Granted, they did a better job guarding the Celtics, particularly with a smaller lineup that had Bryant on Pierce and Sasha Vujacic on Ray Allen. The Lakers got tougher around the basket, with Ronny Turiaf dishing out some hard fouls and Luke Walton taking out the frustration of a scoreless night with a near-tackle of James Posey at the hoop.
But they won this with efficient offense down the stretch, scoring on four straight possessions. That allowed them to prevail even though, on defense, they had a breakdown that resulted in a wide-open Garnett dunk, and a slow rotation that allowed Eddie House to hit a 3-pointer in the corner.
If the Lakers have to get a stop to win the championship -- or to stay alive for it -- can they? That remains an unanswered question, but one that will determine this series at some point (if it hasn't already).
"It's not about offense at this stage of the season," Bryant said. "Obviously you want to play better offensively, but defensively is where we really get things done at this point."
At least it's a series now, but the way things have gone that's not something to celebrate. David Stern had the Angry Dave look as he walked out of the arena, in part because a victory by the home team down 2-0, with a nice free-throw advantage, didn't exactly end the notion that the league wants a longer series so that's what it will get.
Stern condemned Donaghy as a desperate felon, and slighted the media for taking his allegations and running with them with no verification. Actually, the media is way behind the public opinion on this one. Enough fans already believe the games are fixed by the officials, and now a former member of the officiating fraternity is saying the same thing.
There are obvious questions to ask, including why Donaghy waited until now, after the NBA is trying to hit him up for $1 million in restitution, to unveil these allegations. And if the NBA wanted to ensure a long series, wouldn't it be safer to put the fix in Game 2 for the Lakers, guaranteeing a fifth game earlier and building the anticipation for Game 3?
Too bad it's not simply a matter of whether the Lakers can get more production from players besides Bryant, and if Garnett is going to assert himself in this series.
Basketball stuff, you know?
J.A. Adande is an ESPN.com senior writer and the author of "The Best Los Angeles Sports Arguments." Click here to e-mail J.A.