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Celtics ride huge comeback to defeat Lakers
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Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett battles for the ball with Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) during the first half in Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball championship in Los Angeles, June 12, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The Boston Celtics pulled off an astounding comeback to win Game 4 of the NBA finals yesterday, coming from 24 points down to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-91 and take a 3-1 series lead.

Boston moved within one win of a 17th championship with a victory that added a further extraordinary chapter to the rivalry between the league's two most storied franchises.

No team had ever overcome more than a 15-point deficit after the first quarter, and Elias Sports Bureau said it was the largest comeback in the finals since 1971. It will forever be remembered in the annals of Celtics-Lakers lore.

When the final horn sounded, Pierce, an L.A. kid playing in front of family and friends, doubled over in exhaustion and exuberance.

"I don't want to get overjoyed," Paul Pierce said. "I want to go out there to try and win Game 5 on Father's Day and then I'll be able to breathe. Right now, I'm waiting to exhale."

"It's definitely a great win, one that you're going to put up there in the library and break back out one day for your kids to watch," Pierce said. "But I want nothing more than that ring right now."

Pierce scored 20 points, Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Ray Allen had 19 points as Boston's Big Three, thrown together last summer by general manager Danny Ainge to revive the franchise, put the Lakers on the brink of a summer vacation.

It took an epic comeback to do it, and now the Celtics can reclaim their place atop pro basketball with a win in Game 5 on Sunday in Los Angeles.

No team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.

Kobe Bryant scored 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting but the league's MVP couldn't rescue the Lakers when they needed him most. Lamar Odom had 19 points -- 15 in the first half -- and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Trailing by 18 points at halftime and seemingly defeated when they fell behind by 20 with 6:04 left in the third quarter, the Celtics outscored the Lakers 31-15 in the third quarter to pull within 73-71 going into the fourth.

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