BOSTON — The Boston Celtics won the fourth game of the NBA Finals at home on Thursday night and have tied up the seven-game series at two games apiece. Amid chants of “Beat LA,” a couple of bench players made the difference in the game.
WBUR’s Curt Nickisch was at the game and talks about what he saw there — and what comes next.
Bob Oakes: Curt, who are we talking about this morning?
Curt Nickisch: Bob, not the signature names of the playoffs so far. The "Big Three" and that nifty point guard Rajon Rondo did have the Celtics up single digits at the end of the third quarter. But then, in the fourth, in go some of the players off the bench — just like in previous games — but they didn’t just buy time for the starters to rest. They extended the lead.
Little Nate Robinson hit a couple of three-pointers. And then, when big Glen Davis banged in a traditional three-point play, those two both said afterward they realized coach Doc Rivers was letting them play longer than normal.
"I was looking at the clock," Davis said.
"I love Doc. Tell him thank you," added Robinson.
What was remarkable about it is that those bench guys were tacking onto Boston’s lead against the Lakers’ starters. So when those guys did sit down, Boston’s starting five really had no problem finishing it off.
You can tell those guys had fun. There’s a great photo of Robinson jumping on Davis’ back after one of those three-point plays.
Yeah, kind of the signature image from this game. Robinson is just a spark plug, he really got the crowd going.
That energy is something that LA’s coach Phil Jackson talked about afterward. You could tell he was miffed that LA missed out on a chance to go up three games to one in the series. Instead, the Celtics made it two-two.
"They were pretty emotional. They had their backs against the wall tonight," Jackson said. "They played desperate, and they got away with it. Their animation and their activity level affected us. We got back into the game, but we couldn’t get the momentum back."
Of course, Jackson wants to get the momentum back for the next game. The teams have two days rest and then they take each other on again at the Garden on Sunday. And Jackson said he’s going to make some changes.
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What kind of changes is Jackson looking to make?
It does seem like Rivers out-coached Jackson on personnel in this game. One reason Davis was better off the bench was how he was matched up. And LA’s star player, Kobe Bryant, had a great game, but he didn’t seem to have as much magic dust left over by the end. That was partly how the Celtics managed him throughout the game. So Jackson acknowledged that and said he’s going to make some changes.
Of course, Rivers said he’s going to make changes, too.
"They’re not going to back down from us. We’re not going to back down from them," Rivers said. "That’s how this series is gonna be, that’s how it’s been. That’s good, though. It’s good for all of us."
It’s maybe good for all of us that the Lakers cannot close out the NBA Finals in Boston. After Sunday’s game at TD Garden, the series goes back to LA for Game 6 and then possibly a Game 7, depending. Pretty critical for the Celtics to win Sunday?
I sure think so. It would be so much tougher going to LA knowing you have to win both games there, instead of just having to steal one on the road.
This program aired on June 11, 2010.