Kobe carries Lakers into a rematch with Celtics *

Picture 10.pngThe Lakers almost gave back a 17-point lead in the fourth period, but Kobe Bryant took charge (again) when they needed him most. Phoenix cut the lead to three after Sasha Vujacic committed a flagrant foul, throwing a bicep to the face of fellow Slovenian Goran Dragic, who was jawing in his ear. Bryant finished with 37 points. Ron Artest had 25 and a good game all around. Final score: 111-103. The NBA finals open Thursday at Staples Center. It's the Lakers 31st trip to the finals, and the matchup with Boston could be a lot of fun for basketball fans.

Game note: TNT's announcers said that Sports Illustrated's San Diego-based photographer John W. McDonough was taken off the court and to a hospital after one of the Suns stepped on his neck in the fourth period. McDonough is a former L.A. Times photographer.

* Regarding Vujacic: The LAT's Lisa Dillman tweeted from the post-game media gaggles:

Sasha: "First of all, I don't think it was a flagrant foul. Second of all when you are a low human being you can say things some people said"

More Sasha: "Probably one of the dumbest things I've done in my career, if you want to call it like that."

Sasha on the Suns' run: "I really got sick to my stomach. It was a play I never would have done in a lifetime. It just came out of nowhere."

Sasha: "It was very dumb for my part, and I wanted to apologize to my teammates because they did catch the momentum. Thank god we won."

Photo: ESPN

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