BOSTON – The Celtics were able to hold on in Game 2 because they held onto the ball.
Boston committed 12 turnovers in the first half and just two in the second in Sunday night’s 103-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. The win evened the best-of-seven series at 1-1, heading into Tuesday night’s Game 3 in Boston.
Some of the Celtics’ biggest turnovers on Sunday came in the last two minutes of the second quarter, when the Lakers cut a 54-41 deficit to six points. Kobe Bryant stole the ball with three seconds left and hit a three-pointer — then stole the inbounds pass but missed a three that would have made it a three-point game.
“The last couple were brutal,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We had a chance to be up nine or 12 to end the half. But we weathered that storm, and I thought in the second half we played with great composure.”
In the end, it was the Lakers who turned the ball over.
Andrew Bynum was called for an offensive foul with 4:39 left and the Lakers leading 90-89. Ron Artest threw the ball away to let the Celtics open a 93-90 lead, then Rondo blocked Derek Fisher’s three-point attempt from behind with under three minutes left.
“Yes, we had some turnovers,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “That kind of set them off and set the game off and turned it around in that sequence. We had a little lead right at the end, and we didn’t do our job. They did.”
It was an eight-point game when Bryant cut it to 98-93 on a long three-pointer with 53 seconds to play, but the next time down Rondo poked the ball away from the Lakers star.
The Lakers finished with 15 turnovers.
“We turned the ball over a couple times down the stretch when the game was on the line,” forward Pau Gasol said. “That was tough, deflating. And we just couldn’t convert offensively at the end. They took advantage and took their time and converted and executed their plays. So that’s kind of how it got away from us.”
BLOCK PARTY:Lakers centre Andrew Bynum blocked seven shots in Game 2, two shy of the finals record set by Orlando’s Dwight Howard in Game 4 last year against the Lakers. The Lakers franchise playoff record for blocks is also nine, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1977.
Bynum had been nursing a sore right knee. He had fluid drained on Monday, then had 10 points and six rebounds in a little more than 28 minutes of Los Angeles’ 102-89 Game 1 victory.
In Game 2, he scored 21 points with six boards and added some key blocked shots.
“He recovered really well off of some swelling that he had on that knee,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Trainers were able to get that down and back in order and he was able to play, I think, great. (He’s in) as good a physical shape as he could possibly be in at this time of the year, and we were pleased with that. I was just pleased that he could play 35 minutes plus. That was a big part of that effort that he gave us tonight.”
HOME COOKING:The home team had won the first two games in each of the last five years. Since the finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, the teams have split the first two games 11 times — the last in 2004.
The Lakers had won 12 straight playoff games at home, dating to Game 2 of last year’s conference finals against Denver. Los Angeles tied for the second-best home record in the NBA in the regular season, with one win fewer than Cleveland.
The Celtics were only 24-17 at home this year — tied for worst among playoff qualifiers — with a 26-15 road mark that was tied for second in the NBA. It’s the first time the Celtics have had a better record on the road than at home since 1974, and just the second time since 1955.
The Celtics haven’t played at home since May 28, and forward Paul Pierce thinks the fans will be excited for their return.
“It’s going to be a championship atmosphere, the Garden’s going to be loud,” he said. “They’ve been waiting for us a week and a half now so it’s going to be a pretty raucous crowd.”
THE STARS AT NIGHT:Boston can’t match Los Angeles for movie star power, but the Celtics expect a few celebrities in the crowd when they host their first game of the NBA finals on Tuesday night.
“Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo is expected to be courtside, as are comedian Dane Cook and actor Donnie Wahlberg.
Dave Cowens is also planning to watch his former team take on the Lakers, a day after welcoming the NBA’s Larry O’Brien championship trophy when it arrived aboard a special Southwest Airlines jet dubbed “Slam Dunk One.”
Rhythm and blues singer Monica is scheduled to sing the national anthem before Game 3.
FAST BREAKS:Rondo’s triple-double was the first for a point guard in the finals since New Jersey’s Jason Kidd had 23 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds against the Lakers in 2002.