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Rondo, Allen key as Celtics even NBA finals in Los Angeles

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The Associated Press
6/7/2010 8:57:18 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- When Pau Gasol swatted Kendrick Perkins' hook shot right back where it came from, Rajon Rondo scooped it up. Boston's slick point guard leaped to the rim and scored before Gasol even knew what hadn't hit him, giving the Celtics a fourth-quarter lead they didn't relinquish in Game 2 of the NBA finals.

While Ray Allen's finals-record eight three-pointers gave the Celtics some glitz, Rondo's triple-double exemplified much of the grit in their 103-94 victory Sunday night, evening the series before the teams headed to Boston.

The Celtics' starting guards somehow held together a choppy, foul-plagued game in which their big men were roundly outplayed by the Lakers, who blocked a finals-record 14 shots and scored relentlessly down low in another foul-choked finals game.

But Gasol and Andrew Bynum couldn't block any of the shots that mattered most: Those three-pointers by Allen, who scored 27 of his 32 points in the first half, and 10 fourth-quarter points from Rondo, whose 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists somehow still didn't cover his impact on this equalizer.

"They both were terrific," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We needed points, and Ray gave them to us. Rondo did a terrific job finding him. ... He's our quarterback, and he does a lot of stuff for us. He was special."

Game 3 is Tuesday night, the first of three straight in Boston.

Kobe Bryant scored 21 points while battling more foul trouble for the Lakers, who couldn't catch up to Boston's dynamic guards in Los Angeles' first home playoff loss since last season's Western Conference finals, ending a 12-game streak and a 9-0 start to these playoffs. Gasol had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, and Bynum added 21 points and six rebounds.

The Lakers' aura of invincibility at Staples Center didn't make it through the fourth quarter. Bryant picked up three fouls while shooting poorly in the first half. He committed his fifth early in the fourth quarter, keeping him shy of 30 points for just the sixth time in the post-season.

"It's a series," Bryant yawned. "You're trying to stay even-keel. You don't get too high, don't get too low after a win or a loss. You just go into the next one and take care of business."

That's exactly what Allen and Rondo did after mostly forgettable performances in the finals opener. While Allen scored just 12 points through constant foul trouble, Rondo started slowly and never catalyzed the Celtics' offence with the same flair he showed while growing into the Celtics' biggest offensive threat in these playoffs.

Although it wasn't as gaudy as his monstrous 29-point, 18-rebound, 13-assist Game 4 in the second round against Cleveland, Rondo's 10-point fourth quarter against the Lakers looms among his largest achievements -- particularly if Boston gets rolling toward its 18th championship this week.

"The best part about getting a triple-double is getting a win," Rondo said. "That's pretty much it. It would be pointless to get a triple-double and lose the game."

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett weren't much help to Allen, who hit seven three-pointers before halftime alone, tying the finals record for a full game. With his eighth three-pointer midway through the third quarter, Allen broke the record for a full finals game he shared with Kenny Smith and Scottie Pippen -- and though he didn't hit another under tight defence, Rondo took charge.

"There's no better place, moment, time ... to win a game, and to win in a great fashion," Allen said. "I don't know what record it is that people are telling me that I got, but it's great to have, great to be able to look back on it and say I did that. This is definitely our time."

Sliding effortlessly around his teammates' picks and crisply releasing his fundamentally flawless jumper, Allen didn't even miss until his eighth try rimmed out in the waning moments of the half, stunning both his bench and the fearful Staples Center crowd.

"He looked like somebody took his ball the last game, and he couldn't play," Pierce said of Allen. "He came out here and he shot lights out. You could tell he was frustrated from the last game because of the foul trouble, so he wanted to go out there and prove something tonight. I think he really showed us why Ray Allen is a future Hall of Famer and one of the best shooters to ever play."

After the Lakers' whistle-plagued 102-89 victory in the opener, both teams again struggled under the weight of foul trouble -- 29 fouls called on each team. With Allen and Rondo playing spectacular basketball, none of it mattered much.

"Our big guys played great," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We didn't get the ball often enough to them, or in a good enough position many times, and a lot of our outside shooting was not that (good). ... In a sequence like this, there's no doubt it's a blow to us to lose the homecourt, but we anticipated this might happen, and we're just going to have to go pick it up."

NOTES: Allen was one shy of the record for three-pointers in one half of any playoff game. ... Before the game, the NBA unveiled the logo for next February's all-star weekend at Staples Center. ... Toronto big man Chris Bosh heard from plenty of Lakers fans who would like to see him in purple and gold next fall when he walked around Staples Center's lower bowl.

Rajon Rondo (Photo: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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