Celtics falter down stretch, fall to Lakers, 97-94

Celtics falter down stretch, fall to Lakers, 97-94
March 11, 2012, 10:20 pm
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LOS ANGELES Paul Pierce couldn't make a shot. The Boston Celtics couldn't grab a rebound.

And there were the C's, down by just two points at the half.

It was Boston's ability to force turnovers that kept them in the game when they struggled mightily in every other phase of play.

But it would have taken more than an unusual high number of Lakers mistakes to win this one, as the Lakers escaped with a 97-94 win.

After trailing for most of the game, the C's seemed in good shape when a Ray Allen 3-pointer put the Celtics up, 94-89, with about two minutes to play. But a short jumper in the lane by Kobe Bryant and an alley-oop lay-up by Andrew Bynum cut Boston's lead to 94-93 with 1:17 to play.

From there, a Celtics time-out produced a running bank shot by Allen that was off the mark, setting the stage for Bryant to once again deliver in the clutch.

And he did, draining a short jumper that put the Lakers ahead, 95-94, with 41.7 seconds to play.

Again the C's called a time-out and got the shot they wanted - a wide open look for Brandon Bass.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, he missed it and like most of the missed shots on Sunday, it wound up in the hands of the Lakers who managed to hold on for the win and in the process, sweeping the regular season series.

Boston then fell behind by three points on a lay-up by Andrew Bynum.

Down three with 15.5 seconds to play, the C's called a 20-second time-out to bring on its 3-point bombers.

The C's Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo each missed, as the Lakers managed to hold on for the victory with an 8-0 run to finish the game.

The third quarter featured strong runs by both teams, with the final points of the quarter being a tip-in by Matt Barnes that gave the Lakers a 72-70 lead going into the fourth.

His rebound and subsequent lay-up, in many ways, spoke to what was arguably the Celtics' biggest concern - rebounding and second-chance points.

The Lakers controlled the glass, for sure.

But the C's countered by forcing the Lakers into 15 turnovers at the end of three quarters. The 15 turnovers equalled what the Lakers averaged this season.

The two continued to exchange one big play for another in the fourth, with the bulk of the quarter being just a one-possession game.

A down-to-the-wire finish didn't seem to be in the making by the way the game began.

The Lakers led by as many as 15 points in the first half, in large part by making the most of their one true advantage - their size.

Andrew Bynum had a double-double by the half, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Pau Gasol wasn't too far behind with seven points and seven rebounds at half.

In addition to the 12 first-half turnovers by the Lakers, Boston also got a boost from Rajon Rondo who was still bothered somewhat by the poke in the eye he suffered in Friday's win over the Trail Blazers.

He came on to the floor wearing dark shades with a strap attached to the back, the kind of strap that would have allowed him to play with them. Apparently it hadn't been giving the green light by the NBA, so Rondo had to play without them.

It certainly didn't affect him as a scorer. He led all C's with 10 points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer - his first 3-pointer made since Feb. 15 against Detroit.

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