Lakers bench revives itself while avoiding elimination

Associated Press

6/15/2010 11:56:38 PM

LOS ANGELES -- This time, Kobe Bryant got plenty of help from his teammates.

His fellow starters helped build a double-digit lead in the first quarter and the reserves expanded it from there in an 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night, tying the NBA finals at three games apiece.

The decisive Game 7 is Thursday night at Staples Center. History might be on the Lakers' side considering they haven't lost consecutive home playoff games since 2000.

After being hopelessly outplayed in losing Game 5 at Boston, the Lakers' reserves responded in a big way to save their season. They outscored the Celtics' bench 25-13, led by Sasha Vujacic with nine points and Lamar Odom with eight.

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson had said before the game that his bench had to prove itself, and he noted they play better at home than on the road.

Jackson was right.

Bryant scored 11 points in the opening quarter, when every other starter scored, including Ron Artest, who had eight, and the Lakers took a 28-18 lead they never relinquished.

The second quarter belonged to the reserves. Odom, who has played unevenly throughout the finals, scored six points. Vujacic, who scored five in the previous game, hit a three-pointer and a jumper. Jordan Farmar threw down a fastbreak dunk, had a layup and a steal.

The Lakers outhustled the Celtics, diving for loose balls and playing energetic defence.

With the Lakers ahead 51-31 at halftime, Jackson went back to Vujacic in the third, and he responded by hitting a three-pointer. Shannon Brown got in the game, too, and ensured a spot in the highlight reel. He took a pass from Bryant and scored on a fastbreak dunk, then followed with a one-handed dunk that had fans oohing at his elevation.

It all added up to a 76-51 lead heading into the fourth.

That's when Bryant and the other starters got some rare rest. Odom sat down, too, leaving seldom seen Luke Walton, DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell to finish out the closing minutes.