(AFP) – Jun 11, 2008
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett must bounce back from horrible shooting performances if the Boston Celtics are to keep the Los Angeles Lakers from leveling the National Basketball Association Finals.
The Lakers dropped the first two games in Boston but can pull even in the best-of-seven championship series with a victory in game four here Thursday after shutting down the Celtics' top scorers in a 108-102 game three triumph.
"We're a pretty confident bunch," Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "It's just about doing what we've got to do to win. You just go out there, do the things you've been taught and control the things you can."
Pierce was a woeful 2-for-14 from the field in game three, scoring only six points in his Hollywood homecoming, while Garnett went 6-for-21 and had 13 points - both NBA Finals debutantes well below their usual totals.
"I was probably a little more anxious than normal being that I'm at home in front of more family and friends, but I've got to block that out and go leave it on the court. I've done it in the past. It's time for me to do it again.
"I'll just keep shooting the ball. A lot of the looks I got were looks I can make, so just stay positive and if I get those same looks in game four I'm confident they'll be in."
Garnett plans to pound his way through the Lakers defense to the basket more often, giving himself and teammates better scoring chances.
"I've got to do a lot better job of getting guys easy shots by being aggressive. I'm being patient but at the same time I have to attack the basket, so look for more of that," Garnett said.
"I guess the consistency is the big question mark and I wasn't doing that. I think for the most part they are doing a good job of mixing up the schemes. I have to be better at recognizing them.
"We have to attack the basket and put some of these guys hopefully in foul trouble and put the onus on the referees to make some calls."
The Lakers have won 15 in a row at home and are 9-0 at home in this year's playoffs, one victory shy of matching the one-season NBA home playoff win streak record, while the Celtics are only 2-8 on the road in the playoffs.
"This is where they are comfortable. They have a lot of confidence playing in this building and we have to somehow, some way diffuse that," Garnett said.
"It gives us a lot of confidence to know we can shoot 30-something percent and almost win on the road. We can put some points on the board and have that same defensive presence."
The Lakers take comfort in the fact that star big men Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom struggled in game three but the Lakers won behind Bryant's 36 points.
"It should give us a lot of confidence that we were able to get a win as bad as we did offensively," Spanish star Gasol said.
"We weren't fluid. We weren't confident. We weren't being ourselves. We have so much room for improvement that we should be encouraged and confident."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers was confident Pierce and Garnett, hungry for a title after years of playoff frustration, would find their shooting touch.
"We've got to get Kevin going," Rivers said. "He's shooting below 40 percent in the series and that's something he doesn't do. Paul I honestly never worry a lot about offensively. He had a tough night. He will get it going."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson warned his players that they cannot count upon silencing Garnett and Pierce again.
"Pierce is going to play better," Jackson said. "That was just a down game for them. They will get themselves in better shape for the next game. They will have a better offensive opportunity."
A Boston victory would put the Celtics on the verge of their first NBA crown since 1986 and record 17th overall while the Lakers could move halfway to a 15th NBA crown and their first since 2002.
"We've taken a step in the right direction in terms of being able to win a championship, but until we win another game, we're still in a tough spot," said Lakers guard Derek Fisher.
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