Desperate, Emotional Celtics Outwork Shorthanded Lakers
"It feels different," he said.
It was different.
A little less boisterous. A lot more tense. Game 3 had done that to Beantown, the Lakers win on their parquet floor making the most maniacal of fans wonder if they were mad for believing this band of oldies-but-goodies could actually fell these defending champions.
Nearly three hours later, the Celtics had brought it all back.
Boston -- the city and the team -- recaptured its hope with a 96-89 win. And if ever there was a way to tap into the psyche of a working man's town at the most opportune of times, it was by outworking their way to a 2-2 series tie.
The Celtics had the drive, the determination, the heart -- if not the trophy -- of champions. Glen Davis was the unexpected aorta, pumping life into his team's green veins from beginning to end. He started early, bumping fearlessly into Ron Artest and puffing his cheeks like a locomotive with too much charcoal when his first quarter layup in traffic put Boston up five with the ensuing free throw. It was his fourth quarter, however, that will go down in Boston lore if the Celtics find a way to win twice more in the next three games.
With coach Doc Rivers leaving Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo on the bench for all but 2:51 of the fourth quarter, Davis scored nine of his 18 points in bull-in-the-china shop fashion while taking full advantage of the absence of the ailing Andrew Bynum (knee) down the stretch. Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, and Nate Robinson followed suit, with Ray Allen the lone starter to see significant time in the final quarter as he played all 12 minutes. The Celtics hit 12 of 19 shots in the final period (63.2 percent) in which they outscored the Lakers 36-27.
Rivers even called some of his starters back to the bench with four minutes left, later explaining that he had decided to leave his reserves in so long as the lead didn't dip below six points. Davis was the poster boy of this relentless style, grabbing a team-high four of the Celtics' 16 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second-chance points.
"I just felt like a beast," the cartoonish and comedic Davis said afterward while sharing the press conference podium with Robinson. "Really, I'm going to just be honest with you. I just felt like I couldn't be denied. ... If a rebound was in my vicinity, or if the ball was going to be laid up, I just felt like I just couldn't be denied.
"There's not too many times you get a chance to be in the Finals and be a part of something so great that you can never really imagine yourself even being here. I just couldn't be denied today."
Robinson took the grit to a new level early in the fourth quarter, pressuring Jordan Farmar on the perimeter before crawling into his lap to poke the ball away and dive on the floor for a steal and quick timeout. Perkins, who enjoyed the show put on by the reserves like the rest of the starters, pumped his fist from the bench.
"They got all the energy points, the hustle points, second-chance points, points in the paint (54 to 34 Celtics advantage), beat us to loose balls," said Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who had 33 points but was just 10 of 22 from the field with seven of his team's 15 turnovers. "I mean, that's how the game turned around."
Davis started the furious 36-point fourth quarter off just like he would finish it, barreling along the baseline and hitting a reverse layup 44 seconds in that put Boston up 67-62. It continued from there, with no sequence more pivotal than his three-point play with 8:22 remaining.
After a Ray Allen 18-footer put Boston up 68-64 and the crowd of 18,624 had long since returned to its Game 3 level of dominating din, Davis blocked a Shannon Brown drive attempt and put back a missed Tony Allen layup on the other end before hitting the free throw for a 71-64 edge. Yet before he had reached the line, Robinson -- who was huge in his own right with 12 points in 17 minutes -- informed his teammate that he was slobbering.
"I tried to wipe it," Robinson said.
Davis wasn't about to apologize for his sanitary shortcomings.
"Let me tell you something right quick," he said. "When you're in the moment, you're in the moment. If I slobber, snot, spit, please excuse me. Kids, don't do that. Have manners and things like that."
The Celtics' manners were sorely lacking at some of the most crucial times, as their desperation sparked a game of emotional Russian Roulette that they survived. Rasheed Wallace, who contested his shooting foul against Kobe Bryant with 7:46 remaining, earned a technical for his demonstrative power walk/protest around the perimeter. Robinson was whistled for a technical less than two minutes later, when he jumped off the floor to confront Lamar Odom after he had been knocked out of bounds.
Even Paul Pierce -- who had 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting, six rebounds and five assists -- pushed the expressive envelope. After a driving layup in the first quarter, Pierce celebrated with a fiery punch to the air that connected with the jaw of official Eddie Rush.
"They're pretty emotional," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They had their backs against the wall tonight, and they played desperate and they got away with it. We let that happen."
And suddenly, Emerald City is alive again.