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It's no secret that the 2010 NBA Finals have been dominated by one team. In all three games, they've controlled the pace and style of play. And on the days following the games, they were featured in headlines everywhere. Of course, we're talking about the referees.
We're already averaging 53 fouls in each game, which is well above the average of about 45. And as WEEI's Kirk Minihane points out, it's not even that they're biased -- the refs are simply calling too many fouls.
The problem isn't that the referees are biased toward either the Lakers or Celtics, it's that they have allowed themselves to be THE story of what should be a finals that focuses on the best rivalry in the history of professional sports, starring guys like Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo and Garnett and Allen and Pau Gasol and Pierce and even Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers. Bill Kennedy should not be taking headlines away. William Devane said it better than me, guys. Let Them Play. Enough of 50+ fouls a game. Swallow the whistle. Does Bennett Salvatore think that America is tuning in to see Rondo, Pierce and Kobe on the bench with foul trouble? And how many instant replays do we need to have in the last two minutes of a game to establish a crew is over their heads? To be fair, I don't think a single blown call has determined the outcome of any of the first three games, but don't you get the feeling that is going to happen before this series is done?
Not surprisingly, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has had enough, and let his thoughts known on Wednesday, even going so far as to send a tape to the league office.
"I think it was a ton of moving screens they got away with," Rivers said the day after the Celtics' 91-84 loss to the Lakers in Game 3 put the Celtics behind 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. "As far as off-the-ball action ... you are not allowed to hold, you are not allowed to bump, and you are not allowed to impede progress. I read that this morning, and I'm positive of it. So, you know, when that happens it has to be called." [...]
"It's huge," Rivers said. "We've had all three games where one of our quote-unquote Big Three has not been able to play.
"Last night, Paul was never in his rhythm. He couldn't be. He played for four minutes, he was back on the bench, played for five minutes. I mean, I played Paul at times last night when I should not have had him on the floor with four fouls, but I had no choice. You've got to get him on the floor at some point.
Jeff Clark from SB Nation's Celtics Blog gives some quick reaction after the Celtics' Game 3 loss on Tuesday night:
- I guess Ray used up all his shots in game 2. 0-13 overall, 0-8 from 3. I wonder how many extra practice shots he takes between games 3 and 4. 2,000? 3,000?
- Garnett finally showed up. He learned that you can't go over Gasol, so you have to go through him. Great to see him back.
- What can you say about ? The C's defended him really well and he still made lots of big shots.
- 3 instant replays in the final minutes. That's just odd.
Clark also plays the "if" game looking back:
If Ray hits a few shots, ...if Pierce hits a couple more, ...if the defense makes a couple more stops, ...maybe the comeback would have been completed and we'd have a huge win. Instead we've got the wind knocked out of our sails. On to game 4.
For the Lakers' side of things, check out SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll.
Boston, MA (Sports Network) - scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, helping the to a 91-84 win over Boston in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
poured in 29 points and added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the defending NBA champions, who grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Fisher, like Bryant, going after his fifth championship ring, made 5-of-7 shots from the field in the final quarter.
, who set an NBA Finals record by making eight shots from beyond the arc on the way to a 32-point night in a 103-94 Boston win Sunday in LA, missed all 13 of his attempts from the field in Game 3 and had just two points. He missed all eight from beyond the arc, a sharp contrast to the 8-of-11 effort from Game 2.
scored 25 points for the , who also received 15 points from . Boston had six turnovers in the last quarter after having just four combined over the first three periods.
The Lakers are now two victories away from winning the 12th NBA Finals matchup in this storied rivalry. Game 4 is Thursday, again at TD Garden.
Ray Allen set a finals record by sinking eight shots from beyond the arc on the way to a 32-point night on Sunday, as the Celtics wrestled home-court advantage away from Los Angeles and evened the championship series with a 103-94 Game 2 win.
"I thought they (Lakers) did everything they could to keep me from shooting threes and they worked tirelessly," Allen said. "We were setting great screens and I was getting to my spots."
Rajon Rondo recorded his fifth career playoff triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for Boston. Rondo had 10 points in the fourth quarter, including six during a big 11-0 run that gave Boston the lead for good. It was the first finals triple-double for a Celtics player since Larry Bird turned the trick in 1986.
"Getting the loose balls, I think that was key for me personally, trying to track down all the long rebounds," Rondo said. "Our bigs are doing a great job of making them take tough shots."
The defending NBA champion Lakers won the opener of the set on Thursday, 102-89, behind Kobe Bryant's 30-point, seven-rebound, six-assist performance. Bryant had 21 points Sunday as he battled foul trouble throughout the game.
"We gave them too many easy baskets and blew too many defensive assignments," Bryant said.
Pau Gasol recorded 25 points, eight boards and six blocks, while Andrew Bynum notched 21 points and seven blocks as the Lakers set an NBA Finals single-game record with 14 swats but lost for the first time at Staples Center this postseason.
"We definitely need to make sure we hustle a little more," Gasol said. "They got to the ball tonight, a lot of times quicker than we did. Second chance opportunities and just loose balls, they were pursuing the ball definitely with more desire."
With the next three contests of the best-of-seven series set for TD Garden, the Celtics could earn their record 18th NBA title without ever returning to Hollywood. However, Doc Rivers' team has been uncharacteristically pedestrian as the host this season, compiling a 24-17 record during the regular season and a more solid 7-2 mark in the postseason. The Lakers, meanwhile, have won four times on the road this postseason.
The NBA Finals has been tied at a game apiece 32 different times and the winner of Game 3 has gone on to take 28 of those series.
The 2010 Finals marks the Lakers' 31st trip to the championship series and Boston's 21st appearance with 12 of those overlapping in clashes between the NBA's two most storied franchises.
Their finals history dates all the way back to the 1958-59 season when the Lakers still called Minneapolis home. Boston and the game's ultimate winner, Bill Russell, dominated the early years of the rivalry. The Red Auerbach-era Celtics took the Lakers all seven times they met in the finals, although the Jerry West, Elgin Baylor fueled LA clubs did manage to take Boston to seven games on three different occasions.
The rivalry lay dormant for 15 years until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson "saved" the NBA by bringing their own storied college rivalry to the pros. Bird avenged his loss at Indiana State to Magic's Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Finals when the Celtics got past the Lakers in seven games to win the 1983-84 NBA title.
Johnson and his Lakers responded the next season as LA finally beat Boston in the finals for the first time. Magic also won the rubber match two years later before the rivalry went cold again, this time for 20 years as the Celtics struggled mightily in the post-Bird era.
Boston basketball chief Danny Ainge re-ignited things by acquiring both Kevin Garnett and Allen before the 2007-08 season. The two All-Stars teamed with Paul Pierce to create the "Boston Three Party" and the Celtics were relevant again. A 17th Boston championship was the result as Garnett and his Celtics got the best of Bryant's Lakers.
A rematch could have been in the offing last season but a knee injury to Garnett derailed any hopes of a Celtics repeat. Instead, LA earned its 15th championship by taking Orlando in five games.
The Lakers and Celtics have combined to win 32 of the NBA's 63 titles coming into this series.
Game 4 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled for Thursday in Boston.