Kobe had his "game face" on right from the beginning and while the Celtics jumped out to a 6-0 lead in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers would go on a 15-1 spurt in the first quarter to take control early. It was 37-20 LA into the second quarter and 52-40 LA by the half. The Celtics were actually lucky to not be further down, as they made just 6-of-12 FTs in the first half while misfiring on all but two of their 13 three-point attempts. Boston did win the third quarter 21-15 to trail by six entering the 4th, but although they closed to 68-67 at one point, would lose 91-84.
Kobe scored 25 points the first three quarters but was scoreless during the first 10 minutes of the 4th quarter. He ended with 29 points (seven rebounds and four assists), although he made just 10-of-29 shots, including 1-of-7 threes. Fisher had 16 points (11 in the 4th quarter on 5-of-7 shooting), adding to his impressive playoff legacy. Gasol and Bynum each had 10 rebounds, plus Odom finally contributed, scoring 12 points (5-of-5 FGs) and adding five rebounds. Artest did another outstanding job guarding Pierce (more on that later) plus stayed out of the offense (took just four shots, scoring two points), which I continue to contend is a good thing.
KG scored 16 points in Game 1 but was not a factor, then was in foul trouble early in Game 2, scoring just six points and grabbing four rebounds. He made 11-of-16 shots Tuesday (25 points) but his effort was wasted. Still, KG has to average more than 4.7 RPG! Rondo looked average (11-3-8) plus Pierce was again shut down (mostly by Artest). He made just 5-of-12 shots for 12 points and is shooting 36.1 percent this series, while averaging 12.5 PPG the last two games, after scoring 24 in Game 1. Ray Allen, Game 2's hero with a NBA Finals record eight three-pointers (32 points), missed all 13 of his shots (was 0-of-8 on threes).
It's hard to put all the blame on Allen but he did fall one shot shy of the NBA Finals' all-time worst shooting performance. A check of the history books revels that Baltimore's Chick Reiser missed all 14 shots in a 1948 Finals game against Philadelphia and Dennis Johnson matched that effort of futility for Seattle against Washington in 1978. If Allen and Boston fans are looking for some good news, let me point out that Baltimore won the NBA Finals that year in six games and while Johnson's 'goose egg' came in Game 7 of the 1978 Finals (won by Washington), Johnson and the Sonics returned to the NBA Finals the very next season and beat that same Washington team in a seven-games series, with Johnson being named Finals MVP.
Kobe's shooting just 39.4 percent in the series but is averaging 26.7-6.3-5.3. Gasol, as I've stated many times before, has elevated himself to elite status with his play this year and is averaging 20.1-10.8 this postseason (shooting 56.6 percent), including 20.3-10.7 this series (shooting 57.1 percent). Talk about consistency. Bynum missed the 2008 Finals due to an injury but has made his presence felt in 2010, averaging 13.3-7.3 (on 52.0 percent shooting). Are the Lakers in the driver's seats after their Game 3 win? History would say yes. Actually, considering Jackson-coached teams are 47-0 all-time after winning Game 1 of a series (23-0 with LA), maybe this series was over after LA's Game 1 win?
I hardly doubt the Lakers felt comfortable though after losing Game 2. However, their Game 3 win surely helped. You couldn't help but have heard (at least 200 times!) that since The Finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, there have been 10 previous instances of a series being tied 1-1. In all 10 cases, the Game 3 winner went on to win the title. Delve back a little deeper in the NBA history books and you'll find that the Game 3 winner of a series that was tied 1-1 has gone on to win The Finals 28 of 32 times!
I've pointed out for years that this 2-3-2 format is tough on the team playing the middle three games at home and Boston's loss in Game 3 drops the overall record of teams playing Games 3-5 at home since 1985 to a pathetic 35-37 (.486). Compare that to the 48-20 (.706) record of teams playing Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home in this format. Paul Pierce boldly (foolishly?) declared while leaving the court in LA after Boston's Game 2 win, "We're not coming back." Pierce and his teammates now sure hope he was wrong.
Game 4 is set for Thursday at 9:00 ET on ABC. The Celtics are favored by 3 1/2 points and the total is 190 1/2 (as of Wednesday afternoon). Home teams are 1-2 SU and ATS in The Finals with two of the three games staying under. That makes home teams 50-28 (.641) this postseason, going 45-33 (57.7 percent) ATS. There have been 37 overs, 38 unders and three pushes for those playing totals. Those following the Zig Zag theory got "carried out" in the semis and conference finals going a combined 6-18 ATS, but are a perfect 2-0 ATS in The Finals. However, they are still 27-36 this postseason, or minus 12.6 net games.
My next journal will be posted Saturday by 12 noon ET.