Alright, everyone. Tell the truth. Raise your hand if you thought that during crunch time in Game Four of the NBA Finals, with Boston trailing the best-of-seven series 2-1 to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics would have a lineup on the court of Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis.
More shocking, however, was that it was this lineup that brought life to a Celtics team that was lifeless for much of the game. And it was this lineup that carried the C's to the 96-89 victory over the Lakers to the tie the series back up at two apiece.
After consecutive Kobe Bryant 3-pointers late in the third quarter, Davis scored to pull the Celtics within a field goal, as the Lakers led 62-60 heading into the fourth.
Davis, though, was just getting started.
He and Ray Allen each had hoops, sandwiched around a Pau Gasol jumper for the Lakers. Davis then had a layup off a Robinson assist to put Boston ahead 66-64 with 9:45 to play—it would be the 14th lead change of the game. And thanks largely to Davis, it would be the final lead change.
Ahead 68-64, Tony Allen missed a layup, but Davis came crashing in for the offensive rebound, made the hoop, and got fouled. He completed the traditional 3-pointer, extending Boston's run to 13-2, and its lead to seven points at 71-64.
Tony Allen followed with a 3-point play of his own, Wallace knocked down a trey, Robinson chipped in four straight points, and then Davis added a pair. All of that equaled an 85-74 Boston lead with less than four minutes to go, and it all occurred with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo on the bench
The Lakers attempted to get back in the game, and manged to cimb within 85-79 with 2:50 t0 play following a pair of Bryant free throws.
There was still plenty of time for the Lakers, but now back in the game, Pierce would not have it.
Pierce, who had not played well in the series and had not played well all season against the Lakers, came out aggressive in Game Four, netting 10 first quarter points. He then faded a bit, with only two points in the second quarter, and did not even attempt a shot in the third.
But Pierce finally shrugged off Artest and had seven points over the final two-plus minutes—crunch time.
He hit a tough jump shot for an 87-79 lead, and then after a Bryant bucket, Pierce took the ball strong to the hoop, got the advantage of a very close block/charge call, and finished off the three-point play at the foul line.
On the next possession, Bryant got his own benefit of a questionable call after he got fouled behind the 3-point line. He made all three free throws, and following a Boston miss, Bryant had the ball back in his hands with his team trailing 90-84 with 40 seconds to play.
Bryant tried to throw a pass back out to Derek Fisher, but Rondo picked off the pass, and raced in for the game-clinching layup.
The story of the game was the Boston bench that outscored the LA bench, 36-18. Davis had 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, with five rebounds, including four of which that came off the offensive glass.
Robinson hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with 12 points.
The Celtics needed every bit of help from their bench, too.
In addition to Boston's bench, the major key for the Celtics was rebounding. Boston was hammered on the glass in Game One (42-31), and throughout the series, whichever team had the rebounding advantage won the game.
For Game Four, Boston out-rebounded the Lakers 41-34, and doubled-up LA 16-8 on offensive boards.
The Lakers were led by Bryant's 33 points, on 10-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-11 from behind the 3-point line. We saw an attacking Bryant in Game One, but since then, he has been mostly a jump shooter.
Bryant shooting jumpers can definitely win a game and the series, but as good as he is, you have to pick your poison. I imagine Boston would prefer to see Bryant taking contested jump shots than watching him create havoc (and foul trouble) like he did in Game One.
Gasol had 21 points, but only six rebounds. Gasol was aggressive in the first half, getting to the line eight times, but managed only two free throws attempts in the second half.
Tons of questions remain for Game Five.
Despite the win, Ray Allen missed all of his 3-pointers, and outside the first half of Game Two, he is shooting 1-for-17 from beyond the arc in the series.
After 25 points in Game Three, the Celtics went away from Garnett in the post, and KG finished with only 13 points.
Meanwhile, Pierce had his most effective game of the series, but Boston cannot afford to have him disappear for quarters at a time, as he did in Game Four.
Rondo registered his lowest assist total, three, of the playoffs, and has looked far from one of the game's top point guards in three of the four games. Accordingly, the Celtic offense has struggled during those times.
In the fourth quarter of Game Four, C's coach Doc Rivers turned the offense over to his bench and Robinson, and it got the Celtics going. Boston had just 60 points through three quarters, but scored 36 in the fourth, most of which came with Robinson at the point.
For the Lakers, the primary question is Andrew Bynum's health, in particular his right knee. Bynum played just 12 minutes after re-injuring the knee. He tried to give it a go, but was basically unable to.
With Bynum out, a Lakers strength underneath, on the boards, and in providing needed depth in the front court, Lamar Odom coming off the bench, becomes a weakness, as it forces Odom and Gasol to basically have to play the entire time.
With the series tied 2-2, the Celtics will get to take advantage of a major benefit of the 2-3-2 format for the lower-seeded team.
Unlike what would have happened in the earlier rounds, Boston will get to play pivotal Game Five on its home court, with the game taking place Sunday night.
Boston would be well-suited to view Sunday night as a must-win, because win or lose, the benefit of 2-3-2 will then shift to the Lakers, as the remainder of the series will then be played in Los Angeles.