First impressions: Celtics 92, Lakers 86
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Paul Pierce scored 26 of his team-high 27 points over the first three quarters of play to lead four Boston starters in double figures. In fact, Boston's starting 5 combined for 79 points, shouldering the load as a unit whereas the Lakers leaned heavy on their superstar. Kobe Bryant generated nearly half of Los Angeles' total offense with 38 points, half of which came in a jaw-dropping third quarter, but Pau Gasol was the next highest scorer with 12 points.
KOBE CAN'T WIN IT ALONE: Bryant scored 19 consecutive points for the Lakers to start the third quarter (23 points overall stretching back to the first half) and a teammate didn't score until Gasol's layup with 2:15 to play in the frame. Trouble for L.A. was that the Celtics entered the frame with a six point lead and actually extended that advantage to 13 during Bryant's reign of terror. Boston's five starters each scored a bucket over the first three minutes of the third quarter to push the lead to double digits despite seven points from Bryant (he ultimately went 9 for 14 during the stretch, while his teammates were 0 for 7). The Big Three then took turns scoring in bunches to preserve a double-digit advantage until late in the frame.
STAT OF THE GAME: The stats for this game are enough to make your eyes bleed. The Lakers dominated the offensive glass (16-7 advantage on offensive rebounds), but Boston dominated in field-goal percentage (56.3-39.7 percent). The Lakers shot twice times as many free throws (26-13), but nine misses prevented them from capitalizing. The Celtics committed 15 turnovers, a series high for the Green, including seven by Rajon Rondo (tying his postseason career high), but the Lakers gave away the ball 12 times to make it a bit of a nonfactor in the end.
UNSUNG HERO: Despite only playing 14 minutes, Rasheed Wallace continues to make a monster impact on the NBA Finals. Wallace connected on 2-of-4 shots for five points, including a pivotal 3-pointer after the Lakers rallied within six with 10:59 to play in the game. He also grabbed four rebounds and blocked a shot while making Gasol's life miserable yet again.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Celtics stand one win away from Banner 18 with a 3-2 edge as this best-of-seven series shifts back to the Los Angeles. Boston gets two chances to steal another game on the road and their reward is the prize they've coveted since Banner 17 joined the rafters. It's certainly no gimme as the series returns to the Staples Center and Boston must put a heavy focus on Game 6 to prevent the Lakers from gathering any momentum going into a do-or-die Game 7.
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