After relegating himself to the jump shooter role in the first two games, Kevin Garnett finally went to the basket early and often to explode for 25 points.
But it wasn’t enough, as Derek Fisher put in 11 fourth quarter points to lead the Lakers to a 91-84 win, and regain home court advantage in Game Three of the NBA Finals.
It was a reversal of roles from Game Two at the Staples Center, where Ray Allen scored 32 points on a record eight three-pointers, while Garnett only managed six points. Tonight Allen was 0-for-13, including eight tries from beyond the arc, while Garnett hit on 11-of-16.
In Game Two it was Rajon Rondo who took over the fourth quarter and willed the Celtics to huge win at Staples Center. But on Tuesday night at the TD Garden, it was the 36-year-old veteran Derek Fisher who went 5-for-7 and scored 11 points in the final stanza to fend off the on-charging Celtics.
Although Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 29 points, he ran out of gas in the final period shooting just 1-for-6. It was a good thing that his backcourt partner during four NBA Championships, Derek Fisher, picked up the slack, because the Celtics bench kept chipping away at a large Lakers advantage.
The Lakers opened a 17-point lead early in the second quarter. But the Celtics, with some huge help from their bench, cut the lead down to 12 points by halftime.
The Celtics bench kept up the pressure on the Lakers in the third quarter.
Tony Allen did an outstanding job of contesting Kobe Bryant, while Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace effectively boxed out Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom on the boards once Andrew Bynum left the game bothered by a torn ligament in his knee.
The Celtics whittled down the Lakers lead to one point, 68-67 at 9:45 in the fourth quarter. Phil Jackson inserted Bynum at that point to defend against Garnett, who proved too much for Gasol to handle at the offensive end.
With Bynum rebounding and Fisher hitting key buckets, the Celtics could never overtake or tie the Lakers.
Ray Allen was not the only Celtic to have a poor shooting night. Paul Pierce, against Ron Artest’s tenacious defense once again, was only 5-for-12, although he was 3-for-4 from the three-point line. Kendrick Perkins was just 1-for-4.
The Lakers extended their current streak of winning 14 straight games after being tied in a series. Also, it was the 116th playoff game for the starting backcourt duo of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, an NBA record.
This was a must-win game for the Lakers, and they were up to the task. Thursday night at the TD Garden is a must-win game for the Celtics. Should they lose, that would put the Lakers up 3-to-1 in the series.