Odom, Gasol do inside job on Celtics in NBA finals Print
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Sunday, 15 June 2008 19:30
NBA Headline News

 LOS ANGELES (AP) -Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol pulled disappearing acts after halftime in the first four games of the NBA finals, deferring to Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
The Los Angeles big men stood tall when Bryant struggled offensively after the first quarter in Game 5, and with that, the Lakers are going back to Boston.
Odom had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots, Gasol added 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and the Lakers beat the Celtics 103-98 Sunday night to trim Boston's lead to 3-2.
``We didn't want to see any champagne popping,'' Odom said. ``They wanted to close it out tonight. It's not easy, and I don't expect it to be. Not at this point, anyway.''
That can't happen until Tuesday night, when Game 6 will be played. Should the Lakers win, a seventh and deciding game will be played Thursday night.
Odom, who had four points and two rebounds in the second half of the disastrous Game 4, had nine points and four rebounds after halftime in this game.
``I thought last game that I played, I didn't make enough plays down in the fourth quarter,'' he said. ``Just wanted to stay focused, make plays the entire game.''
He did just that.
With the Lakers leading 97-95, Bryant poked the ball away from Paul Pierce, Odom got it and fed Bryant for a breakaway dunk that gave Los Angeles a four-point lead with 37.4 seconds left.
On Boston's next possession, Odom rebounded a missed follow shot by Kevin Garnett, and the Lakers were home free.
``Lamar obviously did a terrific job tonight,'' Bryant said. ``We've got to stick together, ride this thing out as a unit, and that's what we're going to do.''
Gasol had 10 points and six rebounds in the second half, and made the go-ahead basket with 4:12 remaining.
``It was required for us to give our very best effort and intensity and aggressiveness tonight to be able to bounce back from that loss the other night - as painful as it was,'' Gasol said. ``I think this win definitely helped us to build our confidence back up.
``We played well. We didn't play our best game, but we played our hearts out.''
After being outrebounded by an average of 3.5 per game previously, the Lakers had a 40-37 advantage on the boards in this game thanks mainly to their two big men.
``They both did a good job on the boards,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ``I thought Pau was aggressive, made some real good plays out there. Lamar is very resilient, and showed that tonight.''
Both had good shooting nights as well - Odom went 8-for-10 while Gasol was 6-for-10.
``I feel really good about letting the ball go from anywhere on the court right now,'' Odom said.
The Celtics played without starting center Kendrick Perkins, perhaps making it easier for Odom and Gasol to do their job.
``Obviously he's a bigger presence than the other guys,'' Gasol said. ``Lamar and me, we try to do as good of a job as we can because it's not easy, but we try to be physical, we try to protect our paint, make sure we control the boards and stuff like that.
``I don't know if Perk is going to play the next game or not, but whether he plays or not, we're going to try to be really physical and make sure we give it our best shot.''
Bryant scored only 10 of his 25 points after the first quarter, putting the onus on his teammates. Gasol and Odom, along with Derek Fisher (15 points) and Jordan Farmar (11 points) were up to the challenge.
Odom's first 3-pointer of the finals and third in 20 playoff games gave the Lakers an 84-72 lead with 11:05 remaining, and it was 88-74 less than 2 minutes later before the Celtics battled back to tie it at 90. That's when Gasol scored from close range to put the Lakers ahead for good.
Bryant said following Thursday night's debacle, when the Lakers blew a 24-point lead before losing 97-91, that he wasn't thinking about beating the Celtics three straight times, as the Lakers must do, but focusing on Game 5 only.
Mission accomplished.
Now, the Lakers have to win twice in Boston, where the Celtics are 12-1 in the postseason.
But the only thing that matters now is Game 6.
``It's going to be super hard to be able to get that one,'' Gasol said. ``We want to give ourselves a chance to get to Game 7. We'll see how we come out and how we're able to play for 48 minutes in Boston, which is not going to be easy at all. But we are confident we can get it done.''
None of the 28 teams who have fallen behind 3-1 in the finals have come back to win the championship.

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