lakers physically responded to every challenge from the Celtics to lead them to the one-point victory. Here’s how it went down.
— Not surprisingly, a swarm of media descends for tonight’s matchup. Indeed the pressroom feels a bit like the set of a TV show. All that’s missing is someone to give out points for witty responses to the generic sports questions of the day.
— Ray Allen holds court in the Boston locker room, fielding questions about his recent All-Star selection. It’s worth noting that Ray Allen is now a nine-time NBA All-Star. As my roommate just did for me, let me put that into some perspective, Scottie Pippen only made seven All-Star games.
— Across the hall, the Lakers’ locker room is relatively calm. The Celtics-Cavaliers game is playing on a monitor in the background. The man of the hour, Kobe, lies emotionless on a trainer’s table, eyes transfixed on his portable DVD player.
— You know it’s a big game when Eddie House’s son is in the building.
— Out on the court, capacity crowd is already amped. Fifteen minutes till the tip, and everyone is already standing. A montage of highlights from last year’s Finals ends with the “Round 2 Begins Now” plastered on the jumbotron. Apparently, games played on Christmas do not count to the Celtics jumbotron.
— Out of the gate, Odom and Pau still think that its Game 6 of last year’s Finals. Sloppy passes, missed free throws and tentative play help the Celtics jump out to an early 9-2 lead.
— KG is showing no ill effects from the flu. He rises up for the follow slam after Rondo misses a layup. Next time down, KG takes the over the top feed from Pierce for another easy 2.
— Kobe snakes through the defense, and slides under for a left side lay in. While he has no doubt been assertive early, it’s probably safe to bet that we won’t be seeing Kobe one-up LeBron’s show at the Garden from the previous night. Lakers 19, Celtics 14, Kobe 8.
— Not surprisingly, Trevor Ariza is left open behind the arc. Not surprisingly, Trevor Ariza misses the 3-point attempt soundly.
— Less than a minute left, Kobe pulls down defensive board and brings it upcourt. Everyone in the building knows that this is one of those possessions where he’s not going to give up the ball. As expected, he calls his own number, shaking past the defense, he rises for the mid range jumper. Wet. 23-20.
— House misses a baseline jumper, dropping the Cs field goal percentage to 32 percent. On the other end, L.A. pushes ahead as an old fashioned 3-point play from Fisher extends the Laker lead to eight with Kobe on the bench.
— Also worth noting, in the scale of the marginally relevant, the Cs now employ full-fledged cheerleaders. Not just your typical spandex clad dance squad but literal, collegiate style cheerleaders. Raised up in the air by their male counterparts, their efforts to pump the crowd don’t amount to much. After an early buzz, the place has gone lifeless as the Lakers take control of the game.
— Reaching a new low the crowd can barely muster up any enthusiasm for the ubiquitous ‘everybody clap your hands’ line. Actually, that lack of support for “The Cha Cha Slide” is probably a good thing.
— Big Baby misses another open jumper, but this time Powe outworks the Lakers frontcourt for the offensive board and putback. 33-26.
— House, making sure his kid didn’t show up for nothing, steals the bad pass from Sasha and drops in the layup on the other end. Next time down, he drains corner 3 to pull Boston within four.
— POWE! Putback slam brings Boston within three, 40-37.
— PAU! That probably doesn’t have the same effect as ‘POWE!’ but nonetheless, it produced the same result. This putback finish brings the Lakers’ lead back up to five.
— Shots are starting to fall for Boston and their shooting percentage climbs back up to respectability. Picking up their energy level, they are now clamping down a bit more on the defensive end. After a defensive stop, Boston is out on the break. Three-on-one, Tony leaves it behind for KG who rises up, throws down the big finish. Tied game.
— A minute later, Walton hits for 3 and the Lakers are back up by five. The Lakers fans scattered in the area start to make noise. It probably goes without saying that the response from some Boston faithful isn’t exactly PG-rated.
— “Luke Walton is not Kurt Warner” says Jake Appleman via GTalk.
— A lady is riding a unicycle and balancing bowls on her head. As ridiculous as it is, it’s surprisingly enthralling for the crowd.
— “She’s gutter,” says the guy behind me. “I couldn’t even ride that unicycle thing. I went to school for the wrong thing.”
— Ray Allen corner three caps a 7-0 Cs run to open the 3rd.
— Crack of daylight and he’s gone. Rondo exploits a seam in the Lakers defense and drives down the heart of the lane for a layup. Touchdown Rondo, 61-55 Cs.
— Mark it down, 9:01—A Rondo foul leads to some back and forth jawing between Kobe and Double-R. After the double technical Kobe leaves the skirmish, nodding to himself and mouthing “Okay, okay.” You’ve got to imagine that drawing the ire of Kobe ranked high on the list of Tom Thibodeau’s list of things his defense shouldn’t do.
— KG picks up the offensive foul and proceeds to start jawing with Odom. Looks like we won’t be needing the Cha-Cha Slide anymore to get the fans riled up.
— What’s that, Sasha just got burned on defense? Shocking. Sagging too far off, House gets a clean look for a 3 from the corner. Buckets, 70-66 Boston.
— Kobe sets up on Pierce. He starts left, spins back to the middle and rises up to drain the jumper. Another incredibly high degree of difficulty shot that he makes look so fluid and effortless. 74-71 Celtics.
— A personal 5-0 run by Eddie House puts Boston up by eight. The sign of the night goes to “Its the Green House effect”
— Just when they think they’ve pulled away, the Lakers answer House’s exploits with back-to-back 3s. Farmer connects from top of the key and then next time down, Sasha hits from the corner. 79-77 Celtics.
— Pierce passes to House who shoots over a great mid air touch pass over to Powe who hits from close. Not only a 3-point marksman, but it looks like House would be a beast at a game of TAPS.
— Odom hits a 3 from the wing and proceeds to yell at the nearby Celtics bench on the way back downcourt.
— During a timeout, Coach Willie Maye, the Celtics’ hypeman, gets into a lighthearted argument with a guy in a Kobe replica jersey. It ends with coach giving him the finger—the finger with the 2008 championship ring that goes to all team employees. Well played. Kobe Replica Jersey Man got served.
— The all too familiar Rondo-to-KG lob. 91-85. And off the bench to the rescue, here comes Kobe.
— L.A. can’t make Boston pay for a defensive three seconds violation. Kobe misses the team’s 11th free throw of the game dropping them to 54 percent from the line for the night.
— Odom pulls down his own miss, takes it strong at KG, finishes and the bonus. Lakers within one. 91-90.
— Kobe 3 over Pierce. 95-93.
— On the other end, KG fouls out of the game on a tough call. He’s called for his sixth as he pushes away a lunging Fisher.
— Kobe strikes again, with another 3 over Pierce. Tied game.
— Pierce curls around a Davis screen and hits from 15. On the other end, a turnaround in deep from Pau keeps L.A. within two.
— Kobe again sets up on Pierce. Rises up from deep, hits another dagger 3. That’s three huge 3s from Bryant, this one giving the Lakers their first lead of the second half. 101-100, Lakers, with under a minute to go.
— Big Baby has taken more jump shots than someone with his quality of jumper should. Davis misses again, but the Cs retain possession and end up tying the game at 101 on a Pierce free throw.
— Last chance for L.A., Kobe sets up at the top of the key. Forced left, he rises up for fadeaway which dies at the front of the rim.
— Last possession for Boston, Pierce dribbles up top, but Kobe pokes it away. House’s desperation heave misses left. Overtime.
— Both teams are hitting from close to open up OT. For the Celtics, it’s coming off of drives by Rondo and Allen, while for L.A., Odom and Gasol are working in the paint to keep the game close.
— It looks like Kobe has lost his touch from behind the arc as he misses two looks from deep.
— Out of a timeout, Big Baby hits a jumper. Repeat, out of a time out, the Celtics successfully run a play that ends with Big Baby, a guy who missed all his shots so far, knocking down the jumper. Boston up, 109-108 with 1:04 left.
— Kobe forces a jumper trying to get to the line, refs wisely swallow whistles and refuse to bail him out.
— Seventeen seconds left, Davis tries again to flaunt his feathery touch from the outside. This time Davis blocked by Gasol and proceeds to commit a loose ball foul on Odom. Lamar hits them both to give LA a one-point lead. It’s the first time the Lakers have hit both from the line since early in the 3rd quarter.
— Out of timeout, Pierce misses jumper. Thinking it’s all over, our friend, Kobe Replica Jersey Man goes crazy. He calms down slightly when he realizes his Lakers aren’t completely out of the woods yet.
— One more chance, Allen inbounds to Davis then takes the return pass from him. Fisher, defending Allen, rides him hard and forces him into a miss.
— Kobe Replica Jersey Man has now taken off said jersey and is waiving it in the air. Boston guy who probably had too much to drink is not happy with Kobe Replica Jersey Man. The two yell at each other, then start a shoving match. Much like the game that just ended, neither side is willing to back down. In the end, just like the game, LA executes just a little better and shows a little more toughness to come up on top in another chapter of this rivalry.