Celtics 103, Lakers 94

Triple threat

Allen on target as Celtics gain coveted split

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 7, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — Their internal clock was ticking. The moment was bursting with pressure. The sequence couldn’t have been more critical. But the Celtics’ bench couldn’t help but laugh.

An eight-second violation was about one second away, and coach Doc Rivers was desperately trying to call a timeout.

Desperate for a stop trailing, 95-90, with less than two minutes left, the Lakers were hounding the Celtics. Kendrick Perkins came down with a rebound and tried to outlet to Rajon Rondo. Paul Pierce was down on the floor. Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant were trapping Rondo and the Celtics were a blink from what would have been their 15th turnover of the night.

“We were stuck in the backcourt,’’ Rondo said. “It was kind of hectic.’’

Rivers made the leap, jumping nearly to the free throw line to get the referees’ attention. Ultimately, Mike Callahan saw him.

“We had one second left,’’ Rivers said. “I’m glad they saw me. I don’t think they had a choice but to see me. I was past them.’’

Rivers saved the Celtics a possession and possibly the game, and on the way back to the bench his team greeted him as if he had taken a charge. Brian Scalabrine rubbed his shoulders and Kevin Garnett threw a couple elbows as if Rivers were Perkins.

What was bigger was the next sequence. Out of the timeout, Ray Allen found Garnett in the paint, and he quickly dropped a pass to Perkins for a layup that made it 97-90, giving the Celtics a cushion they held on to for a 103-94 Game 2 win at Staples Center last night.

“The execution out of that [timeout] was terrific,’’ Rivers said. “We spread the floor and we told the guys, move the floor, they’ll double, and if we keep moving we may find a layup, and we got one. So I was just proud of the execution.’’

The Celtics return to Boston with the series tied at a game apiece. Rivers’s giant leap turned out to be the game saver.

“The guys got a kick out of that,’’ Rivers said. “You know, it was funny, as big as that little moment was, I actually thought that the bigger moment was all the players were laughing at me and it allowed them to breathe a little bit, and I thought that helped us.’’

Rondo, the floor general, praised Rivers’s smarts.

“Doc is a pretty intelligent coach,’’ Rondo said after posting his second triple-double of the postseason (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists). “He knew the time and score. He knew we needed the possession.’’

Everyone else praised the gusto of the 48-year-old coach.

“It’s just funny,’’ said Glen Davis. “He ran out there, an old man trying to call a timeout, looking like he was about to hurt himself.’’

Between Davis (8 points, seven rebounds), Rasheed Wallace (7 points, seven rebounds) and Nate Robinson (7 crucial points spelling Rondo in the second half), the bench lifted the Celtics, who needed every edge they could get to overcome the Lakers’ supersized frontcourt of Pau Gasol (25 points, eight rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (21 points, six rebounds).

But in one of the game’s most crucial moments, Robinson couldn’t help laughing.

“It was funny because everybody was calling time out because we saw the clock,’’ Robinson said. “But when Doc jumped on the court it was just funny. You don’t really see coaches really jump out and run. He was in his suit, with his slippery shoes. It’s cool.’’

“He claims that he’s in shape,’’ Allen quipped. “But when he ran out there he didn’t look like he was in shape.’’

Allen was a human torch in the first half, scoring 27 points before the break.

Fouls handcuffed Allen in the series-opening loss Thursday night, but for the first 24 minutes of Game 2 it looked as if the Celtics’ sharpshooter was playing his own game of around the world, spraying 3-pointers from all along the arc.

When Allen splashed in a 25-footer with 2:40 left — he was 7 of 8 on 3-pointers in the half — he gave the Celtics a 52-39 lead and also set the Celtics’ playoff record for 3-pointers in a half, surpassing the six he drained in the second half of the Game 6 blowout of the Lakers in the 2008 Finals.

He was lighting up the Lakers so badly they took Bryant off Rondo and put him on Allen. But a Celtic lead that got up to 14 was only 54-48 at the break.

The Lakers shot 40.8 percent on the night, missing 12 of 20 fourth-quarter shots as the Celtics closed the door. But seeing the game come down to a coaching move, coach Phil Jackson grinned and jokingly questioned the legality of the timeout.

“I don’t know if you can do that or not,’’ he said. “I don’t think that’s legal to get on the floor. I think coaches have to stay on the sideline. They’re not supposed to be on the floor. It’s like he was shot out of a starter’s block.’’

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