A 2-1 series lead is dangerous for both teams in the NBA playoffs.
For the Boston Celtics, Game Four is essentially a must-win. They cannot afford to drop their first two home games of the series. History is not on the side of teams that trail 3-1 in a best-of-seven series.
At the same time, the Los Angeles Lakers need to win Game Four to maintain control of the NBA Finals. Losing would even the series at two games apiece. If the Celtics were to win Game Five as well, the Lakers would suddenly have to win two straight home games.
The stakes are high. The players are emotional.
The key will be which team can remain level-headed in the heat of battle.
Kobe Bryant knows the series is not over. Even if the Lakers were up 3-0 and were winning by 20 in the fourth quarter of Game Four, he would play with the same intensity.
As the unquestioned leader of the Lakers, it's up to him to convey to his teammates how important Game Four is, along with how dangerous the Celtics can be.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett have each had their turn to step up so far in the three Finals games. Rajon Rondo has one triple double and quietly fills the box score night after night.
But the Celtics have yet to put together a complete game against the Lakers. Considering they stole a game in L.A. and came close in Game Three, they are a dangerous team that could click and wreak havoc on the Lakers' offense and defense.
Take Game Two for instance.
Allen put on one of the best shooting performances in NBA Finals history, but the Celtics still only led by six at the half and lost their lead in the third quarter. That shows a lack of defensive intensity, as well as poor foul management.
The Celtics pride themselves on being disciplined on defense and balanced on offense. Now they need to prove that. Rondo must continue to create off the dribble and set up the inside-outside game. Dumping the ball down to Garnett and Kendrick Perkins will open up Pierce and Allen.
The Celtics are not out of this series. They have yet to play their best basketball, and with the several veteran leaders on the squad, the Lakers should be prepared to take on Boston's best.
If not, L.A. fans will see why a 2-1 series is so dangerous.