BOSTON — Chin resting in his hand, mouth barely moving as he spoke, Kobe Bryant had the look of someone who would have rather been anywhere but Staples Center.
The next few nights might make him long to be back home.
The NBA's best rivalry is returning to its East Coast headquarters, site of a miserable moment for Bryant the last time he and the Lakers were in Boston for the Finals.
And the Celtics and their green-clad fans can't wait to welcome him back.
"I feel good going back to the jungle," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said.
Game 3 is tonight, the first of three straight in Boston.
The Celtics evened the series at a game apiece with their 103-94 victory in Game 2, with guards Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen punishing the Lakers, and Bryant often powerless to stop them because of foul trouble.
Bryant had little to say afterward, offering terse responses as he looked back on that game and ahead to the next one.
"It's the most important game. Game 1 was the most important, Game 2 was the most important, now it's Game 3," Bryant said. "It's just the next game, simple as that."
The Finals are deadlocked after two games for the first time since 2004, when the Pistons split in Los Angeles before coming home and winning three straight. That was Bryant's first loss in the championship round.
His other one came two years ago. The Celtics pummeled the Lakers 131-92 in a Game 6 rout. While the Celtics celebrated, the Lakers sat trapped in their team bus as Boston fans taunted them from the street.
"Obviously there's feelings involved and there's memories that are in there, which should help us, should help us to push through and to battle even harder," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said of that night.
Both teams were off Monday after the flight from Los Angeles.
"We took homecourt, so we've got a chance to play three games (at home)," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "It's going to be a championship atmosphere, the Garden's going to be loud. They've been waiting for us a week and a half now, so it's going to be a pretty raucous crowd."
bynum BLOCK PARTY: Lakers center Andrew Bynum blocked seven shots in Game 2, two shy of the Finals record set by the Magic's Dwight Howard in Game 4 last year against the Lakers. The Lakers franchise playoff record for blocks is nine, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1977.
Bynum has had a sore right knee. He had fluid drained May 31, then had 10 points and six rebounds in a little more than 28 minutes of Los Angeles' 102-89 Game 1 victory.
In Game 2, he had 21 points, six rebounds and key blocked shots.
"He recovered really well off of some swelling that he had on that knee," coach Phil Jackson said.
Game 2 ratings up: The Celtics' win Sunday earned the highest preliminary rating for Game 2 of a Finals since 2004. The 10.9 overnight rating was up 10 percent from the 9.9 for last year's Magic-Lakers Game 2. Ratings measure the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into a program. Overnight ratings represent the country's largest markets.
Cavaliers: Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said Cleveland is interested in replacing fired coach Mike Brown with the Spartans' Tom Izzo and that Izzo has had discussions with the Cavaliers, but there hasn't been an offer.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert discussed the framework of a deal, worth about $6 million a season for up to five years. At Michigan State, Izzo, 55, makes more than $3 million a season and is under contract through 2016.
In a radio interview Monday night, Izzo said: "I've taken the no-comment-on-all-of-it policy. I've been very consistent with that. There have been so many things out there that are so far-fetched right now. I'm the Michigan State coach. That's what I'm going to do. Who knows what the future brings, but it sure isn't at all like it's maybe being speculated."
In a text message to the Lansing State Journal, Izzo said the reports are "way more (baloney) than substance."
Hornets: The team scheduled a news conference today to formally introduce Monty Williams as coach. Williams, 38, has been a Trail Blazers assistant since 2005.