By KEVIN McNAMARA
BOSTON - For two games and several long days in between, Lamar Odom heard all sorts of negative words attached to his name.
Where is Lamar? Lamar disappears. Lamar isn't stepping up. Lamar's a ghost.
Despite all the critics, Odom didn't flinch. He says he knew his time would come in these NBA Finals if only he could stay out of foul trouble and on the floor long enough to help out. His time came in Game Three, a game that could end up as the key swing game in the series as the Odom's Lakers took over in the first quarter and shook off some late Celtics runs to take a 91-84 victory. The Lakers lead the series, 2-1.
"That's the way the game goes. It's about the Lakers, not Lamar," said Odom. "I was just able to stay out of foul trouble."
After picking up five fouls in both games in L.A., Odom was whistled for four more in Game Three but he spaced them out nicely and remained on the floor for nearly 28 minutes. He made all five of his field goals and finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds to lead his team's important bench play.
"I just had to stay out of foul trouble and I was able to stay aggressive throughout the game," said Odom. "The plays will be there for me to make if I stay aggressive."
Hoping to get his super-sub going, Lakers coach Phil Jackson sent Odom into the game earlier than he did in the opening two games. He replaced Andrew Bynum at the 5:55 mark of the first quarter and a few seconds later banked in a lucky 3-point shot.
"He had a kiss shot that went in off the backboard. That was kind of a gift from God to him for all that stuff he's been through in the series," said Jackson. "He just had one of those nights where he kept playing and things happened and he created things for himself. He got an offensive rebound that was big at the end of the game (and) made a baseline drive that was another big basket for us in a critical situation."
Odom credited his team's defense as the key to the victory. The Lakers held the Celtics to 84 points on 44 percent shooting with both Ray Allen (0-for-13, 2 points) and Paul Pierce (5-of-12, 15 points) being held in check. "We've got to be able to win ugly and win the low-scoring games and we were able to do that," he said.
Afterwards, the Laker dressing room was packed with media and wide smiles from the players. After losing a huge Game Two at home, the Lakers regained the home court edge with a victory at TD Garden.
"That's what it's all about," said Odom. "Laying it on the line, being emotional and getting it done here in Boston. That's what playing basketball on this level is really all about."