LOS ANGELES -- In the silent basement of the Staples Center, deadened by their Game 2 loss to Boston on Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers absorbed the meaning of it all.
"Everyone was ticked off, it was quiet," said center Andrew Bynum, describing the postgame locker room, before the coaches put it in perspective for them.
"They said it might be the last time we play here," said the Lakers' big man, referring to the three games in Boston. "That woke us up."
Sure, three road wins in Boston and the Lakers can wrap up the NBA Finals on the Celtics' home court. No? That wasn't what they meant?
Probably not, but it's already a crazy series, just two games in. If a 1-1 split wasn't what the Lakers wanted after they bullied the Celtics off the floor in Game 1, it's surely what the NBA and the basketball purists want.
The Celtics came through on the Lakers' home floor, 103-94, one of those upset turns that gives a playoff series a Vitamin B12 shot.
Anyway, all the little things that went the Lakers' way in Game 1 turned around. It's a fickle sport.
Mostly the Lakers missed a lot more shots, leading to the return of Boston's transition offense, which turned its spinning top of a point guard, Rajon Rondo, into the most important player on the floor. Triple-double important.
Unless you go with Celtics marksman Ray Allen, whose 8-of-11 shooting from three-point range had the Lakers crowd in full groan every time he squared his shoulders to fire.
The Lakers also had trouble dealing with foul issues, namely Kobe Bryant picking up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter of a tight game, as well as Lamar Odom's three fouls in the first quarter. But that's the poorest excuse ever.
Bynum, who usually plays fewer minutes than Odom, came up with his best postseason game ever -- 21 points and seven blocked shots, to tout the highlights.
If the Lakers had trouble with the refs, imagine what the Celtics thought. Kevin Garnett played less than half the game with foul problems. And until the final minute, when the Lakers began an intentional-foul fest, the home team had taken 39 free throws to the Celtics' 18.
Let's just say the refs called it tight, even slapping, I believe, Dustin Hoffman with five fouls.
So put the referee excuse away, and suck it up. The Lakers who dominated all the "hustle" numbers Thursday, got flipped upside down Sunday. Boston won the rebounding battle, the assists game and the fastbreak points.
In short, the Celtics deserved this one in the same way the Lakers deserved the first one.
"They got to the ball tonight, a lot of times quicker than us, " said Pau Gasol, who had another solid game (25 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots) but wasn't the story this time. "They were pursuing the ball with more desire."
Even so, if the Lakers simply had won the last five minutes of the game, they would have had their precious 2-0 lead. But they didn't, letting their 90-89 lead dissipate in a spate of turnovers, poor shots and defensive breakdowns.
If Boston seems to have swiped the momentum, we won't know until the final horn sounds after Game 3. The way this series is shaping up, no theory is safe, no superstar is guaranteed a spotlight (Bryant 8-of-20 shooting, Paul Pierce 10 points) and there really is no favorite in sight.
The Celtics now have home-court advantage, but it may not be as big a deal with these two veteran teams, owners of the past two championship trophies.
"This was big for us," said Rondo. "It would be tough for us to go home and win three straight. It's possible, but it would be tough with the defending champs."
Figure on a Game 6 back at Staples and digest the wisdom of Ron Artest, who was asked the difference between a 2-0 lead and a 1-1 split.
"It's the same," said the Lakers forward. "It's a seven-game series."
So two down, five anyone's-guesses to go.