Kobe scored 33 points (had 10 of LA final 12 points) and Gasol added 21 points (six rebounds) for the Lakers in Game 4 but it was not enough to overcome poor efforts by just about all the other Lakers. Bynum (two points and three rebounds) was limited to just 12 minutes (all in the first half), as his sore right knee is becoming a big issue in this series. Artest was "defensively challenged" in Game 4 plus he continues to be an offensive 'nightmare' (27.3 percent on threes this postseason). Fisher aded just six points (five fewer that he had in the 4th quarter of Game 3, alone) plus Odom is the only bench player contributing for LA and his 10 points was not nearly enough with Bynum not playing in the second half. LA led 45-42 at the half and Boston was fortunate to not be down further, as the Celtics missed seven shots inside of five feet in the first quarter alone and made just 4-of-8 FTs in the first half. LA took a 62-60 lead into the fourth quarter and was just one quarter away from taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series (no team has ever overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals). However, the Celtics would win the 4th quarter 36-27 and the game, 96-89, to even the series at two-all. Boston's bench outscored LA's 36-18 for the game (Odom accounted for 10 of LA's 18 bench points).
"Big Baby" had 18 points and Nate Robinson 12 in 17 minutes. During a 9:09 stretch of the final period, Rivers allowed Davis, Robinson, Tony Allen and Rasheed in for 14 possessions, as that predominately 'back up" group outscored its LA counterparts by 10 points! Doc will never catch Phil in the "title department" but he's sure acquitted himself well this regular season (rested his 'old' players down the stretch to be ready for the postseason), as well as in series in the playoffs vs the Cavs, Magic and now Phil's Lakers.
Pierce came out strong in the first quarter (10 points) and played his best game of the series. He had 19 points and for the first time, won his 'battle' with Artest. KG had a quiet game (13-6), plus Allen (12) and Rondo (10) shot a combined 9-of-26 from the floor, meaning Boston's key players were hardly major factors in the win. Home teams are now 51-28 SU (.646) this postseason, going 46-33 (58.2 percent) ATS. The game stayed under and we've now had 37 overs, 39 unders and three pushes this postseason. Boston's win gave "Zig-Zaggers" a perfect 3-0 mark in The Finals but they are still just 28-36 or minus-11.6 net games for the entire postseason.
Game 5 is set for Sunday at 8:05 ET (on ABC). Boston is favored by three points and the total is 187 1/2 (as of Saturday afternoon). Setting the stage for the importance of winning Game 5 is fairly easy. Game 5 winners in best of-of-seven series tied at two-all have gone on to win 130 of the previous 156 series (that's 83.3 percent) in NBA postseason history. Much has been made of the current 2-3-2 format these last 25 years and taking a microscope to the EIGHT series which have been tied at two-all since 1985, we find that Game 5 winners have gone on to capture the series SIX times.
The exceptions have been the 1988 Pistons, who won Game 5 at home but then lost Games 6 and 7 in LA, plus the 1994 Knicks, who won Game 5 at home but then lost Games 6 and 7 in Houston. It's interesting to note that home teams in these Game 5s (under the 2-3-2 format) are just 4-4 SU, when a series has been tied at two-all and just TWO of the four Game 5 winners have been able to eventually win the series (the '85 Lakers and the '06 Heat). In contrast, the four visiting teams to have won their Games 5s, have all gone on to take the title. Three teams won in six games (the '92 Bulls, the '97 Bulls and the '03 Spurs) and a fourth won in seven (the '05 Spurs).
A Boston loss puts the Celtics in a major 'hole' and while a Boston win gives them a 'leg up,' as the '88 Pistons and '94 Knicks will attest, winning even one of the last two games on the road can be a "bridge too far." As I continue to remind all, this 2-3-2 format is very tough on the team with Games 3-5 at home. Boston's win in Game 4 makes it just 36-37 SU for those teams in this format, compared to the 48-20 SU mark of teams playing Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home. My next journal will be available by 3:00 ET on Monday.