If so, the Celtics will win in 5. Make no mistake about it; this was an elimination game for the Lakers. You don't come back from 0-3, ever. The Celtics wanted to win this game, but the Lakers absolutely had to. Yet the Celtics still had the opportunity to steal it from them.
It would have been stealing too, because the Celtics simply didn't have the offensive firepower to win the game in legitimate fashion. Ray Allen was a man on an island, wondering when the other 2 amigos were going to come paddling up and save him. They never did.
You can blame the foul trouble for Paul's shooting woes. Perhaps the lack of playing time didn't let him find his rhythm. Or you could blame jetlag for just about anyone's poor performance. But the bottom line is that Pierce just didn't have it last night, and that's ok. He gets a free pass for all the hero work he's done to get us this far. He's proven that he can score against this Laker team and he'll be back for games 4 and 5.
You can complain all night about Kevin Garnett's reluctance to take the ball to the hoop with regularity (I know I do). But that's really not his game and he didn't even have much success down low when he did try. Give credit to the Laker defense for forcing him outside. He still chipped in with a modest double-double and maintained his focus defensively. Like Pierce, he'll show up for games 4 and 5. I have no doubt.
The Lakers have reason to doubt Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Pau at least had some big buckets and rebounds in the 4th to help his team win. But the rest of the game he was window dressing at best, finishing with just 9 points. Odom has gone from translucent in game 1 to completely invisible by the end of game 3. He had more turnovers (5) and fouls (5) than points (4). Neither one has made much of a dent in this series and frankly neither one scares me.
None of this should suggest that the Lakers should be taken lightly. In fact, they are a cornered dog, and Kobe in particular has a lot of bite left in him. One way to beat the Lakers is to "let Kobe get his" and limit the rest of the team. Of course the problem with that strategy is that sometimes Kobe wins games all by himself (or with a little bit of help from someone like Sasha Vujacic). There's the rub.
Still, I don't want this to get lost in the hand wringing following game 3: The Celtics defense was still very strong last night. There were blocked shots, altered shots, deflected passes, steals, and just an overall bothering of the Lakers offensive players. However, a few things conspired against that strong defense.
For one thing, the Celtics offense was about as bad as you will see it, managing only 81 points on 35% shooting. A lot of missed shots and turnovers turned into transition opportunities for the Lakers. Even if the fast break wasn't there, the Lakers were still able to get into the offense quickly, not allowing the Boston D to set up. In addition, it didn't help that Kobe was much more aggressive going to the basket. Something he didn't do much until late in game 2. By the end of the game, the Celtics were on their heels and Kobe took over.
Still, with all of that the Celtics were still right there, hanging around. A big third quarter actually gave us the lead for a while. In games 1 and 2, the Celtics proved they can play much better. So far, the Lakers have not. That doesn't mean that they won't come out and play great in the next game. Home cooking and a day of rest might be enough to light a fire under them. They just haven't proven anything yet.
Was this their best shot? If it was, we have nothing to worry about.