Doc's Opinion: 'We had opportunities, we didn't cash in'
Celtics coach Doc Rivers talked about some of the key moments of the game at the start of his postgame conference with the media:
"With five minutes left, we went into stall mode offensively," said Rivers. "We walked the ball up the floor, took forever to run stuff. That’s just not who we are. And I got on them about that. And then the two offensive rebounds –- the one with Shannon Brown, you know that’s what we’ve talked about. We had a big discussion about it today, about timely rebounds, [because] offensive rebounds are killing us. And that hurt us. But they made some unbelievable shots. Kobe [Bryant]'s shot was as difficult of a shot as you can make. Ron Artest’s shot, I don’t even know how that thing went in. I didn’t think Ray [Allen] fouled Kobe on the one strip play. I thought that was as clean as you’re going to get -- he exposed the ball. I didn’t think the guy was in position to make the call. But it was made and you know that’s part of the game. So I don’t know if we let it slip away. It was a good game. We had opportunities, we didn’t cash in on them."
Allen's foul wasn't the only one that baffled Rivers, but he admitted he needed to see a replay of the charge called against Pierce in the final minute to truly judge it.
“I haven’t seen it yet, honestly," said Rivers. "I just think at that point it’s got to be unbelievable, but I didn’t see it so I really can’t give an opinion on it. I do know Kobe pushes off a lot."
Speaking of Kobe pushing off...
Not since Michael Jordan nudged Bryon Russell in the 1998 NBA Finals has pushing off drawn so much attention. Like Rivers, many of the Celtics weren't bashful about offering an opinion on Pierce's pivotal offensive foul. The Boston Globe's intrepid Julian Benbow asked both Ray Allen and Tony Allen -- the two players covering Bryant most of the night -- if Bryant pushes off on offense.
"He pushes off, that's part of the game," said Ray Allen. "The last play with Paul, I don't think Paul did anything different from what Kobe had been doing all night."
Tony Allen simply shook his head and declared, "Both teams played hard," before noting that he wasn't going to say anything else in fear you'd find something like, "Tony Allen fined $25,000 for comments critical of officiating" scrolling across the ESPN Ticker.
For his part, Pierce (see video above) noted, "I thought I made a good move. I got to my sweet spot. I guess the ref saw it differently and he made the call. That’s part of the game, that’s why you have referees and, hey, I thought I made a great move though.”
Artest, who dramatically stumbled to about the third row of seats behind the baseline after the charge, said, "Did he push me? I mean, it was the referee's call. I was trying to get over the screen and got hit with the screen. He was trying to get a screen from Paul and I got a little shove, and the momentum carried me out of bounds.”
Boston's final shot
Rivers drew up a final play that assured either Ray Allen or Pierce would get a quality final look. Allen got it, but simply didn't connect from the wing in front of the Lakers' bench.
"He got a great look and just didn’t make it," said Rivers. "They did a good job on Paul on that play. It’s why Ray got the shot. We thought coming out of the pick-and-roll with Ray and Paul, either Paul was going to get a good look or Ray was going to get the good look. I’ll take either one.”
Allen didn't see exactly how the play unfolded, setting the initial screen for Pierce, but knew he was open and lamented not making the shot.
"I feel I let the team down," said Allen. "We could be sitting here, happy we won the game and I hit the shot to help us win. But there's always another shot."
Kobe's final shot: 'Give me the damn ball'
Everyone inside TD Garden knew exactly where the ball was going when the Lakers got it back, trailing by one, with 28 seconds to go.
“I didn’t say give me one more chance, I [told coach Phil Jackson] give me the damn ball," said Bryant. "I never really give him much of a choice. All we talked about was really just the execution of it, where I was going to catch the ball. That was the only difference. Throughout the course of the game I was pretty much a decoy because of all the traps and everything I did wrong, but if I catch it at the top of the floor, it’s a different story."
Allen's defense was as good as it could have been, but he still couldn't force the miss.
"I felt good over him, I felt like I was swarming him as much as I could," said Allen. "I had my hand around the ball, but he just squirmed away, got the ball up in the air. He makes tough shots. I've guarded him for 14 years now, I've seen him make a lot of tough shots. I always know, you've got to hover over him, make it as tough as possible."
* Lost in the deciding final moments was a fine effort from Tony Allen, who scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting over 25:17 of action. Allen also helped limit Bryant during the middle quarters. Said Rivers: "Tony was fantastic. I thought he got a little fast in the third quarter and turned the ball over and all that. The first half, him and Rondo singlehandedly got us back in the game, with their energy. Forget the bait and made baskets and the defense. I just thought they came in the game and played with energy. We told Rondo before the game we were going to sub him early because I wanted him against their second unit. I thought it’d be a good change for our second unit to have Rondo with the second unit because it gives us a ball handler. And I thought that was big for us.”
* Rondo scored 21 points and carried the offense during its comeback. Asked if that might alter how teams played him, especially after the Lakers basically dared him to shoot in previous games, Rivers said, "No, no. Listen, this is the NBA. They’re going to make you show them for three years. Andre Miller had 52 last night. Tomorrow they’re going to leave him wide open."
* Kobe on if it's still fun to beat Boston: "Oh sure. I mean it’s a great team. It’s a great basketball city -- very knowledgeable basketball city. So it’s fun to come in here and win.”