The Celtics came out with primal screams and a sweaty coach. Europe�s amazingly shitty song, The Final Countdown, blared in TD Banknorth and the crowd was brimming with hatred for all things Los Angeles. When House Of Pain�s seminal classic, Jump Around, came on, it felt like the roof was gonna blow off the joint.
Then the game started. And for the first five minutes, Boston maintained that level of intensity. Kevin Garnett, time traveling back a decade, sprinted up and down the court for dunks and lay-ins.
Ron Artest picked up two quick fouls. Phil Jax had to call a timeout to wake up his shell-shocked team, which couldn�t score or get stops, trailing 12-5.
Luke Walton came in for Artest and immediately, Laker spacing and ball movement improved markedly. Bigs got more touches in the paint. Less dribbling, more cutting. The refs started blowing the whistle, resulting in foul problems for Perkins, Rondo and Pierce. Surely, those in attendance had to wonder whether Bennett Salvatore was destined to fuck them over yet again.
Lamar Odom banked in a ridiculous three that took all the air out of the building. On the flip side, the fugly shots that Boston was throwing up had no such luck, grazing the backboard and the front of the rim.
Laker guards clearly got the memo that it was not, in fact, OK to play under screens on Hall Of Fame sharpshooter, Ray Allen. Forced to dribble out of his sweet spots, Allen never found his rhythm, finishing an abysmal 0-13 from the floor, a game after setting an NBA Finals record for 3s made in one contest.
LA maintained control and a comfortable lead throughout most of the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Kobe Bryant was determined to make his mark on the game and aggressively look for his shot, prompting Mark Jackson to break out his �Kobe or not Kobe� Hamlet reference that made me puke in my mouth a little (Someone, anyone, give this clown a coaching gig so we don�t have to tolerate his ridiculous clich�s!). When Bryant threw in a left-handed floater off a spin move, even the biggest Laker hater probably had a bit of a chubby.
Still the Cs hung around. Behind KG�s continued marksmanship and some inspired play from Glenn Davis, the home team closed to within six to end the 3rd, 67-61.
Boston carried that momentum over into the 4th, a quarter they�d won in each of the first two games so far. The crowd sensed another Laker collapse and broke into their Beat LA chant. Rondo scored inside to get Boston within 68-67, prompting another Jackson time out.
Then an unlikely thing happened: Derek Fisher took over, putting up eleven huge points in the 4th quarter. And he didn�t just make open spot-ups; the man scored in every way imaginable. While Boston's D was hounding Kobe into long contested long jumpers, Fish was putting his head down and attacking. On the game�s crucial sequence, Fisher got the ball on the break and scored over/through/around three different Celtic defenders for an and-one that gave LA an 87-80 lead and effectively clinched a 2-1 series advantage.
After the game, Fish did an interview with Doris Burke and teared up a bit. It was as if he suddenly realized how magnificent he�d been and was humbled by it. A truly touching display of vulnerability. Then again, he might have been having a Jesus Moment.
So LA stole back the home court. Now it�s on Boston to prove their mettle once again. Somehow, I don't think that'll be a problem.
Pictured: emotional rescuer