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Paul Pierce

After allowing a 22-point 3rd quarter lead evaporate down to a nail-biting 104-102 margin with 22 seconds left in the final quarter, the Celtics held on to take 2-0 lead over the Lakers in their best-of-seven series. The Lakers, who were aided by hitting seven 3-pointers in the fourth, almost stole Game 2 and had they completed their comeback, they might have stolen the series.

As it stands, in order for those “Lakers in six” prognostications (I picked the same thing) to come true, Kobe and the gang will have to win the next four games, three of which will be in Los Angeles. When you consider just how easily the Celtics have been able to score in this series thus far, it’s hard to see the Lakers applying any kind of choke hold on this series. In fact, according to the folks at ESPN, the Lakers have never overcome a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals, a stat that doesn’t bode well for LA fans out there.

However, the 2-3-2 series format might just help LA’s cause.

For the Celtics, the Big 3 performed as expected and their oft-overlooked point guard, Rajon Rondo, had a very point-guard-like game with 16 huge assists to go along with his four points and six rebounds. While he wasn’t a scoring machine by any means, Rondo orchestrated a Celtics attack that put 108 points on the board. Leading the way for the Celtics was Paul Pierce who had 28 points, four rebounds and eight assists while going 4-4 from behind the 3-point arc.

Pierce continues to play Kobe Bryant to a standstill, effectively leveling the playing field when it comes to who has the best individual player in this series. Like I said, the other members of the Big 3 for Boston were very effective as well but it was the play of Leon Powe that put Celtics over the top last night. Powe finished with 21 points on 6-7 shooting (9-13 from the line) in 15 minutes and gave the Celtics an extra piece of offensive firepower for the Lakers to deal with and they failed.

Powe’s brilliant game was punctuated by three huge dunks, with two of them coming to close out the 3rd quarter:

And this second one, courtesy of a nifty Rajon Rondo assist:

See the third dunk here

As for the Lakers, questions about their defense need to be answered. Will they consistently be able to shut down the Celtics when the series resumes? While they improved last night, questions about the Lakers’ ability to keep Boston from feasting on rebounds need to be addressed as well.

Game 3 is Tuesday night.