BOSTON -- Kobe Bryant's expressive jaw and atomic swagger made their Game 4 appearance early in the third quarter. For a moment, after connecting on several tricky shots, it seemed as if Bryant was embarking on one of those trademark Ko-Me scoring outbursts. It had to be coming. It had to be.
It never truly did. In the end, the scowl didn't frighten Boston, and the Celtics eventually wiped the smirk off Bryant's face by making him work for every step, every drive, and every shot. Hell, every breath.
In the ugliest game of these NBA Finals, the Celtics saved themselves with some grit and a strong bench performance while the Lakers will remember their 96-89 loss as a blown opportunity.
Blown opportunity isn't the apt phrase. There needs to be different wording to describe the softness Los Angeles displayed in the fourth quarter of this game. Cottony. Fluffy. Baby's bottom?
What Glen Davis did to the invisible Lamar Odom, the perimeter-obsessed Pau Gasol and the crippled Andrew Bynum made you almost feel sorry for the three men. Davis used elbow grease and Aretha Franklin-like hips to abuse the Lakers bigs.
Game 4: Celtics 96, Lakers 89
Notes: Rondo's critical steal
|Schedule and Results|
Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Game 2: Celtics 103, Lakers 94
Game 3: Lakers 91, Celtics 84
Game 4: Celtics 96, Lakers 89
Game 5: 8 p.m. ET - Sunday, June 13 (Boston)
Game 6: 9 p.m. ET - Tuesday, June 15 (L.A.)
Game 7: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 17 (L.A.)
After awhile, none of the Lakers players wanted a piece of Davis. They backed away like children who believe they had just seen a bogeyman in the closet.
The only thing Davis should ever outhustle anyone over is the Thanksgiving turkey.
Yet there he was, beating every inside Lakers player to loose balls and open spots on the floor.
In fact, that's what every Celtics player was doing to every Lakers player.
"They got all the energy points, the hustle points, second-chance points, points in the paint," Bryant said, "beat us to the loose balls. I mean, that's how the game turned around."
We haven't truly seen the soft underbelly of the Lakers in some time -- maybe since the 2008 Boston-Los Angeles Finals. That's what makes what happened in the fourth quarter of this game so shocking. That didn't look like the new and improved tough-guy Lakers.
Bynum, Gasol and Odom combined for two offensive rebounds in over 97 minutes of play. That led to Boston having a two-to-one advantage in second-chance points.
The Celtics were tougher. They were meaner and -- for the first time in these Finals -- they were nasty. That should concern the Lakers. A lot.
"I thought their animation and their activity level, you know, affected us," Phil Jackson said of the Celtics. "Guys wanted to get back into it with them a couple of times. Nate Robinson and the chatter that went back and forth there ... every time we got guys composed a little bit, we got back into the game but we couldn't get the momentum back."
|The stats tell the story: Pau Gasol has six rebounds in 44 minutes, while Kendrick Perkins has seven boards in 25 minutes. (AP)|
The Lakers are going to absolutely smack themselves in the head for the next several days as the chance to crush the Celtics' spirit slipped through their soft fingers.
Had Los Angeles won Game 4, in effect, the series would've been over. And they had this game. They had it.
Davis was asked how he felt about driving hard to the basket repeatedly and his response was simple. "I just felt like a beast," he said.
The Celtics were the monsters and Los Angeles the lambs.
The Lakers are going to regret their sheepish performance.