for this game

Celtics hold off comeback, take 2-0 lead on Lakers

Jun 9, 2008 - 6:17 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce provided the early inspiration and his teammates took care of the rest.

Playing with a sleeve on his sprained right knee, Pierce scored 28 points and Leon Powe added 21 off the bench as the Boston Celtics survived a late scare and beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-102, in Game Two of the NBA Finals on Sunday night at TD Banknorth Garden.

"I felt pretty good," Pierce said. "I didn't really think about the injury because once I step on the court, it pretty much goes out the window. You hear the crowd and the adrenaline is going. We did our job, we held home court, and now we can break it back with another win in Game Three. We're not settling on a 2-0 lead. We want to go out there and win two games in LA."

The Lakers nearly erased a 24-point, fourth-quarter deficit with a furious rally, drawing to within two on Kobe Bryant's free throws with 38 seconds remaining.

"It's something that we can take from, absolutely," Bryant said. "Understand, we played harder. We played with a sense of desperation and more aggression, and I think that's something for us to take home and learn from."

Pierce nailed two free throws with 22 seconds left to seal the win.

"I was a little disappointed in our play in the last six minutes of the game," Pierce said. "I thought we just weren't aggressive enough to put the game away. I thought we wanted the time to just run out and I was a little lackadaisical with the ball. It's a great win but definitely a lesson to be learned in the last six minutes."

Ray Allen scored 17 points and Kevin Garnett added 17 and 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who are now just two wins from their league-best 17th title.

"Leon Powe was big tonight," Allen said. "I'd probably be right if I said that I didn't think Leon was capable of doing that off the bench, but he's been solid for us all year when his number (has) been called and he did a great job for us."

The 21 points marked a playoff high for Powe this season.

"I just know Coach (Rivers) called my number," Powe said. "He put me in the game and he called a couple of post-ups for me and I knew I had to deliver. I was just trying to help my team win. My teammates did a real good job of finding me in good spots in good areas where I could finish easier."

Bryant fought early foul trouble but still managed a game-high 30 points and Pau Gasol added 17 for the Lakers, who head home down 2-0 in the best-of-seven matchup, with Game Three set for Tuesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Pierce made a point of showing that he was at full strength, scoring 16 points in the first half. He connected on the first shot he attempted - a 25-foot 3-pointer - with 10:39 remaining in the first quarter for Boston's first field goal of the night.

The Lakers raced out early, using a 7-0 spurt to take a 15-8 lead on Lamar Odom's putback tip with 6:15 remaining in the first. The seven-point lead would be Boston's biggest deficit of the night.

In a sign of the trouble to come, Bryant picked up two quick fouls late in the first quarter and sat out the last two minutes of the first quarter, contributing to Boston's distinct advantage at the free throw line. The Celtics shot 27-of-38 from the stripe, while the Lakers were 10-of-10.

Los Angeles went into the second quarter with momentum and a 22-20 lead when Jordan Farmar hit a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds remaining in the first.

But Bryant and the Lakers ran into serious foul trouble in the second. Bryant picked up his third personal with 1:53 remaining in the first half, and his backcourt teammate Derek Fisher followed with his third infraction with 23.9 seconds remaining.

Rajon Rondo, who had a game-best 16 assists, hit 1-of-2 free throws to give Boston a 54-42 halftime lead.

"Rondo got into the lane too many times and they found (Powe) pretty well," Gasol said. "Powe played really hard, took advantage of the opportunities he had down there and converted pretty well."

The Celtics continued their roll coming out of the locker room and, again, it was Pierce who led the way. Pierce drilled a 3-pointer with 8:20 remaining in the third to give the Celtics a 62-46 lead.

The Lakers drew to within nine, 68-59, on Gasol's jumper from the top of the key with 4:31 remaining in the third.

But the Celtics ran the Lakers off the court and out of the game - for the time being - with a 15-2 run to end the quarter, highlighted by Allen's shot from the arc from the left baseline and a pair of thunderous dunks by Powe that drove the Boston crowd into a frenzy. Powe's second dunk gave Boston an 83-61 lead heading into the fourth.

Bryant led the stunning rally in the game's final eight minutes. Kevin Garnett's jumper with 7:55 remaining put Boston up, 95-71. The Lakers then outscored the Celtics, 31-9, to draw to within two, 104-102, on Bryant's two free throws.

Bryant acknowledged that he got after his teammates in the huddle, encouraging them and telling them not to give up. He was a little more censored when he recanted his message after the game.

"Get our beep (butt) in gear," Bryant said. "Play beep harder, a bunch of other beeps. It's beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Eddie Murphy Raw times 10."

Despite allowing 41 points in the fourth quarter, the Celtics managed to hang on.

"The first 3 1/2 quarters, we moved the ball," Allen added. "We attacked, made the pass, we swung it and everybody touched the ball. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball. We had too many turnovers in the fourth and gave them chances."

"We got too comfortable," Celtics center Kendrick Perkins said. "We let our guard down. We had a nice lead. We started playing the clock, and it was casual and our defense was terrible in the fourth. We don't ever give up 41 points in a quarter. We just have to close out games. The biggest thing is that you don't want to give the other team any confidence that they can play with you."