LOS ANGELES (AP) -Kobe Bryant scored 19 points, got some much-needed support from Sasha Vujacic, and the Los Angeles Lakers took a 43-37 halftime lead over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
Much more assertive back on his home floor, the NBA's MVP was on pace for his best game of the season against the Celtics, who had defended Bryant well while winning the first two games in Boston. Bryant was 7-of-12 from the free-throw line - two more foul shots than the Lakers attempted in Game 2 - when they were upset with Boston's 38-10 advantage.
The Lakers were the aggressors in this one, essentially a must-win game for them since no NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
Vujacic scored 12 points in the half for the Lakers, whose reserves had been outplayed in the first two games. But in front of Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone and the rest of the celebrities in their usual star-studded crowd, the role players made a solid impact.
Meanwhile, Boston's Big Three was largely terrible. Kevin Garnett was 1-of-9 from the floor, Paul Pierce missed six of his seven shots playing back in his hometown, and both had only two points. Ray Allen scored 12 points but even he seemed a bit off, missing two of his three free throws.
The Celtics shot just 32.6 percent from the field in the half.
Both teams struggled at the start. The Lakers missed seven of their first nine shots, while the Celtics opened 1-of-7 from the field. They combined for just 14 points in the first six minutes, and both teams shot less than 33 percent in a first quarter that ended in a 20-all tie.
Los Angeles started quickly in the second, with Bryant hitting a jumper and two free throws to kick off a 9-2 spurt that made it 29-22 on Vujacic's 3-pointer with 9:15 remaining in the half. Vujacic knocked down consecutive jumpers later in the half, extending the Lakers' lead to 38-27.
The Lakers maintained a comfortable lead most of the rest of the period before Allen scored the final four points to narrow it to 43-37.
Game 4 is Thursday night, and a Lakers' win in either of the next two guaranteed a fifth game at Staples Center on Sunday.
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