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There seems to be a negative corelation between the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers. Whenever the latter picks up a victory the former is down in dumps in defeat. And the corelation works in a reverse relationship as well. On Friday night, The Celtics saw their opponents, the Phildelphia 76ers, draw level in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals with a 9 point victory at the Wells Fargo Centre. The LA Lakers required a last quarter surge and a truck load of free throws (41 to be precise) in their Game 3 clash against the cohesive Oklahoma City Thunder to pick up a 3 point win and pull a game back to make it 2 - 1 in their series.
Oklahoma City Thunder 96 - 99 Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant was back to being himself as he nailed all 18 of his free throws and scored 14 points of his 36 on the night in the final quarter, to lead his team's late surge to a three point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Game 3 win was the Lakers' 2nd triumph in their last six postseason games while the victory also resulted in OKC's first defeat in this year's playoff. Kevin Durant had some of the most impressive buckets on the night and he shot a team high 31 points as he lead a confident OKC team throughout the game, offensively. The free throws were tumbling in, in Game 3, with only 3 shots being missed from the line, out of 70. It was that kind of a game, where both teams were neck to neck in every department possible, with both sets of players having their hot streaks and luckily, the Lakers decided to have their surge in the final quarter.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook both added 21 points for OKC, who seemed favourites to make to their 2nd successive Conference final after they took a 2 - 0 lead. But at the Staples Centre, Lakers have the crowd's backing and with the likes of Denzel Washington and Snoop Dogg in attendance, the motivation wasn't too hard to wriggle out. The last few moments in the game were frantic with Metta World Peace swiping the ball off Kevin Durant, nailing 2 free throws with 13 seconds to go. This was followed by a missed shot from beyond the arc by the ubiquitous Durant and finally Andrew Bynum blocked an attempt from Serge Ibaka who had 7 blocks himself in Game 2, so he had to take the sour taste of his own medicine as the game closed with the Lakers winning and pulling the series back to 2- 1.
The Lakers' win ensures that the go into Game 4 at the Staples Centre with the momentum firmly in their hands. On tying the series, 2-2, the Lakers will become certain favourites to win the clash against their rock-solid opponents. However, 2-2 is not the reality as we speak, and OKC can keep a foot in the Western Conference Finals with a win in the Staples Centre in Game 4. The two teams will be playing back to back games owing to the unusual playoff scheduling and it'll be interesting to see which team capitulates due to excessive fatigue.
Boston Celtics 83 - 92 Philadelphia 76ers
A tale of two halfs can perfectly describe Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics were hot at the onset of the game, taking up an unusual 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The visiting team continued dominating until the end of the half leading the game by 15 points with Paul Pierce leading the way. The Celtics captain had 24 points on the night but Philadelphia got their act to together in the 2nd half, passing the ball better and calming things down, dictating the flow of play themselves. A dominant 3rd and 4th quarter for the home team ensured that they took the game to their opponents and trumped them emphatically with a nine point victory, bringing the Eastern Conference semi-final scoreline to 2 - 2.
The Sixers shot a dismal 23% in the first half but rallied back in the second, shooting over 50% to give their opponents a real shock. Andre Igoudala and Evan Turner, jointly top scored for the Sixers, with 16 points a piece, leading the the surge in the final quarter that snatched the game from the hands of the Celtics. The game was such a cake walk for Celtics in the first half that the turnaround was extremely unexpected. Rajon Rondo, shot 15 points and provided an equal number assists on the night, even providing some fancy dribbling thrills to the audience at the Wells Fargo Centre. But it was all about Philadelphia's late surge and Boston's lackadaisical defence in the final few minutes. KG added after the game, "I thought, for the most part, we played decent defense. We just didn't do it well enough in the last four or five minutes."
The Boston Celtics, find themselves heading home, level pegging with their opponents at 2-2 in their Eastern Conference semi-finals. While Boston have all their major players playing at the top of their game, the effort doesn't seem to come collectively in any given game, which often plays to their disadvantage and compels them to play such nail-biting games with their opponents. The Sixers will have to realise that and ensure that they keep hold of the one man who shows signs of being hot on the night and give him little to work with. The Sixers will also do well to shut out the heartbeat of the Celtics team, Rajon Rondo. The guard consistently comes up with great passing games and a bad game for him could spell doom for the Celtics.
Games on Saturday night
San Antonio Spurs vs. LA Clippers (2 - 0)
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. LA LAkers (2-1)
- 22/05/2012 12:07 - NBA Playoffs: Lakers bow out of Playoffs, Celtics rally on to take 3-2 lead
- 21/05/2012 12:30 - NBA playoffs: San Antonio power into Conference Finals, James and Wade tie series for Miami
- 20/05/2012 13:49 - NBA playoffs: San Antonio overcome early Clippers surge, Lakers fall at the final hurdle