Lakers Cry Foul Over Whistle Disparity

And when they needed a defensive stop that could give them one possession with a chance to tie or win at the end, they couldn't deliver. Paul Pierce got into the lane -- just as he had all night -- and drew a foul on Fisher with 22.8 seconds remaining and nine seconds left on the shot clock. Let the record show that Fisher felt this call was legit.

"I fouled him," Fisher said. "Once he turned the corner and went to the left, I thought he had an open lane, so I wanted to provide some sort of resistance to him."

He didn't see Pau Gasol coming over to provide help. If Fisher had seen his teammate, he would have let Pierce try his luck against Gasol.

"But I tried to get my hand in there real quick [to] try to poke [the ball] out and got caught with my hand in the cookie jar."

Pierce made both free throws and it was a four-point Boston lead in what could have become one of the most memorable games in the history of this rivalry. Instead it's just another game, one that didn't thrill either side.

"Of course we're not happy with how it ended," Boston's James Posey said. "But we'll take the win."

That's the sentiment you always hear in this type of game. It wasn't the wire-to-wire dominance that would have us all genuflecting to the Celtics' greatness. There wasn't a complete collapse that would have us wondering if these Celtics are fatally flawed in the fourth quarter.

Just a victory.

The Lakers felt they didn't do enough things right, and the Celtics outplayed them.

"They deserved to win tonight," Vujacic said.

The Lakers got a better effort from Pau Gasol, who went aggressively to the basket from the get-go and scored six first-quarter points that probably made the 27 Spanish reporters glad they made the trip. Gasol finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

And the Lakers did have that 41-point fourth, which enabled Bryant to get to a that's-more-like-it total of 30 points.

"We did some things better in terms of executing and spacing down the stretch," Fisher said. "And I think it freed up Kobe to get some open looks, and we also had some other guys get a chance to get some open looks."

Still, Jackson said it's impossible to bring that fourth-quarter momentum back to Game 3 in Los Angeles.

"It's 2,500 miles away," Jackson said. "It's too far to carry it."

That's how it is with almost-comebacks. They won't be talking about this one on Tuesday, let alone 20 years from now.

J.A. Adande is an senior writer and the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments."

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