The Los Angeles Lakers battled back into the NBA title hunt by beating the Boston Celtics 87-81 to trim their finals series deficit to 2-1 yesterday.
Guard Kobe Bryant scored five points and center Pau Gasol added four during a pivotal 11-2 run midway through the final period to give Los Angeles a 77-70 lead with 4:17 to play.
Boston closed to within 87-76 on two foul shots by Kevin Garnett but a three-pointer by Sasha Vujacic and two foul shots by Derek Fisher gave the Lakers a comfortable 83-76 advantage with 1:33 left.
Bryant had 36 points in the game but it was the defensive effort the Lakers put on Boston's high-scoring forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett that earned them victory.
Pierce had just six points on two of 14 shooting and Garnett, despite having seven points in the third period, scored only 13 for the game after hitting only six of 21.
After shooting 42 and 53 percent from the floor in the opening two games of the series in Boston, the Celtics were successful on just 35 percent of shots in Game Three.
Bryant hit 12 of 20 from the floor and 11 of 18 from the line but the Lakers received a much-needed boost from Vujacic, a reserve guard, who nailed seven of 10 shots, including three of five from beyond the arc, to score 20.
Game Four of the best-of-seven series is on Thursday in Los Angeles.
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily June 11, 2008)