These Lakers and Celtics know each other's habits pretty well, and it's gotten to the point that neither team can create much offensively to surprise the other. So, when the two teams met in Boston on Thursday night, both defenses were well prepared and full equipped to stifle the opposing offense. The dearth of scoring on either side went beyond good defense, though. Neither team could execute anything at all. There were few turnovers, but folks on both sides missed one jumper after another, including some customary, almost automatic looks that were suddenly going astray.
Kobe Bryant was at his most maddening for the Lakers, taking 24 shots to reach 27 points, but tossing in the occasional tough off-balance jumper to break up his misses. L.A. did get solid performances from Pau Gasol (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (16 and 17), and a helpful 11 points from Matt Barnes, but almost nothing outside of that. The Celtics got more balanced scoring, but didn't shoot any better than the Lakers did. Neither team cracked 40 percent on the evening.
A night of poor shooting for nearly everybody involved culminated in a dismal fourth quarter and overtime. The game was close throughout, and stayed that way because neither team felt like taking a real lead. Kevin Garnett, who was 6-23 on the night, went ice cold in the fourth quarter, missing seven consecutive looks at the long jumpers and inside buckets we're so used to seeing him finish. Boston, though, managed to pull ahead by two on a Ray Allen three-pointer going into the final minute. They locked down on the other end and seemed to have enough momentum to finish out the game, but Pau Gasol tipped in a hideous Bryant miss to draw even with nine seconds left. At the end of regulation, Paul Pierce picked up his dribble to soon and got trapped into hitting Mickael Pietrus for a 30-foot heave as time expired (which came remarkably close, as it happened).
Overtime was no cleaner. The Lakers hit a few jumpers, Paul Pierce answered with a couple of his own, then an Andrew Bynum tip-in of a Bryant miss pretty much won the game with 90 seconds left. The Celtics had a change to win it as time expired, but Paul Pierce rimmed out a jumper and Gasol (who'd been making useful little plays all night) swatted Ray Allen's follow attempt to seal Boston's fate. Thus, the game closed with five empty possessions, a fitting end to a game that was part defensive battle, part rim-rattling shank-fest for the rivals. At least both teams were in on the deal and missed at a similar enough rate to keep it close throughout.
The Lakers' much needed road win (just their fourth this season) moved them to 15-11, while the Celtics dropped to 14-11 with the loss.