Just as advertised! The second NBA finals rematch was an instant classic!
Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics came in with their A game on Thursday night in what was quite possibly the best game of the year so far in the NBA.
Kobe Bryant was hitting clutch shots, things got heated in classic Lakers/Celtics rivalry fashion and the game came down to a last second shot in overtime!
Although Andrew Bynum's presence in the paint was sorely missed by Kobe and company, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol stepped up their game in Boston to show the Celtics and the NBA they can still be the best team in the NBA without the big kid.
Pau still struggled with the Celtics physicality inside the paint, but he still managed to finish the game with 24 points and 14 rebounds including a big shot down the stretch.
Lamar Odom also struggled by having a poor first half, which reminded me a lot of the finals, but he came on strong in the second half and hit two very clutch free throws in overtime. At one point in the game things were getting so physical between LO and Kevin Garnett that it looked like they were about to start throwing blows, even Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo got into it.
Fortunately, both teams held themselves back, kept their composure and put on a show in Boston.
Although Lamar Odom did virtually disappear against the Celtics in the finals last season, but he showed that KG and company could hold him down again as he finished with 20 points, six boards and two steals.
Kobe Bryant wasn't the scoring machine that we have seen him be over the past week or so with only 26 points, but he hit some huge three pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Lakers alive. Paul Pierce kept Kobe relatively in check for most of the game making every shot he took look nearly impossible which resulted in Kobe only hitting 10 or 19 from the floor. I don't know why, because he seems pretty slow on the floor, but for some reason Pierce can play defense on Bryant better than anyone in the league in my opinion.
The biggest problem for the Lakers against the Celtics on Thursday was their free throw shooting. The Lakers only hit an embarrassing 17 out 29 free throws which is an ugly 58.6% from the charity stripe. If the Lakers had actually shot well from the line, this game wouldn't have been close.
As for the Celtics, they were able to keep in the game with some impressive performances from both Eddie House and Leon Powe off the bench. House was just on fire from deep hitting 4 of 6 from beyond the arc and finishing with 16 points. Powe had a good game as well with 10 points and eight rebounds. As for the big three, Kevin Garnett fouled out in the fourth with 16 points, Pierce scored 21 on 5 of 13 shooting and Ray Allen was Celtics leading scorer with 22 points, but had a pretty bad shooting night as well hitting 9 of 21 from the floor.
Even though the game got pretty sloppy at times, it was another battle for the ages against these two NBA giants. With tempers flaring and a playoff atmosphere it is clear that these two teams still don't like each other and the Lakers and Celtics rivalry is still alive and well!
Although this was anyone's game going into overtime, the Lakers were able to prevail with some clutch free throws by Odom and some solid defense to avoid a game winning shot by Allen in the closing seconds. All I know is I hope to see these two square off again in the NBA finals! A Cavs/Lakers finals would be good, but a finals rematch would be epic!