Celtics Can't Close out Lakers in L.A.

This article is more than 12 years old.

Paul Pierce took the Boston Celtics to the brink of another improbable comeback and then let it slip out of his hands.

The All-Star scored 38 points in Game 5 of the NBA finals against Los Angeles on Sunday night, but twice in the final minutes let Kobe Bryant slap the ball away as the Lakers held on to win 103-98 and force the series back to Boston.

Game 6 is Tuesday night, and the Celtics would have another chance to close out their 17th NBA title on Thursday night if they need it.

The Celtics overcame a 24-point deficit to win Game 4 in Los Angeles, and they fell behind quickly in Game 5 as well. The Lakers took a 41-22 lead with the first basket of the second quarter, and again the Celtics mounted a comeback.

With the other starters resting or in foul trouble, Pierce scored 13 of Boston's next 17 points and also helped out on the other two baskets with an assist and a steal as the Celtics cut a 41-22 deficit to four points with a 15-0 run.

Pierce, an L.A. native facing the team he followed as a kid, had 26 at the half and finished with eight assists and six rebounds while playing every minute until the very end.

But with just over 3 minutes left and the Celtics trailing 94-91, Bryant slapped the ball away from Pierce to make it a two-possession game. It was 97-95 when Pierce grabbed a rebound and brought the ball across halfcourt.

Again, Bryant poked it loose to Lamar Odom, who threw it upcourt to the streaking Bryant for a clinching dunk.

This program aired on June 16, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.