The Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Boston Celtics 91-84 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals and snatch back homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven series between the league’s fiercest rivals.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 29 points, but it was his 35-year-old backcourt sidekick Derek Fisher who tormented the Celtics by scoring 11 of his 16 points in the final period.
Fisher was also a demon on the defensive end, holding Ray Allen to just two points. The Celtics guard had 32 points in Game Two but misfired on all 13 of his attempts on Tuesday.
“To come through again for this team, 14 years in, after so many great moments, it’s always quite surreal and quite humbling to experience,” Fisher told reporters.
“But it’s like being a kid, man,” added the veteran guard, seeking a fifth championship ring. “You just never get tired of that candy.”
A five-foot jumper by Kevin Garnett pulled the Celtics to within 82-80 with 2:03 left but Bryant responded with a 15-foot pull-up jumper.
Fisher then drove home the dagger, a three-point play hiking the Lakers’ lead to 87-80 with just 48 seconds remaining to send the 19,000 at the sold-out Boston Garden streaming for the exits.
“Derek Fisher was the difference in the game,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “We lost our composure a little bit down the stretch. A four-point game, with 47 seconds left.”
“All you need is a stop. We let Derek Fisher dribble the ball all the way up the court, unattended, and get a three-point play. If you get a stop there, we had plenty of time,” he said.
Bryant hit only 10 of 29 shots, including just one of seven from beyond the arc, but the visiting team’s 43-35 edge on the boards played a key role in the outcome.
“You win championships with your defense and rebounding,” Bryant said. “That’s something that we continue to talk about, we continue to stress.”
“Shots come and go, you make some, you miss some, but you’ve got to stay after them on the defensive end. You have to rebound those misses,” he said.
Boston held a 14-13 first-quarter lead before the Lakers went on a 24-6 run to take a 37-20 lead midway through the second period. The Celtics recovered to make a game of it but never led after their first-half dry spell.
“We went through a drought, obviously, and playing a team like this, you can’t dig yourself a hole,” said Garnett, who paced the Celtics with 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting.
“That’s too big of a deficit and to try to come out of it was very difficult. We had our chances to win, just couldn’t close it out,” he said.
The next two games of the series are in Boston, with Game Four set for today.
“It’s a big loss until the next game,” Rivers said. “No one thought this was going to be an easy series. We didn’t. And so it’s not. We’ll bounce back.”