PAUL PIERCE hailed the character of the Boston Celtics after they stormed back from a 24-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and move within one game of the NBA title.
The Celtics looked down and out in the first period but Pierce, who scored 20 points, led the resurgence as they hit back to claim a dramatic 97-91 win and claim a 3-1 series edge.
They can clinch the crown with victory in Game Five in Los Angeles tomorrow.
“I knew we weren’t going to lay down,” Pierce said.
“We said coming out of the third quarter that regardless of what the score is, we’re not going to look. We’re just going to go out, play and compete.
“We just went out there and played as hard as we could, and we believed and we stuck together and was able to pull off this win. Incredible.
“When I look back at this season, when I look back at this series, when I look back at this game after I sit down, then I’ll be able to soak it all in and really tell you how it feels.
“Right now, I’m just happy to be up 3-1 with a chance on Sunday to close it out.”
Kevin Garnett added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Boston.
“Our biggest thing is consistency on the defensive end,” Garnett said.
“We see ourselves as a defensive team that can score. When we got there, we relied on our defence.”
The third member of Boston’s Big Three, Ray Allen, added: “We’re still a fairly new team, and coming into these situations we just said, ’Just fight’. “’No matter what’s going to happen, just fight, do what you can do, play as hard as you can play and we’ll see how we end up’.
“But nobody is ever going to quit.”
The Lakers made it a one-possession game three times within the final 1:30, but could not come up with a critical defensive stop.
“We let a huge opportunity slip away, so I’m upset, hurt, disappointed,” said Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. “It’s a huge loss, no doubt about it.”
Lamar Odom collected 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who lost for the first time at home in the play-offs.
The setback was also Los Angeles’ first this post-season when entering the final period with a lead.
“We could talk about everything they did right,” Odom said. “It’s obvious.”
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