The road to Los Angeles from New Delhi seemed as long as the road taken by the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics to reach the NBA Finals. Thirty-five hours in total and still nowhere near Los Angeles in time for Sunday’s Game 2, the next best thing was to get to the heart of Boston and join the city in supporting its team.
In the end, the long journey was worth it. Surrounded by wildly cheering Boston fans, any chance of maintaining journalistic objectivity went out the window thanks to a potent combination of beer and the Boston crowd.
Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo carried the Celtics to a 103-94 away win. Allen broke two finals shooting records on the way to a game-high 32 points, and Rondo came up with his fifth playoffs triple-double, with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the first triple-double in the Finals since Tim Duncan in 2003, and showed why Rondo is so important on both ends of the court.
In game 1 the Lakers toyed with the Celtics as though they were a team of amateurs, and the home side was confident of taking a 2-0 lead before travelling to Boston for the next three games in the seven-game series. But Phil Jackson knows the Celtics well enough to have expected a fierce response.
And fierce it was. Despite Boston’s big men Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Kendrick Perkins getting in foul trouble, and Lakers’ seven-foot centre Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combining for 25 points and seven blocks in the first half, the Celtics raced away to a 14-point lead. Allen, the man with one of the purest and the smoothest shooting strokes in the NBA, was scoring from outside the arc. Allen racked up five three-pointers in the first half, breaking the record he held with Kenny Smith and Michael Jordan. Allen added three to his tally in the second half to take his total to a record, eight in the finals.
The Lakers squared things up at 61 in the third quarter and then even took a slim lead, but with Kobe Bryant getting into foul trouble things heated up. With five minutes to go, the home side led 90-87, and looked to be heading for another win, but Rondo had other plans. On the night, he was the engine of the visiting side, grabbing rebounds, making plays and scoring at will. In the end two plays by Rondo made sure the Lakers couldn’t claw back.
The Lakers will come to Boston baying for Celtic blood after their home defeat, but one thing is for sure at the NBA 2010 finals, the Celtics have arrived.