The Boston Celtics have come within one win of their 18th NBA championship. They beat the LA Lakers in Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals 92-86. Paul Pierce led the way for the Celtics against the defending champions, turning his best finals performance this year.
Pierce scored 27 on a night that four out of the five Celtic starters were in double figures. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo added 18 each from the floor, and Ray Allen put up 12. It was the Celtic bench that provided the late stops the Celtics needed to complete the total team effort.
For the duration of the third quarter, Kobe Bryant and Pierce seemed to be having a scoring duel. Bryant found his groove and scored 19 in the third period, but didn’t receive much support from his bench. Pau Gasol was the only other Laker in double figures in the scoring column.
The Celtic captain got his teammates involved better, and downplayed Bryant’s third-quarter performance. While Bryant was dominating the floor for the Lakers, Pierce and the Celtics were pulling away.
“I wasn’t in a personal duel,” Pierce said. “I didn’t notice that we were going back-and-forth scoring at the time. He’s a tough player. He makes shots.”
Bryant was the MVP a year ago in the finals when the Lakers hoisted their 15th championship banner after beating the Orlando Magic. Kobe was the MVP in that finals, a year after Pierce won the award against the Lakers in the Finals in 2008.
How do the Lakers come from behind against the Celtics to win the finals?
“Just man up and play. What the hell is the big deal?” Bryant said. “If I have to say something to them, then we don’t deserve to be champions. We’re down 3-2: Go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that.”
The Celtics became the first team to win back-to-back games in the series behind “Beat LA” chants reverberating around the arena. If the Lakers cannot respond with two victories of their own, they will drop to 10-2 against the Celtics in the finals all time.
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and a Laker victory would force a Game 7 at Staples Center. The Celtics have never lost the NBA Finals after taking a 3-2 series lead. If they win either Tuesday or Thursday, they will add to the rafters of the TD Garden an 18th championship banner.
“It was our biggest game of the year,” Pierce said. “We’re in a good spot. We have two games in L.A.; now we have to get one.”
NBA sportsbooks have set the Lakers as the favorites in Game 6 by 6 1/2 points. The Celtics are set as heavy underdogs to win the game outright at +240, and the over/under set for total points in the game has been set at 187 1/2.