BOSTON -- Home-court advantage? What's that?
For the second time in three games, the visitor walked into unfriendly confines and walked out with a win. Tuesday night it was the Lakers stealing back the advantage they lost on Sunday with a 91-84 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Games 4 and 5 will be Thursday and Sunday in the TD (Boston) Garden.
It was clear from the start that Kobe Bryant was here to play. He had that certain kind of intensity that usually results in an elevated performance not only from himself but his teammates as well.
But he cooled in the fourth quarter shooting one for six, but the one basket gave the Lakers a four-point lead with 1:41 left to play. Instead the Lakers looked to veteran Derek Fisher, who scored 11 points in the final quarter, including a three-point play with 48 seconds left to give the Lakers a seven-point lead and eventually the win.
Bryant finished with 29 points on 10-for-29 shooting. He had seven rebounds and four assists. Fisher finished with 16 points.
It appeared the game was decided in the first quarter when the Lakers went on a 21-5 run and then started the second quarter with an 11-3 run. This all coming after the Celtics had a seven-point lead early in the game.
But the Celtics were able to chip away at it with a 21-15 third quarter and closed it to one point early in the fourth quarter. The largest Laker lead was 17 points in the first half.
Each team was able to find something missing from the first two games of the series.
The Celtics saw the return of Kevin Garnett, once a Bryant-like talent in the league who has been slowed by age (34). Garnett, who scored only six points in Game 2, came out fast and scored the first six points of the game and was a dominant factor throughout. He finished with 25 points.
The Lakers finally saw the re-emergence of Lamar Odom who put up only three and five points before Game 3. His presence was essential for the Lakers to give hurting center Andrew Bynum some rest. On Tuesday, he played 27 minutes and scored 12 points with five rebounds.
The crowd seemed to enjoy taunting Odom with chants of "Ugly sister" expressing their preference for reality star Kim Kardashian over Odom's wife Khloe, Kim's sister.
Perhaps a key reason the Celtics couldn't close the game was the awful performance of Ray Allen. In Game 2, he shot lights out with a Finals record eight three pointers, scoring 27 of his 32 points in the first half. Clearly, the Lakers figured out how to conatin him in that second half and were able to push that into Game 3. Tuesday he scored only two points, missing all 13 of his shots.
It was clear before Tuesday's game that both teams believed that winning this game was important, even more so for the Celtics who didn't want to surrender the homecourt advantage they just gained on Sunday.
But, with only one day in between games--and that was a travel day--making necessary changes wouldn't be easy.
"It's funny, the adjustments that both teams have talked about from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3 is better focus, better execution and doing it harder and doing it tougher," said Celtics Coach Doc Rivers before the game. "(But at this stage of the season) there's not going to be a lot of changes. But, mental changes are going to be key, and it will be in this game."
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was more pragmatic in his view of the things both teams needed to do better.
"I think the two-day break in between (Games 1 and 2) . . . was an opportunity for the Celtics to really make some changes and adjustments," Jackson said. "And their adjustments were better than ours. We didn't meet what they were going to do, and they beat us to the punch."
There was no question the Lakers were not beaten to the punch on Tuesday. And if the Celtics can't rally on Tuesday, this series is close to a knockout.
John Cherwa reported from Los Angeles.
Final, Lakers 91, Celtics 84
The Lakers took back home-court advantage by holding on for a 91-84 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, overcoming a poor shooting night and the resurrection of Kevin Garnett, who had struggled in the first two games and finished with 25 points.
The victory gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 on Thursday and Game 5 Sunday, both in Boston before the series returns to Los Angeles, assuming the Lakers don't sweep in Boston.
With a minute left, Ray Allen missed an open three-pointer, the Lakers got the rebound and Derek Fisher drove the length of the court, made the bucket and went to the line with 48 seconds left. He made the shot for an 87-80 lead that they managed to hold onto.
Allen had a monumental turnaround from Game 2, when he made eight three-point shots and scored 32 points. The missed three-pointer left him 0 for 13 for the game.
Kobe Bryant scored 29 points but was 10 for 29 from the field. The Lakers shot 45% and the Celtics shot 44%.
Video reviews played a huge role in the closing minutes.
The Lakers seemed to get a big break with 1:29 left when officials had called for Celtics ball after Kobe Bryant had apparently knocked the ball out of Garnett's hands. But a video review reversed the call and gave it to the Lakers. Seconds later, another call was reviewed and the ball, originally called a jump ball, went to the Celtics.
Then with 39 seconds left after a missed free throw by Paul Pierce, Odom could not corral the rebound and the ball was given to the Lakers before a review gave the ball to the Celtics with the Celtics up, 87-82. The Celtics couldn't score on that possession.
Fourth quarter, 2:17 remaining: Lakers 82, Celtics 78
After Derek Fisher gave the Lakers a six-point lead, Glen Davis went straight inside and scored on a three-point play to cut the lead to three, but Fisher, proving that he's still got plenty of big-game ability, banked home a shot to make it a five-point lead again. Fisher has eight points in the fourth quarter.
But Paul Pierce hit a three-pointer (he's three for 10 from the field, but three for four from three-point range) and the Celtics were within two. Lamar Odom, who had played well in the first half but been quiet since, drove the baseline for basked before shots by Garnett and Pau Gasol left it a four point game.
Ray Allen has continued to miss and is 0 for 12 from the field.
Fourth quarter, 5:40 remaining: Lakers 74 , Celtics 70
The Lakers almost seem to be trying to throw up desperation shots as the shot clock winds down, with nothing doing on offense and one bad possession after another. The Celtics got to within two at 72-70 on a free throw by Glen Davis.
But Derek Fisher, who had given the Lakers a 70-67 lead minutes earlier, hit a pullup shot after another scattered Lakers possession to give the Lakers a 74-70 edge. Bryant is nine for 26 from the field.
Fourth quarter, 9:45 remaining: Lakers 68, Celtics 67
Glen Davis scored inside to cut the Lakers lead to four at the start of the fourth period, bringing some life to the Celtics crowd. Paul Pierce committed his fifth foul, with 11:21 to play, and had to sit.
Davis, working against Lamar Odom, bulled his way inside to cut the lead to three with 10 Âœ minutes left, giving the Celtics solid play off the bench.
The Lakers are unsettled on offense, Bryant barely getting off a three-point shot before the shot clock expired, then Rajon Rondo bringing the ball downcourt and driving hard to the basket to make it a one-point game at 68-67
End of third quarter: Lakers 67, Celtics 61
Kobe Bryant resorted to one-on-one basketball and threw up three very tough shots that didn't go in, and the Celtics, who had trailed by 17 in the first half, cut the lead to four when Tony Allen scored inside with 37 seconds left in the quarter.
But Pau Gasol's shot from the right wing put the Lakers back up by six near the end of the period.
Neither team is setting any shooting records. Bryant has 22 points but has made only nine of 23 shots. The Lakers are shooting 44%, the Celtics 38%.
Third quarter, 3:04 remaining: Lakers 62, Celtics 54
The Lakers and Celtics are essentially trading baskets in what has become a sloppier stretch for both teams, and trading baskets favors the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant, off a nifty feed from Pau Gasol down the lane and on a pullup jumper, is providing the scoring for the Lakers. No bulletin there.
The Celtics are remaining within shouting distance without Ray Allen, who had been so dominant in Game 2 but has disappeared in Game 3. He has missed all 11 of his shots from the field.
Third quarter, 6:09 remaining: Lakers 58, Celtics 49
Through halftime, it had been a game of streaks, with the Lakers clearly getting the better of things. The Celtics jumped to their 12-5 lead, but the Lakers closing out the first quarter with a 21-5 run, then starting the second quarter with an 11-3 advantage as the Celtics missed shot after shot and struggled to find any rhythm on offense.
Boston opened the third quarter with a small run of its own.
The Lakers started the second half with the starting five of Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and Ron Artest, but the Celtics began cutting into the lead with Kevin Garnett scoring on a turnaround, Paul Pierce hitting a three, and Ray Allen finally scoring on two free throws to cut the lead to 54-47.
Bryant stalled that rally with a tough fadeaway jumper, but with the Lakers continuing to hit the boards (their rebounding edge is 34-26), they kept their lead at nine going into the timeout. Garnett leads all scorers with 19 points; Bryant has 18.
Halftime: Lakers 52, Celtics 40
The Lakers rode a balanced scoring attack while two of the Celtics' Big 3 were ice cold in the first half as the Lakers took a 12-point lead.
Kobe Bryant hit a jumper with about a minute go make it, 50-39; Bryant leads the Lakers with 16 points. Andrew Bynum has nine points.
Throughout the half the Lakers grabbed more loose balls than the Celtics and clearly out-hustled Boston on the glass. With about two minutes to go under the Lakers' basket, Kevin Garnett could not secure a rebound, Kobe Bryant saved the possession and in the air fed Pau Gasol with a deft pass, who scored, was fouled, and made a three-point play to make it 46-35.
Paul Pierce hit a three-pointer, after missing his first six shots from the field, with about three minutes left in the half, but the Celtics' star missed missed seven of eight shots in the half.
And Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen, who scored 27 points in the first half of Game 3, was scoreless in the first half tonight, missing all five shots.
The Lakers also are winning the free throw battle: hitting 13 of 15, while the Celtics were only six of 12 from the free throw line.
Second quarter, 3:27 remaining: Lakers 41, Celtics 31
The Lakers are out-hustling the Celtics on the boards, with 24 rebounds to 19 for the Celtics.
Pau Gasol scored on a fast break dunk from Kobe Bryant to make it 41-29 shortly before the timeout.
Paul Pierce missed an awkward shot moving to his right in the paint, that's 0 for 6 in the game. Pierce is still scoreless, as is Ray Allen.
Bryant leads the Lakers with 10 points.
Second quarter, 5:55 remaining: Lakers 37, Celtics 26
Rajon Rondo drew a foul on Derek Fisher just before the timeout.
All the Lakers' starters were back in the game.
It's largely been a half-court game so far with only four fast break points for Boston, and three for the Lakers.
But the Lakers bench is outperforming Boston's: The Lakers' reserves have 16 points to only eight for Boston.
Second quarter, 7:14 remaining: Lakers 37, Celtics 24
The boo birds are out in Boston.
Paul Pierce is scoreless after 14 minutes on the court, having missed all five shots, and was booed when he missed a long jumper; as was backup guard Nate Robinson.
The Celtics are shooting 37% from the field, compared to 52% for the Lakers.
Shannon Brown hit an open jumper to make it 31-17 with 10:42 remaining, forcing Doc Rivers to call a 20-second timeout.
Kobe Bryant started the second quarter, which is unusual. He scored on another drive to the hoop, drawing a foul on Glen Davis. Bryant hit the free throw to extend the lead to 29-17.
End of First Quarter: Lakers 26, Celtics 17
Lamar Odom scored on a layup and drew a foul on Rasheed Wallace with 0.7 seconds left, and hit the free throw to give the Lakers a nine-point lead.
Lakers took the lead in part because they were more aggressive at drawing fouls, and shot 11 free free throws, making nine, to only one point for the Celtics from the free throw line.
Kobe Bryant played almost the entire quarter and leads the Lakers with seven points.
Kevin Garnett had a big quarter, with 10 points in nine minutes, but the Celtics offense dried up when he left the game.
Three Celtics have two fouls: Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo.
Pierce has not scored, missing all five of his shots, as has Ray Allen.
First quarter, 2:59 remaining: Lakers 18, Celtics 16
The Lakers' offense is opening up, finally, as they have taken a lead late in the opening quarter.
Pau Gasol scored on a give and go from Kobe Bryant to make it 18-16.
Bryant hit a jumper and drew a foul on Rajon Rondo (though replays showed it was a bad call); Byrant hit the free throw to give the Lakers their first lead, 13-12.
So far Boston is winning the battle in the paint, 14-6, over the Lakers.
After the first timeout Luke Walton bailed out the Lakers as the clock was dwindling and hit a turnaround jumper.
Kendrick Perkins picked up his second foul and went to the bench, replaced by Rasheed Wallace. And Lamar Odom came in for Andrew Bynum.
Ray Allen is not off to a hot start; he has missed his first four shots.
First quarter, 7:41 remaining: Celtics 12, Lakers 5
The Celtics are playing with far more energy, feeding off the crowd noise as Phil Jackson feared.
Rajon Rondo scored two hoops under the basket in succession, including one before the first timeout to give Boston a seven-point lead.
Kevin Garnett scored the first six points for the Celtics, including a dunk, and two baskets in the paint, as Boston took a quick 6-0 lead.
Ron Artest picked up two fouls in about two and a half minutes and was replaced by Luke Walton. Kobe Bryant has taken only one shot and is scoreless.
It's noisier at TD Garden than it was at Staples Center for Games 1 and 2, but it's not the full-throated frenzy in Boston as it was for the NBA Finals in 2008 when the Celtics beat the Lakers to win the title.
Many Boston fans around the arena are wearing green and white t-shirts with the phrase: "Beat LA Again".
Before the game Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said that the Lakers lost Sunday in part because the Celtics' adjustments for Game 2 "were better than ours...they beat us to the punch."
With only one day between Games 3 and Game 4, Jackson wants to get reserve Lamar Odom into tonight's game earlier to give center Andrew Bynum a breather; Bynum has an injured right knee but played 39 minutes Sunday.
In tonight's game Jackson said it was important for the Lakers to withstand the noise of the crowd and the adrenalin the Celtics will have playing at home. "The early momentum is what we're going to have to check," he said.
Gambling site Beted.com pegs the Celtics as 2 1/2 point favorites.
-- Barry Stavro, Reporting from Boston