These finals aren't over yet.
Boston wins tonight 96-89, tying the series at two games apiece. Game 5 is in Boston on Sunday, and yes, we're off to Los Angeles again next week for Game 6. At least.
The Lakers now get the dreaded two off days to stew over what went wrong. Kobe Bryant was simply sensational, Pau Gasol was strong yet again, and no one else did much of anything.
The Celtics' bench – Glen Davis and Nate Robinson in particular – simply dominated at times. Boston won this game, remember, without any of the Big 3/Big 4 with Rondo having a huge offensive night. And Ray Allen is still struggling. Mightily.
Celtics have to be feeling real good, even though the defending champs still have the home-court edge.
It won't seem like much of an edge if the Lakers fly home early next week down 3-2.
Cannot wait for Sunday night now. Early start time, 8 p.m. Eastern, remember. See you then.
Rajon Rondo gets a steal and a layup for an eight-point Boston lead with 30 seconds to go, and he'll be lauded for the play.
Well, Ray Allen made it happen.
He jumped out at Kobe Bryant, ensuring he couldn't pull up for a 3-pointer that could have cut Boston's lead to a tenuous three points. (And did so, by the way, after fouling KB24 on a 3-point try seconds earlier, sending Kobe to the line for three FTs, all of which he made.)
If Allen doesn't disrupt Kobe there, Kobe probably scores. Instead, he forces a pass out to Lamar Odom, and Rondo took over from there.
Great awareness by Rajon Rondo.
Pau Gasol tipped a ball away, almost creating a turnover, and the 24-second shot clock reset.
Rondo got the ball back for Boston and knew that the Celtics had the chance to burn more time. The patience paid off – 20 seconds later, Paul Pierce scored and got fouled with 1:17 left. Pierce made the free throw for a 90-81 lead.
Boston has 25 points this quarter, all but four of them coming from reserves.
The fourth quarter has been the Celtics' best in these finals, and an area of concern for the Lakers. In the first three games, Boston outscored L.A. 79-64 in the final period.
Tonight, the trend contines: Celtics 25, Lakers 15.
What a job by Boston's second unit.
The big man, Glen Davis. The little big man, Nate Robinson.
They've controlled the fourth quarter. The Celtics lead 85-74 with 3:57 left, and Doc Rivers has kept most of his starters on the bench, giving them a huge rest and giving the subs a huge shot of confidence.
This series might have just turned Boston's way again.
ABC's outstanding play-by-play man Mike Breen just said Nate Robinson got a technical for getting in Lamar Odom's face.
More like in his stomach.
After all, Robinson is only about 2 feet shorter than Odom.
Paul Pierce said after Game 2 that the Celtics weren't planning to return to Los Angeles.
Looks like he might have been wrong. And he's got to be thrilled about that.
Boston is up 79-72 with 5:39 remaining. Bryant has 23 points, Gasol 21 and no one else has more than eight for the Lakers.
If the Celtics hold on, we're guaranteed a Game 6 in Los Angeles.
Long way to go, though.
That's six technical fouls now on Rasheed Wallace in the playoffs, which earns him another $2,000 fine and earns Doc Rivers more indigestion.
Both Wallace and Kendrick Perkins have six T's in the postseason. When you get to seven, it's an automatic one-game suspension.
Boston can't afford to lose either of them.
Perkins has toned down his almost-automatic arguing of every call that doesn't go his way in these finals. Can 'Sheed do the same?
Celts better hope so.
With the second unit in, Boston is back to running set plays.
Glen Davis got freed just enough to score and give the Celtics a 66-64 lead. Another set play on the next possession, Nate Robinson running the offense, and Ray Allen makes a jumper from the foul line for a four-point edge.
Then in transition, Big Baby grabs a rebound, gets fouled and lays it in for a six-point lead with a FT try to come. And yes, he was making the silly faces again, like a cartoon character. Hey, if Baby plays like this, he can act however he wants. Shoot 7 for 9, you get that right.
C's by six and with momentum.
The bench guys are coming through again for Boston.
Glen Davis scoring down low. Nate Robinson diving on the floor to create a turnover. They're breathing new life into a skittish Boston crowd early in the fourth quarter.
It's plays like that keeping the Celtics in this game – in this series.
It was tied at 64 with 10 minutes left.
Kobe Bryant is 5 for 7 from 3-point range so far, which would seem to be a good thing.
Historically, though, it isn't.
Bryant has hit at least five 3-pointers in five previous playoff games. He's averaged 41.2 points in those games, but the Lakers are just 1-4. Go figure.
Lakers up 62-60, with the fourth quarter set to begin.
One thing that is jumping out here in the third quarter: The Lakers are running a lot of set plays, cuts and flashes and rips and all those good terms.
Boston is not, instead relying on either transition or having Rajon Rondo taking people off the dribble.
Way too risky with this much on the line.
We have a Ray Allen sighting.
He hit a jumper with 4:20 left in the third quarter, tying the game at 56. He had missed – get this! – 17 straight jumpers since Game 2 in Los Angeles.
It's a safe bet that Allen had not missed 17 straight jumpers in his life. But he came off a Paul Pierce screen, then took advantage of a slow-to-react Andrew Bynum (who is clearly hurting) on a switch, and got a jumper to finally fall.
You get the feeling Stan Van Gundy and Alvin Gentry can't bear to watch this series. Magic vs. Suns would have been so much more entertaining, at least from an offensive standpoint.
A battle of wills is leading to a battle of words.
So far in the second half, Kobe Bryant has jawed with Kendrick Perkins, and Ray Allen and Derek Fisher had a little staredown.
It's getting heated. What, you expected something else?
Frustrations running high, especially when Kevin Garnett just got called for a three-second violation on a possession where Boston had the ball for a total of four seconds, at least going by the shot clock.
Andrew Bynum limped out of the locker room and has rejoined the Lakers on the bench, by the way.
No Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup for the 2nd half.
Phil Jackson said during his in-game interview after the first quarter on ABC that Bynum didn't have any lift in the opening minutes. He's playing with a torn meniscus, suffered during the first-round series against Oklahoma City.
Remember, Bynum was rubbing and flexing his knee plenty in Game 3. It's a big problem, maybe bigger than anyone knows.
It could have gotten away from the Celtics, but defense kept Boston close enough to the Lakers to feel good at the break.
Halftime, Los Angeles up 45-42.
For a moment, it seemed like the Lakers would pull away a bit when Ron Artest's layup put the Western Conference champs up 43-35 and the Boston crowd got silent.
The Celts recovered nicely, then got a huge boost at the halftime horn when Ray Allen missed a 3 (blocked by Pau Gasol), but Kevin Garnett grabbed the ball and scored just before the horn.
Boston shot 41 percent and is down just three points. Celts have to be feeling OK in the locker room, because eventually, Allen – now 1 for 19 in the last six quarters, the 1 make being a chippy early tonight – is going to hit from the outside again.
See you in the third quarter.
Here comes Kobe. Here come the Lakers, too.
Kobe Bryant just hit a pair of 3-pointers, appearing to get fouled on the second of them, and added a jumper all within a span of 63 seconds.
Bryant scored plenty, but shot poorly in Game 3.
In Game 4, he's 5 for 7 and the Lakers lead 39-35 with 2 1/2 minutes 'til halftime.
Warning sign for the Celtics. Paul Pierce has five baskets so far, a 5 for 9 start.
The other four Boston starters?
A combined 3 for 14, as we go under the 5:00 mark left in the half.
Is this a new ball in use tonight?
Lot of bad passes, lost dribbles, rebounds skipping off of players' hands ... it's like it's slippery or something.
Players have a role in choosing the game ball pregame, and you'd think there's no way they'd try to break in a previously unused one tonight.
Just an observation. Celtics 29-28, midway through the second quarter.
People look at Glen Davis and see the 290-pound frame, the goofy faces, the apparent inability to breathe without his mouth wide open.
Don't overlook this: He can play.
If there was a girth-to-nimble ratio, Davis would lead the NBA in that department. Reverse layups, steals, leading the fast break, offensive rebounds, awkward putbacks, Davis has a way to make it all happen.
The Celtics need bench help to tie this series up, and Davis looks like he's more ready to play than anyone in the Celtics' green and white tonight. He's played seven minutes so far: 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals.
Imagine what he could do at 260. He'd be an All-Star.
By the fourth game of a series, there's no more mysteries.
So it's not totally surprising to see the Lakers and Celtics off to slow starts offensively, because by now, both teams know exactly how to cause problems defensively.
But that's not entirely the reason why scoring's tough to come by tonight.
The Celtics are missing a slew of open shots, many inside of 15 feet. And while Big Baby and Nate Robinson are giving Boston a lift so far, you have to wonder if coming up empty on good chances now will hurt later.
Paul Pierce just punched Eddie F. Rush in the face.
Now THERE's a sentence you didn't expect to read during these finals.
Pierce was being a bit exuberant after a play underneath the basket, turned and pulled back his right hand, readying to punch the air. It's the first recorded case in NBA finals history of someone trying to punch the air – and missing.
Instead, he appeared to lightly brush Rush, the nearest referee.
Who had Rasheed Wallace as the likely candidate for a ref punch? He just got his second foul, then pleaded his case to ref Scott Foster, but didn't hit anyone. Not even Pau Gasol, ironically, who flopped his way into 'Sheed getting his second foul.
Celtics 19-16 after one. Pierce has 10, Gasol eight for the defending champions.
The requisite first-quarter foul trouble in the finals has struck again, this time hitting the Los Angeles Lakers. Derek Fisher has two fouls, just past the midway point of the first quarter.
Don't dismiss that as no big deal.
Fisher carried the Lakers down the stretch in Game 3, and he hasn't been embarrassed often in this series defensively.
So now, more of the load goes to Kobe Bryant.
Boston's gameplan is obvious: The Celtics are going to the rim often tonight.
With good reason.
The Lakers have had big edges in free throw shooting so far in these finals, and it's been a source of frustration for Boston.
So the tactics are changing.
Smart move, especially if it opens up the outside.
Kobe Bryant has a different approach tonight as well. He's the aggressor, instead of trying to get everyone else going first. And remember, there's no better closer in the NBA, period.
Interesting approach from the Celtics in the early going.
They went to Kevin Garnett in the post on the first possession of Games 2 and 3, setting up the inside game early.
Tonight? KG is screening 25 feet from the basket, and the Celtics are trying to get Paul Pierce off early instead, having him put the ball on the floor and get going that way.
It's not desperate, but shows the urgency for Boston tonight.
Oh, and Ray Allen is 1 for 1 after a layup in transition a minute after tipoff. Told ya so.
Game 4 is minutes away. Prediction: Ray Allen isn't going 0 for 13 tonight.
It's win-or-else time for the Celtics, for a lot of reasons, both obvious and historical. They don't want to go down 3-1, of course. And in the NBA finals, no team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit.
Kobe Bryant knows this, too.
You'll see the Lakers do in Game 4 what they did in Game 3: Weather the early storm, then try to take the crowd out of the game as quickly as possible.
The Celtics, they'll try to get Allen going quickly. He hasn't made a shot that mattered in four days.
Here we go.