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NBA Game 5: Lakers stepped up inside

Associated Press
LOS ANGELES ó 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.
Game 6 will be played Tuesday night. Should the Lakers win, a seventh and deciding game will be 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 of this game.
Gasol had 10 points and six rebounds in the second half, and made the go-ahead basket with 4:12 remaining. Odom added a pair of foul shots less than a minute later, but he wasn’t finished.
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.
“They both did a good job on the boards,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
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.
And both had good shooting nights ó Odom went 8-for-10 while Gasol was 6-for-10.
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.
Bryant said following the debacle of Thursday night, 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. The only thing that matters now is Game 6.

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