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The Celtics fought the whole way after going down early in the first quarter by 19 points. However, they were not able to come back all the way against the Lakers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals as they had in Game 4. Eddie House hit a three pointer with a few seconds left, but the game was already out of reach as the Lakers won 103-98 and brought the series back to 3-2.
The Celtics were led by captain Paul Pierce, who looked unstoppable at times on drives to the basket. Pierce finished the night with 38 points, eight assists, and six rebounds in a losing effort. Kevin Garnett continued to struggle, finishing with 13 points and 14 rebounds. Ray Allen added 16 points, but continued to shoot the ball well.
Solid bench play, which is so important to an NBA Finals victory, was not consistent in Game 5. Sam Cassell contributed nine points and gone-but-not-forgotten Tony Allen had six points. The Celtics did not really have the strong bench presence they had in Game 4, and that is part of the reason they lost this one.
Once again, Kobe Bryant had another strong night with 25 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Lamar Odom responded to criticism from coach Phil Jackson with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol finsished with 19 points and 13 rebounds and Derek Fisher added 15 points. The Lakers bench played well, including Jordan Farmar’s 11-point night.
The fact that the Celtics could not close out this series in Los Angeles does not surprise me. The Lakers are too good of a team to lose the final game on their own home floor. The Celtics will get their chance to go back home and close this series out in Boston, which I strongly believe they can and will do.
The Celtics will need to not dish out so many free throw opportunities to the Lakers in Game 6. The foul problems caused difficulties for the Celtics as several of their players were in early foul trouble. Ray Allen fouled out of the game, while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and P.J. Brown all finished with five fouls. When you play in foul trouble, it’s hard to play consistently strong defense. They need to watch their fouls more in Game 6.