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Article:Defense and Mental Toughness Fuel Celtics Historic Comeback in Game 4

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Boston Celtics 97 LA Lakers 91 : All I can say after this game is WOW. The Boston Celtics were down 21 points after the first quarter, were down as many as 24 points in the second quarter, trailed by 18 at halftime, and still trailed by 20 points with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. At that point, I was envisioning a scenario where it was possible that the struggling Celtics would lose all 3 games on the road in LA and then the Lakers would only have to win one game in Boston to be champions. I'm not even sure what happened after that but the lead kept getting smaller and smaller and before I knew the Celtics were tied and then leading the game, and then eventually winning it.

The Celtics made their big comeback in the third quarter, where they outscored the Lakers 31-15 to pull within 2 points. The comeback was mostly lead by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Eddie House. With the score 68-48, the Celtics then went on a 23 to 5 run to finish the quarter, capped off by a thunderous dunk by PJ Brown. During the run, Paul Pierce scored 7 points, and both Ray Allen and Eddie House scored 6 points. The other two baskets came from James Posey and on PJ Brown's dunk.

Paul Pierce started off slow but finished the game with 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting and 8 of 9 from the free throw line and added 7 assists and 4 rebounds. Pierce has really been clutch for the Celtics in this series other than the poor night he had in Game 3. Kevin Garnett bounced back from his poor Game 3 performance as well, scoring 16 points on 7 of 14 shooting and pulling down 11 rebounds. Ray Allen continued his great play in the NBA Finals and finished with 19 points on 9 of 11 shooting and 9 rebounds. He also made a huge driving layup past Sasha Vujacic late in the 4th quarter that probably iced the game.

Rajon Rondo was not at full strength and Kendrick Perkins was injured during the game and they combined to play only 30 minutes. However, the Celtics bench stepped it up big time in this game, scoring 35 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. The two biggest players off the bench were Eddie House and James Posey and they really filled in well for Rondo and Perkins.

Eddie House was one of the key players in the third quarter comeback and he finished with 11 points, including those two big three pointers in the third. He also did not turn the ball over in the game. which shows that the Lakers aren't a team capable of pressuring the ball. Posey was big as well and finished with 18 points including 4 of 8 from three, including a big fading away three pointer in the 4th that put the Celtics up by 5. Without House and Posey, the Celtics would have had no chance to win this game tonight.

So what happened to the Lakers for them to allow the Celtics to comeback? Well a lot of it was the Celtics defense, which was superb in the second half, especially Paul Pierce's defense on Kobe Bryant. I am continually amazed that Paul Pierce is guarding Kobe as well as he is and at one point he even blocked one of Kobe's jumpers. Sometimes I wonder how he stays in front of Kobe because he looks so much slower but I guess he just has really good footwork. Thanks to Pierce's defense, Kobe finished this game only 6 of 19 from the floor, scoring just 17 points.

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom actually played well in this game. Odom finished 8 of 11 from the floor with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. Gasol was 6 of 13 from the floor with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Derek Fisher also had a strong game scoring 13 points on 4 of 5 shooting. However, the Lakers bench was awful for the most part, combining to shoot 5 of 18 from the floor, led by Sasha Vujacic's 1 of 9 performance. This certainly was another reason that the Celtics were able to comeback in the game.

However, while the Celtics defense was great in the second half and the Lakers bench struggled, the main reason the Lakers lost is because other than Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are a mentally soft team. Kobe Bryant actually scored 10 of the Lakers 18 points in the fourth quarter but the rest of his team pretty much shut it down. Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol hit a couple of big shots but Gasol also missed a bunch of shots in the 3rd quarter.

Bottom line is that Kobe didn't have his best night and while the Lakers other players were playing well when the Lakers were cruising early on, they weren't able to make the big plays for the Lakers when they pressure turned up a notch. After all the questions about Boston's mental makeup and their struggles on the road, they certainly look like the more battle-tested and mentally tougher team at this point.

Phil Jackson said after the game that this series is not over but it would be a historic collapse if the Celtics blow this one. Game 5 should be interesting to see because I almost feel like it's going to be Kobe against five Celtics because the rest of the Lakers are going to check out mentally if the Celtics put the heat on early. The Lakers have to be lacking confidence right now because the Celtics came back from a 24 point lead, so that means no matter how much the Lakers are winning by they are not going to think their lead is safe. That has to be in the Lakers minds at all times and I think that will be an advantage for the Celtics in Game 5.


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