L.A. Lakers Win Game 3 Over Celtics In Boston

Los Angeles beat Boston 91-84 Tuesday night and now leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

It was only Game Three in the NBA Finals last night, in a best of seven contests, but it may be a pivotal win. The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 91 to 84 in Boston, to take a two to one lead.

NPR's Tom Goldman joins me now. He was watching that game. Good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Deb.

AMOS: The Celtics started very strong. Tell us about that.

GOLDMAN: They did. They'd like to freeze those first few minutes because they got off to a wonderful start at home. But the Lakers came back and they came back in a big way. In that first half, they stretched the lead to 17 points actually. Kobe Bryant, their star guard, got going. In all facets, he played a very well-rounded game in that first half. The Lakers defense dominated the Celtics. And the Celtics seemed to tighten up, missing a lot of shots.

Nobody had a worse night than Ray Allen. He was the hero of Game Two when Boston won and he had a record eight three-point baskets on his way to 32 points. Last night possibly his worst night as a pro; he took 13 shots, missed all of them including eight from three-point range. And, you know, when you consider how close the game got in the second half, the Celtics got within one point, had Allen made any of his shots it could have been a different outcome.

AMOS: Let's talk about another Lakers' player and thats a veteran, Derek Fisher. How did he do?

GOLDMAN: Well, he was the hero, basically, for Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant slowed down in the final quarter. Boston was playing tough defense on him and the Lakers had to look elsewhere for points, and they got it from Fisher. Eleven points in the quarter, 16 for the game. You know, he doesnt get the attention like his superstar back court mate, Bryant, but he has made a career out of doing big things in big games. And Kobe Bryant said about him, last night, he's done it over and over and over again, so it's almost his responsibility to our team to do these things.

AMOS: And he's an older player.

GOLDMAN: He is. He's 34, which is ancient.

(Soundbite of laughter)

AMOS: Why Game Three? Why was this such a big deal?

GOLDMAN: Because everything in sports this day is a big deal. You know everything's hyped to the max. There was one stat out there that many were citing. They said since 1985 when the finals adopted a 2-3-2 format - meaning the first two games in one city, the next three games in the next city, and then the last two games in that first city. When the NBA Finals is tied one-one, the winner of Game Three has gone on to win the championship every time. Which means, of course, Los Angeles should now be crowned the champions.

But, you know, they do play the games, even though, and... But you probably can say that Boston is in the first must-win situation now, in Game Four on Thursday. The Celtics dont want to go down three to one against a good, talented team like Los Angeles with a zealot like Bryant who, when he gets within sniffing distance of a title, there usually no stopping him.

AMOS: Before you go, let's talk a little bit about baseball. Here in Washington, you can guess what the headlines are. Talk to us, please, about this new baseball phenomenon.

GOLDMAN: You mean Stephen Strasburg, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball thing?

AMOS: Yeah, that would be a phenomenon, wouldnt it?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, the pre-game hype was unbelievable and usually no one lives up to the hype. But, you know, guess what? He did. Strasburg was amazing: 14 strikeouts, no walks. No pitcher in history has ever done that in a Major League debut. He could have had more strikeouts but they wanted to protect his golden right arm, so he only threw seven innings and he got the victory - five to two over Pittsburgh.

He's got a seriously fast, fast ball. He throws a hundred miles an hour, a ridiculous curve ball that drops like a rock. It was a phenomenal start for a 21-year-old phenom, who in one night, made baseball extremely relevant in the nation's capital for the first time in many years.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

AMOS: Thats NPR's Tom Goldman.

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