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BREAKING 6-11-08 NBA Finals Game 3: Lakers Beat Celtics 87-81; Boston Leads Series 2-1
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2008 10:30am

LOS ANGELES, CA  From CNNSi (By: Tom Pace, Talk of the Town)  BREAKING: NBA FINALS 6-11-08  The L.A. Lakers started fast, and ended with a whimper, Kobe Bryant saving the game for L.A., for their first win of the 2008 NBA Finals, 87-81 over the Boston Celtics. 

Boston still leads the series 2-1...with Game 4, Thursday night at the Staples Center, where the Lakers are 9-0 in the playoffs and unbeaten in 15 games since March 28.  

CNNSi filed this report from the Associated Press: Magic Johnson looked very nervous. Across the court, Jack Nicholson fidgeted with his sunglasses, Sylvester Stallone squirmed in his seat and nearly everyone else styling in shades of purple and gold was on edge.

The Los Angeles Lakers , kings of the Western Conference, were in real trouble, end-of-the-season kind of trouble.

Kobe Bryant pulled them out of it. On his floor and on his game, Bryant revived the Lakers - and the NBA finals.

Bryant scored 36 points with an MVP-worthy performance, Sasha Vujacic added 20 points and the Lakers, teetering on the brink of falling into an impossible hole in the NBA finals, beat the Boston Celtics 87-81 in Game 3 on Tuesday night.

L.A.'s brightest sports star, Bryant was California cool.

''What I tried to do with my teammates is just stay calm,'' he said. ''It wasn't the end of the world. They did a great job of defending home court. We knew we had to come here and do the same. They feed off of my confidence and I have all the confidence in the world that we can come here and win.''

A change of time zones, jerseys and attitude did wonders for the Lakers, who staggered home from Boston in an 0-2 hole and couldn't afford to fall any further behind in the first best-of-seven matchup between the league's marquee teams since 1987.

No team in NBA playoff history has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit.Bryant made sure the Lakers won't have to. And this time, the superstar got some help.

Vujacic, the self-proclaimed ''Machine,'' made three 3-pointers, including a crucial one from the left corner with 1:53 left that gave the Lakers an 81-76 lead. Pau Gasol finally flexed his muscles with two inside baskets in the fourth quarter and Derek Fisher , who took an $8 million pay cut to come back and play for the Lakers, made two free throws with 1:33 remaining as the Lakers held on.

''We just wanted to play,'' said Bryant, whose only flaw was an 11-of-18 night from the foul line. ''I don't think anyone was feeling desperate.''



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