Images from historic matchup of Lakers, Celtics
LOS ANGELES - This was how the Boston Celtics of yesteryear — Cous and Russell and Bird and Hondo and the Chief — would do it. Digging deep, they fought for every loose ball, scrapping with grit and guts, champions clad in green.
These Celtics are no different.
And they are just one win from another NBA title.
“Yeah,” Kevin Garnett said. “I can taste it.”
In their comeback season, Boston saved its biggest one of all for the finals.
The Celtics rallied from a 24-point deficit and beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-91 on Thursday night to take a commanding 3-1 lead in this history-rich series and move within one victory of a 17th championship that seemed impossible a year ago.
“I don’t want to get overjoyed,” Paul Pierce said. “I want to go out there to try and win Game 5 on Father’s Day and then I’ll be able to breathe. Right now, I’m waiting to exhale.”
He’s not alone.
A rivalry between the league’s two most storied franchises — with some of the game’s biggest names and biggest moments — now has a rally for the ages.
No team had ever overcome more than a 15-point deficit after the first quarter, and Elias Sports Bureau said it was the largest comeback in the finals since 1971. One thing’s for sure, it will forever be remembered in the annals of Celtics-Lakers lore.
When the final horn sounded, Pierce, an L.A. kid playing in front of family and friends, doubled over in exhaustion and exuberance. The Celtics, the team he stuck with through 10 years, including a 24-win season in 2006-07, had done the impossible.
“It’s definitely a great win, one that you’re going to put up there in the library and break back out one day for your kids to watch,” Pierce said. “But I want nothing more than that ring right now.”
Pierce scored 20 points, Garnett had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Ray Allen had 19 points, two coming on a marvelous reverse layup in the fourth as Boston’s Big Three, thrown together last summer by general manager Danny Ainge to revive a franchise accustomed to hanging banners from the rafters, put the Lakers on the brink of a summer vacation.
It took an epic comeback to do it, and now the Celtics can reclaim their place atop pro basketball with a win in Game 5 on Sunday night in Los Angeles.
No team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
Kobe Bryant scored 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting but the league’s MVP couldn’t rescue the Lakers when they needed him most. Lamar Odom had 19 points — 15 in the first half — and Pau Gasol, whose addition in a midseason trade was supposed to give the Lakers their final piece to complement Bryant, had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Trailing by 18 points at halftime and seemingly done when they fell behind by 20 with 6:04 left in the third quarter, the Celtics outscored the Lakers 31-15 in the third quarter to pull within 73-71 going into the fourth.
The remarkable rally was reminiscent of what Los Angeles did in Game 2, when the Lakers trimmed a 24-point deficit to two in the fourth quarter before the Celtics regrouped to open a 2-0 lead. But Boston had another 12 minutes to finish off theirs, and the green-and-white did.
“Some turnaround in that game. The air went out of the building,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who was asked what he told his club afterward. “Well, it’s not over. This is not over. The series is not over.”
PBT: The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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