BOSTON (AP) -The Boston Celtics were one half away from their 17th NBA championship.
Using strong performances from their new Big Three and a suffocating defensive effort, the Celtics opened a 58-35 halftime lead over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA finals.
Kevin Garnett, seeking his first title, scored 17 points. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, also ringless in otherwise decorated careers, added 10 and eight, respectively, even though Allen missed much of the half after getting poked in the eye.
Boston limited Los Angeles to 8-of-27 shooting (29.6 percent). The Lakers missed 10 of 13 shots in the second quarter and 15 of their final 19 attempts in the half as the Celtics closed on a 26-6 run.
Kobe Bryant had 14 points for the Lakers, but was only 4-of-11 from the field and was getting little help. Lamar Odom missed all four shots and had four points, while Pau Gasol scored six points on 2-of-5 shooting.
The Lakers were hoping to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals, but they faced a huge comeback just to force a Game 7. The largest halftime deficit overcome to win a finals game was 21 points, 60 years ago when Baltimore beat Philadelphia.
Only two teams have even battled back to tie a series after falling behind 3-1: New York in 1951 against Rochester, and Los Angeles against Boston in 1966. If Los Angeles pulled it off, Game 7 would be in Boston on Thursday.
Allen was poked in the eye driving to the basket with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter. He remained in the locker room until midway through the second, coming back out from the tunnel to a thunderous ovation with 6:05 to go.
There was only one day between Games 5 and 6, played on opposite ends of the country. And it was a long day for the Celtics, who were delayed leaving Los Angeles because of plane troubles and didn't arrive back in Boston until late Monday night.
Allen wasn't with them, remaining behind in Los Angeles with his ill son and catching a later flight.
Perhaps that explained the Celtics' sluggish start. Boston missed 12 of its first 15 shots, with Allen hitting the side of the backboard on his first attempt, a 3-pointer from the corner. The Celtics eventually settled down behind Garnett, who scored eight points in a span of about 2 1/2 minutes to give Boston a 22-18 lead.
The Celtics had spotted the Lakers huge leads after the first quarter of Games 4 and 5, but rallied to win the first one. Los Angeles held on Sunday, helped by two late missed free throws by Garnett, who said after the game he was disappointed in his play.
He was superb in his 19 minutes Tuesday, going 8-of-12 and adding six rebounds.
Boston blew it open by outscoring Los Angeles 34-15 in the second quarter. James Posey and Eddie House, part of a Boston bench that has outplayed the Lakers' reserves, hit consecutive 3-pointers to extend the lead to 38-29 midway through the second. House followed with two free throws and Posey nailed another 3 to make it 43-29.
The Celtics closed the half with a 9-0 spurt, highlighted when Garnett converted a three-point play after getting fouled hard with 47 seconds left.
The Lakers have won eight straight Game 6s in the NBA finals and were hoping to force the first Game 7 for the title since 2005, when San Antonio beat Detroit.

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