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The Lakers survived on Father’s Day. That’s really all it was about despite all of ABC NBA analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy’s hoopla due to them looking shaky closing out the Celtics to win Game Five 103-98 at Staples Center and extend the series back to Boston.
No team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit winning the final two on the road in Finals History. The Celtics will return home where they’ve only lost once in this postseason and have two more chances at winning their 17th NBA title.
Maybe if Kevin Garnett didn’t tank down the stretch tonight, the Larry O’Brien Trophy would already be theirs. Despite a heroic 38-point performance from Paul Pierce (10-of-22 FG, 16-of-19 FT), Boston fell just short of taking the series in five despite a solid defensive effort. They once again forced Kobe Bryant (8-of-21 FG, four treys,Â 25 pts) into a poor shooting night. After a strong start, he was only three for his last 13 but one of those included a huge swipe and breakaway jam in the final 45 seconds extending LA’s lead to four instead of Pierce and Co. having a shot to tie or even take the lead.
The Celts were right there trailing by a deuce with KG at the line for a pair but the ex-Timberwolve didn’t even come close on either attempt showing nerves with an elusive championship within grasp. He also couldn’t putback a Ray Allen miss from in close which would’ve cut it to two. Still, Boston had opportunities due to a money Eddie House trifecta from the left baseline which cut the Laker lead to three. A near fatal mistake during an in bounds almost led to a turnover and a chance for the Celts to tie it. But Bryant saved the ball and got it to Derek Fisher, who split a pair at the charity stripe to make it a two possession game. The veteran guard hit on 8-for-11 from the line en route to 15.
Bryant’s supporting cast stepped up with their backs to the wall getting double/doubles from Pau Gasol (19 and 13 w/ 6 assists) and Lamar Odom (20 and 11).
Los Angeles also got a big performance from Jordan Farmar, who contributed 11 on five-of-nine shooting off the bench. The Celtics still held a 28-17 bench edge with vet Sam Cassell posting nine along with House and Tony Allen each adding six.
Still, the series will go back to Beantown Tuesday with Boston having a second chance to close it out. They once again fought back from an early hole climbing back from 17 down after the first to be right there in crunch time.
But the Lakers did just enough to stay alive. Now the pressure squarely is on the Celts who will get the chance to deliver in front of a home crowd with plenty of legends on hand to see if they can win their first NBA title in 22 years.
At the very least, it’s going six and that’s good for the league. Now we’ll see if Kobe and the Lakers have what it takes to push Boston the limit.