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"We have a challenge, obviously, down 3-2," said Bryant, who scored 38 points in Game 5 while his struggling teammates only managed 48. "We let a couple opportunities slip away, but it is what it is. Now you go home, you've got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work."
Heading into the finals, the Celtics believed they could beat the Lakers by shutting down Bryant's teammates, even if Kobe went crazy on them. After all, that's what Boston did two years ago in the finals -- and so far, it's working splendidly again.
Bryant is averaging 30.2 points per game, while Pau Gasol averages 18.8 points and 10 rebounds despite glaring inconsistency in his game in Boston. That's just about it: Nobody else in purple and gold is averaging more than Andrew Bynum's 9.6 points per game.
And two straight losses undeniably have frazzled the Lakers a bit, with Bryant noticeably furious on the court while Game 5 slipped away. Even Jackson seemed a bit testier than his usual placid self, yelling at Bryant and Ron Artest during the game and later attempting to inspire his team in the fourth quarter with a false bit of information about the Celtics' propensity for blowing late-game leads.
While Jackson likely senses the biggest danger yet to his streak of 47 straight playoff series victories after winning Game 1, the Celtics sense a golden opportunity to join the Boston greats who won multiple titles while repeatedly denying the Lakers nine previous times in the NBA finals.
They've just got to finish a playoff series on the road, something they failed to do in Miami and Orlando earlier this season. While Boston's current starters have never lost a playoff series, they also haven't finished one away from TD Garden since the 2008 Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.
"It's going to have to happen if we're going to win the title," Paul Pierce said. "I mean, that would be great. I'm not going to try to jinx it right now. We've got to win one game, that's the goal, but it would be amazing if we get it done."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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