LOS ANGELES — Buckle up, Boston and L.A. This NBA Finals is going to Game 7.
Kobe Bryant made sure of it, with plenty of help from the rest of the revitalized Lakers.
Bryant scored 26, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Los Angeles emphatically extended the Finals to a decisive game by defeating Boston 89-67 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Ron Artest added 15 points for the Lakers, who stared down elimination by jumping to a 22-point lead during a dazzling first half. While limiting the Celtics to the second lowest-scoring performance in Finals history, the defending champions stretched the championship series to the limit for the first time since 2005.
A champ will be crowned Thursday at Staples Center.
Ray Allen scored 19 for the Celtics, who took an ugly pratfall on the verge of winning their unprecedented 18th title.
It turns out their rivals are still quite serious about earning their 16th championship.
Two years after the Celtics ended the Finals with a 39-point blowout of the Lakers in Game 6, Los Angeles turned Game 6 into a long nightmare for Boston. Only Utah's 54-point performance against Chicago in 1998 was worse than this flop, which included 33 percent shooting and a 52-39 rebounding advantage for the Lakers.
"We did a great job," Bryant said. "We have to come with the same energy, the same dedication to defense (in Game 7)."
Bryant grabbed 11 rebounds, and Gasol led the Lakers with nine assists in a remarkable bounce-back game for Los Angeles, which dominated from the opening minutes by vacuuming up rebounds and playing relentless defense. The Lakers' bench largely took care of the rest, outscoring Boston's reserves.
"Our defense was good, our rebounding was better," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had some good luck on some tips and offensive rebounds, and those things changed the course of the game."
These rivals have gone seven games in 12 previous Finals meetings, with Boston winning all four. But it hasn't happened since 1984.
Paul Pierce scored 13 and Kevin Garnett added 12, but the Celtics' offense was a jumbled, stand-around mess. Rajon Rondo shot 1-for-8 to start before finishing with 10 points and six assists.
"I thought we'd play better, obviously," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we were ready. … We played an individual game tonight on both ends. We never gave ourselves an opportunity offensively, because we never trusted each other. Everybody was out to make their own place."
After earning the NBA's second-best road record during the regular season, the Celtics must win on the road again to avoid becoming just the third team to blow a 3-2 series lead in the 2-3-2 finals format.
The Celtics lost starting center Kendrick Perkins in the first quarter when he sprained right knee landing awkwardly under the basket.
There hasn't been a winner-take-all Finals game since San Antonio finished off Detroit five years ago.
red sox support: The Red Sox moved up the starting time of their game to 6:10 p.m. Thursday night at Fenway Park to give fans a chance to watch the Celtics-Lakers Game 7.
|Series tied at 3|
BOSTON (67): Pierce 6-14 0-0 13, Garnett 6-14 0-0 12, Perkins 0-1 0-0 0, Rondo 5-15 0-2 10, R.Allen 7-14 3-3 19, Wallace 0-7 0-0 0, T.Allen 1-4 0-0 2, Robinson 2-8 1-1 6, Davis 0-3 0-2 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Daniels 1-2 2-2 5, Finley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-84 6-10 67.
L.A. LAKERS (89): Artest 6-11 0-0 15, Gasol 6-14 5-6 17, Bynum 1-4 0-0 2, Fisher 1-1 2-2 4, Bryant 9-19 7-7 26, Brown 2-4 0-0 4, Odom 3-9 2-2 8, Vujacic 3-6 1-2 9, Farmar 2-6 0-0 4, Powell 0-2 0-0 0, Walton 0-2 0-0 0, Mbenga 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-79 17-19 89.
3-Point Goals—Boston 5-23 (R.Allen 2-5, Daniels 1-1, Pierce 1-4, Robinson 1-4, Garnett 0-1, Finley 0-1, Rondo 0-1, Wallace 0-6), L.A. Lakers 6-19 (Artest 3-6, Vujacic 2-4, Bryant 1-4, Brown 0-1, Farmar 0-1, Powell 0-1, Odom 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston 49 (Davis 9), L.A. Lakers 59 (Gasol 13). Assists—Boston 17 (Rondo 6), L.A. Lakers 17 (Gasol 9). Total Fouls—Boston 21, L.A. Lakers 17. Technicals—Bryant, L.A. Lakers defensive three second. A—18,997 (18,997).
Around the league
KERR LEAVING: Steve Kerr won't return as general manager of the Suns, despite building a team that made a surprising run to the Western Conference final. Kerr said at a news conference that the decision was personal. He said reports of a contract disagreement with owner Robert Sarver were untrue.
WADE WATCH: Udonis Haslem expects Dwyane Wade to return to the Heat next season. Speaking at a Heat summer camp event, Haslem, a former star at Florida, said he and Wade talk daily. And while Wade hasn't come out and told Haslem what he'll do after opting out of his contract to become a free agent July 1, there have been indications that have Haslem believing the 2006 NBA Finals MVP will stay.