Withstanding Bryant Barrage, Celtics Take NBA Finals Lead02:21

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The Boston Celtics won again Sunday night at the TD Garden to earn a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals. That means the Celtics are just one win away from their 18th NBA championship.


WBUR's Curt Nickisch was at the game and joined WBUR's Bob Oakes to break down the win.

Bob Oakes: The Celtics’ Paul Pierce scored 27 points and Kevin Garnett scored 18. Those numbers didn’t compare to what Kobe Bryant put up for the Lakers.

Curt Nickisch: Yeah, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has always said that, at some point, Kobe was going to have a monster game and they’d have to figure out how to win it. And this was it — Kobe scored 38 points, the most the most he’s scored in any game in this series. And for a scary while there in the third quarter, he was hitting everything, making some sick shots over double teams from way beyond the three-point line. That’s when Rivers called a timeout to settle his defense.

"It makes you question your defense, because he was terrific," Rivers said. "I just tried to keep telling them, it’s only two points, you know, each time he scores. It’s not 10. It’s just like if someone else was scoring. You know, as long as we were going to keep scoring the way we were scoring, we’re good."

And Rivers was right. His team was holding the other four guys on the floor in check. Only one other Laker besides Bryant scored double digits. They didn’t get in the paint much; the Celtics' defense forced a lot of outside shots. Combine that with the balanced Boston offense, which really mixed it up, and you have a win for Boston.

Celtics fans try to distract LA Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as he shoots a free throw during Game 5 of the NBA finals on Sunday. (AP)
Celtics fans try to distract LA Lakers guard Kobe Bryant as he shoots a free throw during Game 5 of the NBA finals on Sunday. (AP)

But they only won by six points.

True, and if you’re a Celtics fan you can’t be totally comfortable with how the game ended. The last few minutes you got this feeling that Boston was playing not to lose it.

For example, with under two minutes to play, Kevin Garnett lost a jump ball to Derek Fisher, who’s listed at 10 inches shorter than Garnett, and the Lakers have the chance to cut the lead to two.

But Celtics were bailed out by Paul Pierce, who made a fantastic play in the final minute. He hauled in a long in-bounds pass, and, just as he was falling out of bounds, he threw it to a streaking Rajon Rondo for a layup. Pierce joked afterward he should be playing football for the New England Patriots.

"I was just showing off my Randy Moss and my Tom Brady in one play, that’s all," Pierce said. "A catch, going up to catch it. And then I went to my Brady when I was falling out of bounds to find Rondo for the receiving end."

Funny, yes, and it was a remarkable play. But the point is, Pierce had to make this play to get Boston out of a squeeze that it didn’t have to be in at that point.

Speaking of closing things out, the Celtics would like to close out the series now. When we spoke after the last game you said this one last night was practically a must-win for the Celtics. They did that.

Now, of course, they must win one of the next two. What are the chances we’re going to see the Boston Celtics raise an NBA-record 18th banner in the Garden?

I think you have to feel pretty good about it. The Lakers do have home-court advantage and that’s going to help them. But the Celtics are going in with confidence. After all, they did win one game in LA already. They also were a pretty good road team during the regular season. And now they’ve got good momentum, having won two in a row in Boston.

Celtics-Lakers Series Page: Rivalry Renewed, Again

LA is the team with its back against the wall now, and you could see that in Bryant’s posture last night in his post-game news conference. He cleared his throat a lot and held his head in his hand as he reflected on dropping these last two games here.

"We let a couple opportunities slip away, but it is what is," Bryant said. "Now you go home, you got two games at home that you need to win. Pull your boots up and get to work."

This program aired on June 14, 2010.