Say what you want about refs not allowing Ray Allen to play (that fifth foul was a joke though), or excusing Kevin Garnett’s atrocious play to a lingering injury, the Boston Celtics were out hustled, out worked, and out manned by the Los Angeles Lakers last night. In all the ways Boston could lose a game in these finals I never in a million years expected pure desire to be the culprit. Pau Gasol was left to roam the paint, like the wild, neck-bearded beast he is, and grabbed eight offensive rebounds. By contrast the Celtic whose primary responsibility is stopping Gasol, Kevin Garnett, had four total boards, two offensive.
But this game isn’t the end of the world. The possibility of splitting the series heading back to Boston remains on Sunday night, and the Celtics will be ready. All weekend long the they’ll hear how great Gasol is, how Ron Artest got inside Paul Pierce’s head, and how Kobe was able to score at will (including that remarkably meaningless three-pointer with four seconds left. Attaboy Kobe!). The Celtics lost by 13 points, 10 if Kobe doesn’t choose to jack up that classless shot at the end. It wasn’t game three against Cleveland. Just a loss. Nearly everybody played awful on the team. There isn’t a single player, including Rajon Rondo, who stepped up and took over, although you could make a case for Paul Pierce, but the game was over by then.
As a group the Celtics played their second worst game of this postseason last night. They showed no intention of winning and their mental toughness waned in the looming shadows of Joe Crawford, Joe DeRosa and Derrick Stafford. Kendrick Perkins played like the invisible man and Rajon Rondo looked startled that Bryant began the game covering him.
I still believe Boston is the better team, and this series has a long way to go before things are set in stone. They’ll split it on Sunday then get back to playing real Celtics basketball in Boston.