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But Pierce's finals homecoming was homely.
The Celtics' star forward, who came in averaging 25 points in the series, went just 2-for-14 and missed all four 3-pointers.
Despite his struggles, the Celtics were only down six early in the third quarter when Rondo went down with a sprained left ankle. As he laid on the floor, his teammates rushed over to check on Rondo, who limped off the court without aid -- or a wheelchair -- like Pierce famously needed after hurting his knee in the opener.
House, who hadn't played a minute in the series, replaced Rondo and drilled a 3-pointer and Garnett scored underneath before finally making a jumper as Boston took a 51-49 lead. Moments later, Allen stuck a 3-pointer that sent Boston's bench bounding onto the floor when the Lakers had to call a timeout.
The Lakers didn't have to endure the deafening chants of "Beat L.A." Instead, they warmed up to Randy Newman's "I Love L.A" and Los Angeles fans screamed "Boston (Stinks)" every chance they could.
Unlike Game 2, when so much of the pregame attention was on Pierce's sprained knee, the chatter before tipoff included uneasy discussions about past officiating.
The league was again having to deal with allegations made by former referee Tim Donaghy, who claims in court documents that NBA referees rigged the 2002 playoff series between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings.
Commissioner David Stern reiterated the league's stance that Donaghy acted alone and feels his lawyers were using Game 3's platform to help their client.
After Game 2, Jackson, Bryant and a few other Lakers had made pointed and sarcastic comments about the lopsided whistles. But if they were worried about there being any favoritism toward Boston, they were mistaken as the Lakers attempted 14 free throws -- four more than in all of Game 2 -- in the first quarter.
Los Angeles took 34 free throws to Boston's 22.
With Vujacic and Bryant doing most of the damage, Los Angeles built an 11-point lead in the second and the West's best moved the ball better on the offensive end than in either game in Boston. The Lakers were up 10, and everything was going according to plan when Bryant got slapped with a technical for complaining about a non-call.
The Celtics then closed the half with a short burst, capped by Allen's 3-pointer and were within 43-37 at the break despite getting just 2 points apiece from Garnett and Pierce, who shot a combined 2-for-16. Garnett's only basket came on an alley-oop dunk.
Notes: Informed that Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who sat courtside and within a few feet of the Lakers bench in Game 2, blogged about Bryant criticizing his teammates, Jackson said he wished fans were further back. "I've been against that for as long as I've been coaching," he said. "Those people don't belong there, somebody is going to get hurt. But that becomes part of what the NBA is about, being close to the action and close to the scene. We have to suffer the consequences because of it." ... "American Idol" winner David Cook sang the national anthem.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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