Halftime: Lakers 45, Celtics 42

BOSTON — The Lakers and the Boston Celtics played another game of trench warfare tonight in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. It’s not pretty basketball. It’s kind of ugly. The Lakers don’t seem to mind, though. Pau Gasol got down and dirty in the first half, scoring a team-leading 13 points. He made 3 of 6 shots and 7 of 8 free throws. Kobe Bryant added 12 points, including eight during an electric stretch in which he scored on three straight possessions and gave the Lakers the lead for good in the half. Andrew Bynum played only 11 minutes in the first half and scored two points and grabbed two rebounds.

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Bynum will play in Game 4

BOSTON — Andrew Bynum continues to be troubled by the torn meniscus in his right knee. He didn’t recover from Game 3 of the NBA Finals as well as hoped, but he is set to play in Game 4 tonight. Swelling and mild discomfort are the key issues, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the 7-foot center would “give it a shot and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

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Cracking on the refs

BOSTON — Whining about the officiating is a time-honored tradition in the playoffs. Lakers coach Phil Jackson is one of the best at it, usually with a subtle touch that makes it seem like he’s not crabbing about the referees. He jabbed Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City for getting what Jackson believed to be superstar treatment from the refs. He took a shot at Steve Nash of Phoenix for carrying the ball. Boston coach Doc Rivers isn’t as creative, labeling Derek Fisher a flopper. “What we all want is just consistency,” Rivers said. “It’s tough to get to that, but I think that’s what everybody wants.” Here’s what I would like: for everyone to shut up and play. There’s been way too much complaining in the Finals. Every call, every foul in particular, seems to provoke a demonstration. Fouls are up to an average of 53 per Finals game compared to 50.3 two seasons ago. The games have become tedious because of all the hacking. The protests and complaining only makes it worse. The referees aren’t changing their minds, especially on fouls, so get over it.

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Kobe and Fisher

BOSTON — Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are two victories away from earning their fifth NBA championship together. They broke into the NBA together in 1996, battling each other in practice and bonding down through the years as close teammates. They are far different people, however, as Fisher explained today after practice.

“I think there’s a balance to it,” Fisher said of their relationships with their teammates. “Sometimes he refers to it as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King in terms of how we go about balancing it. And, you know, I don’t think it’s necessarily him tearing guys up in a way that’s demeaning or belittling to our guys on our team, but just a different style of communicating it. …

“I’m a guy who likes to observe and kind of lay back and see how things are going and then, you know, fill in the gaps as I see it. And so our teams over the years having strong personalities like Shaq (O’Neal) and Kobe and Phil (Jackson), I’ve always filled in the between those guys on how to keep this thing going, because my only concern is for us to win. I love everybody, but if we don’t win, I don’t love you as much.”

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Bynum vows to play

BOSTON — Lakers coach Phil Jackson caused a minor stir today when he wouldn’t (or couldn’t) say for sure whether injured center Andrew Bynum would play in Game 4 on Thursday night. Bynum put an end to any speculation that his sore right knee would keep him out of the game, however. “I’m going to be playing,” Bynum said. “I’m going to play. … It was real swollen after the game (Tuesday), but it’s come back down to normal, so I’m going to be good. I’m going to play. … No, no, no, I’m going to play (tonight). This is the last mountain to climb, so I’m just going to go really hard.”

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Lakers 91, Celtics 84

BOSTON — Well, the old man ain’t done yet. Derek Fisher scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and shadowed Ray Allen into 0-for-13 shooting in Game 3 of the NBA Finals tonight. Fisher’s coast-to-coast layup and free throw after he was hacked sealed the deal for the Lakers, who lead the best-of-7 series, 2-1. Fisher made 5 of 7 shots in the fourth quarter. Fisher will be a free agent July 1 and will be 36 when training camps open in the fall. He said he has no plans to retirement and hopes to remain a Laker for life.

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Halftime: Lakers 52, Celtics 40

BOSTON — The Lakers played their best defensive first half of the series when they held the Boston Celtics to 40 points on 40 percent shooting tonight in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Ray Allen, who had 27 points in the opening half of Game 2, was scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting. Paul Pierce had only five points. Kevin Garnett finally showed up to the Finals and scored 15. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting. The Lakers led by as many as 17 points in the first half.

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Ron Artest speaks

BOSTON — If you get a chance, pick up Sports Illustrated when it hits newsstands on Wednesday. There’s a feature on Ron Artest. I got a sneak-peak today. Here are a few lines from Lee Jenkins’ piece: “During media sessions he talked about the art of taking a charge (‘If you flop and call an offensive foul in my neighborhood, somebody can get stabbed’), the importance of sportsmanship (‘I don’t like playing against guys who are nice to me–then I get vulnerable and weak’), how he perceives himself on the team (‘It’s like I’m watching TV and jumped into the screen and became Scottie Pippen’) and how he wants to be remembered (‘for people to say I was ghetto’).”

P.S. John Wooden is on the cover.

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Travel day

BOSTON — The circus that is the NBA Finals picked up and moved from Los Angeles to Boston today. Game 3 is Tuesday night. Neither team practiced and there were no press conferences scheduled, so most reporters tried their best to put the first two games into context going into the third one. Good luck with that. So far, Pau Gasol has been the steadiest player for either team in the series. He had 23 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks during the Lakers’ victory in Game 1 and then had 25 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in their loss in Game 2. Kevin Garnett of Boston has been the biggest disappointment for either team, narrowly edging Lamar Odom. Gasol said Garnett isn’t the same player he was two years ago and then instead of trying to prove him wrong Garnett went for six points and four rebounds in Game 2. So far, the games have been tough to watch for anyone who appreciates a free-flowing game. Too choppy. Too many fouls. TV timeouts are too long too. Those are just my opinions, but I’m not wrong.

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Celtics 103, Lakers 94

The Lakers held a 90-89 lead late in Game 2 tonight and ended up losing by nine points. The game’s best closer, Kobe Bryant, had little to offer and the Lakers went down in a heap. The series is tied, 1-all, with Games 3, 4 and 5 in Boston. It’s not an ideal scenario, but perhaps not unexpected given the Lakers’ up-and-down play tonight. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 25 points, and Bryant and Andrew Bynum had 21. Ray Allen scored 27 of his team-leading 32 points in the first half. Rajon Rondo added 19.

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