Going into the fourth quarter, the Lakers only held a six point lead, a far cry from the 17-point lead that the Lakers held earlier in the game. With their new found momentum, the Celtics opened up the fourth with two Glen Davis layups followed by a Rajon Rondo lay up, cutting the Laker lead down to one.
With 8:56, the Lakers savvy veteran got to the rim to stop the bleeding. His layup pushed the lead back to three points. After a Kevin Garnett jumper and a Davis free throw, he went to work again, hitting a barrage of jumpers and leaners in the paint.
6:20 – 12 footer in the lane after creating space from Ray Allen
5:33 – 19 foot jumper to extend the lead to six points
4:33 – 15 footer following two straight Glen Davis buckets
We’ve become accustomed to scoring barrages like this since 1996. Kobe Bryant has always had the ability to light up the box score in short periods of time. Eight points in just over four minutes isn’t something we haven’t seen before – but this time it wasn’t from Kobe. It was Derek Fisher who almost single handedly kept the Lakers alive with the Celtics threatening to retake their first lead since just under five minutes left in the first quarter. And it would be Fisher who would ice the game. With just under a minute left to play, Fish grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed the ball and scored while getting fouled. His free throw moved the lead to seven and completely out of reach for the Celtics.
It’s always great to see a guy like Derek Fisher come through in the clutch. 11 points in the fourth quarter, closing the game for the Lakers much like his draft mate Kobe has done countless times over the years. It’s the ability to close games that gets you championships – the Glengarry Glen Ross principle as I like to call it:
To win championships, you have to know your ABCs. You have to Always Be Closing. In Game 2, the Lakers were given the conjectural Glengarry leads (a three-point lead with about five minutes left to play) and they couldn’t close the door. The leads were thrown away, allowing the Celtics to close and go back to Boston with home court advantage. Game 3, the opposite happened. The Celtics put them in a position to take another win from the Lakers and Derek Fisher came through for the Lakers despite the poor shooting from Kobe and huge game from Kevin Garnett. To further the GGR analogy, Game 3 can be broken down into four categories: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Decision and Action).
Attention: The Lakers really paid more attention to detail in Game 3, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought the Lakers did a fantastic job on Ray Allen. The Laker bigs were showing on screens, not allowing Allen to get off uncontested jumpers. They packed the paint when Paul Pierce had the ball, not allowing him to get going. He made three 3-pointers, but you can live with that when he isn’t able to get to the rim or knock down that shot he loves to take at the elbow. Keeping Pierce on the perimeter also meant keeping him off of the free throw line. Rajon Rondo didn’t come anywhere near 10 rebounds this game and was held to 11 points. Kevin Garnett finally got going scoring 25, but he was making a lot of tough, contested shots. I can live with that if the Celtics, especially since the rest of the Celtics only scored 59 points.
Interest: One of the things about Lamar Odom is, on nights where he’s not playing well, he looks disinterested. Tonight was not one of those games. Odom came in right away and created a good look for Pau Gasol which led to two free throws. 12 points and five rebounds are a far cry from his most productive game of the season, but it was a huge improvement from his first two games. I also thought he made one of the biggest plays of the game that won’t be found on the box score. With about 1:45 left to play, Pau Gasol and Kobe had to switch on a Rondo-Garnett screen and roll. Kobe was on the block guarding a hot Kevin Garnett (he had just made two straight shots on Gasol) one-on-one. Lamar Odom rotated over from the right block to double-team Garnett, which ended in a Garnett turnover. (You also have to give some credit to Ron Artest for rotating down to a wide open Glen Davis, who was having a great quarter at that point, also. Garnett saw him as Artest rotated down, if not for Odom and Artest, the lead is cut to two, and the Fish three point play probably doesn’t happen.)
Decision: The Lakers offense in the first half was much improved from what it was in Game 2. The ball was constantly moving, guys were moving without the ball, and most importantly, they were making quick decisions. For much of Game 2, I wondered what happened to the crisp passing and quick, smart decisions that gave the Lakers the Game 1 win. Well, those offensive principles came back for Game 3. There were very few possessions in the first half where the ball was held for too long, there wasn’t any over dribbling and the Lakers were attacking the rim which gave them the 12 point edge going into the half. Those principles disappeared in the third quarter, allowing the Celtics to come roaring back into the game. The Lakers decisiveness is going to be key in Game 4.
Action: Action is simply the state of doing, and the Lakers had loads of action in Game 3. They were active on the boards (43 to 35 advantage), they were active defensively and they were active when their collective backs were against the wall. Before the game, I talked with a friend about how I’d like to see the Lakers win a tough one in Game 3. There is nothing that puts more confidence in a group of guys winning a tough playoff game on the road – especially when it’s the NBA Finals in the Boston Garden. The Lakers acted upon the Celtics initial run by closing out the 1st quarter on a 21 to five run. After a big lead, the Celtics made it much closer than it should have been, but he Lakers fought through the adversary and closed the game on an 8-2 run.
The Lakers are now in a great position as far as this series is concerned, but it’s not over. There are still two more games to be won before they can put up their 16th banner, but knowing that they’re only two games away from the title because of Derek Fisher’s clutch play down the stretch is a great feeling. Game 4 is on Thursday.