NBA finals tied after Celts’ high-scoring winLOS ANGELES - The Boston Celtics, inspired by Ray Allen’s sharp shooting, stunned the Los Angeles Lakers 103-94 in Sunday’s game two to snatch home court advantage in the NBA Finals.
Overpowered 102-89 by the Lakers in game one, Boston moved up several gears with Allen and fellow guard Rajon Rondo in sizzling form as they levelled the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Allen contributed a game-high 32 points, including an NBA Finals record of eight three-pointers, while Rondo weighed in with a triple-double of 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Spanish forward Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 25 points as the NBA champions fought back from a 14-point deficit to lead by three late in the final quarter before running out of steam. All-Star guard Kobe Bryant recorded 21 points and six assists for Los Angeles but, despite his reputation as the game’s finest closer, he was unable to earn his team a last-gasp win at a sellout Staples Center.
The championship series between the league’s most storied franchises shifts to Boston for game three tonight. In front of a capacity crowd of 19,000 on Sunday, the Celtics kept a tight rein on Bryant in a wildly fluctuating first quarter where the lead changed hands 12 times before ending with the visiting team 29-22 in front.
Boston tightened their grip in the second period, an early 13-6 run and Allen’s hot hand putting them 14 points clear before Bryant’s steal for a three-pointer on the buzzer cut the deficit to 54-48 at half-time.
The Lakers made an electric start to the third period, with Ron Artest sparking a 9-2 run with a three-point shot followed by a steal and a free throw as the NBA champions edged ahead 57-56. A superb fadeaway jump shot by Bryant put the Lakers ahead 90-87 with 5.21 seconds left on the clock and the crowd, repeatedly chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP”, scented a trademark Bryant finish to close out the game.
But Rondo upstaged his more illustrious opponent with a series of driving lay-ups, jump shots and free throws as Boston regained the lead and then held on for the win. Before the start of the game, a minute’s silence was held in memory of the peerless U.S. college basketball coach John Wooden, who died on Friday at the age of 99.
Moving tributes were then paid to Wooden from the centre of the court by Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, who played for Wooden at UCLA.