BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have tied up the NBA finals, and they owe it more to “Big Baby” than the Big Three.
Backup Glen “Big Baby” Davis scored half of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Celtics bench as Boston pulled away from the Los Angeles Lakers to win 96-89 on Thursday night and even the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Sunday night in Boston. The Celtics’ win guaranteed them a trip back to Los Angeles and averted a 3-1 deficit that has never been overcome in NBA finals history.
Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and Pau Gasol had 21 for the Lakers.
Paul Pierce scored 19 points, Kevin Garnett had 13 and Ray Allen bounced back from a seven-quarter shooting slump to score 12 points for Boston.
But the new Big Three that led the Celtics to their 17th NBA title in 2008 — beating the Lakers in the finals — was on the bench for much of the fourth-quarter run that gave Boston the lead for good.
“I don’t think guys really care and that’s why we’re here, it really is,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said of the extra minutes for the bench. “… It was great, you know. That’s the loudest I’ve seen our bench, the starters cheering from the bench. It was terrific.”
Bryant hit three straight 3-pointers to give the Lakers a 62-58 lead with 1:25 left in the third. Davis’ putback left the Celtics trailing by two points heading into the final quarter, and he scored underneath on a reverse layup in the opening minute of the fourth to tie it.
“Just will, that’s all it is,” Davis said. “They’re long, you just have to go out there and put a body on someone and make sure they don’t touch the ball.
“This is what legends are made of, this is where you grasp the moment. … Just play in the moment.”
Gasol made a basket to give L.A. the lead — its last of the game — before Allen scored, Davis followed, Allen made another basket and Davis followed with a three-point play that made it 71-64 with 8:22 left.
In all, the Celtics scored 13 of 15 points during a five-minute span when Allen was the only starter on the court, mostly with Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nate Robinson and Tony Allen. Robinson scored 12 points in 17 minutes as the Celtics’ bench outscored the Lakers’ 36-18; Odom had 10 of L.A.’s points, playing 39 minutes after starting center Andrew Bynum tested his sore knee but did not play in the second half.
“We just knew we had to bring our energy, that’s the main thing for us,” Robinson said of his fellow reserves. “The more energy we bring, the better offensively we are and the better defensively we are.”
Ray Allen, who had a record eight 3-pointers in Game 2 and then went 0 for 13 from the field in Game 3, made his first basket but then went cold again, missing his next six shots before snapping out of it. He finished 4 for 11 from the field — missing all four 3-pointers, and scored 10 points in the second half.
The Celtics led 74-66 — their biggest lead of the game to that point — when Wallace was called for a foul after knocking the ball away from Bryant under the basket. Wallace argued and drew a technical — his sixth of the playoffs, meaning both he and Kendrick Perkins are one away from a one-game suspension.
Bryant missed the “T” but hit the other free throws to bring the Lakers within six points. It was still a six-point game when Wallace hit a 3-pointer to make it 79-70. Robinson drew a technical for getting in Odom’s face after a hard foul; Derek Fisher missed that free throw, and after Robinson hit his free throws Boston had an 81-72 lead with 5:39 left.