The Lakers played their best game of the series thus far, and hung on to defeat the Celtics 103-98. The series now moves back to Boston for the duration with the Celtics up 3-2. Despite the win, one doesn't get the sense that the Lakers have had an outstanding 48-minute effort yet in the Finals. The team has had severe defensive lapses, and made multiple inexcusable mistakes.
It almost seems remarkable that the Lakers managed to win this game in spite of themselves. They had a 19-point lead in the first half and 14-point lead in the 4th quarter, yet the game still felt like a nail-biter. Fortunately, for the Lakers, Kendrick Perkins' injury and Kevin Garnett's foul trouble left the Celtics soft in the middle. It seemed like Kobe Bryant recognized that, and deferred regularly in the second half to Pau Gasol (19 points, 13 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (20 points, 11 rebounds). It's not that either player was dominating, but the combination of the two made the difference in tonight's game.
I'm watching the Phil Jackson press conference as I write this, and he just said that the Lakers played hard throughout, but not smart at times. That's a pretty apt way of putting it. If the Lakers have any hope of winning in Boston, then they need to make smarter decisions. They also need to figure out how to guard Paul Pierce, who played all 48 minutes. Pierce has easily been the best player in this series, and with the exception of Game 3, the Lakers have had no answer for him defensively.
Still, the Lakers live to fight another day, and if they find a way to steal Game 6, then anything can happen in a Game 7.