LOS ANGELES (AP) -Even Kobe Bryant couldn't save the Los Angeles Lakers, who find themselves on the brink of elimination after one of the biggest collapses in NBA finals history.
The Lakers led Boston by as many as 24 points in the second quarter and by 20 midway through the third before the Celtics rallied for a 97-91 victory Thursday night and a 3-1 series lead.
No team has ever come back from such a deficit in the finals.
After two free throws by Vladimir Radmanovic with 6:04 left in the third quarter gave the Lakers a 70-50 lead, they were outscored 47-21 to finish the game. It all started with a 21-3 run to finish the third period.
The Celtics can win their NBA-record 17th championship Sunday night at Staples Center, where the Lakers had gone 9-0 in the postseason and won 15 straight games dating to March 28 before this improbable defeat.
Bryant shot 6-for-19 from the field and scored 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter. The other Lakers' starters all reached double figures, but the contributions were minimal down the stretch. Bryant shot 4-of-8 and his teammates went 4-of-13 in the final period.
Game 3 hero Sasha Vujacic shot 1-for-9 and had three points, and allowed Ray Allen to drive around him for a game-clinching layup with 16.4 seconds remaining, giving the Celtics a five-point lead.
Lamar Odom, who struggled mightily in the first three games, came alive in this one with 19 points and 10 rebounds. But he had only four points and two rebounds in the second half.
Bryant had 10 assists, but could have had several others had the Lakers not misfired time and again in the second half. Pau Gasol, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, failed to convert a dunk in the late going, and Jordan Farmar missed a 3-pointer with less than 3 minutes to go that could have tied the game.
The Lakers never trailed until Eddie House's jumper with 4:07 remaining put the Celtics on top 84-83. Boston never looked back after that.
Bryant had three points and three fouls in the first half, failing to make a field goal until the opening minute of the third quarter. He has made only 38 field goals in 88 attempts in the finals.
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