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Celtics, Lakers take 3-2 series leads

THE Boston Celtics stormed over the top of the Orlando Magic to win 92-88 yesterday and take a 3-2 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.

Ray Allen's 3-pointer with 1:20 left gave Boston its first lead since the opening minutes.

A lackluster 36 minutes left Boston trailing by 14 points with less than nine minutes to play. The Celtics still trailed by 10 points with 5:39 on the clock, but then scored the 13 points to go ahead 88-85.

Stephen Marbury scored all his 12 points in the final quarter. Paul Pierce had 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, Kendrick Perkins grabbed 11 rebounds, and Game 4 hero Glen Davis scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter. Davis also grabbed the rebound and hit a pair of free throws after Dwight Howard intentionally missed a free throw with 5.9 seconds left.

"It's all about never giving in and having the heart of a champion," Pierce said.

Dwight Howard had 12 points and 17 rebounds for Orlando, which needs a victory in Game 6 on Thursday to force the series back to Boston for a decisive seventh game.

Lewis scored 19 and Hedo Turkoglu had 18 with seven assists for the Magic, who almost blew a 28-point lead in Game 1, then lost Game 4 on Sunday when Davis hit a 21-foot buzzer-beater.

Boston called a timeout when it trailed by 14 points in the final quarter.

It seemed to work, as Marbury hit a 3-pointer, then another jumper, and after Davis sank a pair of hook shots, Marbury converted a three-point play to make it 83-75. Turkoglu made a jumper to extend the lead to 10 points before Pierce, Perkins and Rajon Rondo were sent back in the game with 4:55 left.

Two jumpers by Davis, a layup by Pierce and a reverse from Perkins made it 85-83. Davis missed a potential game-tying shot with 1:55 left, but Allen made up for it by putting Boston ahead with a 3-pointer - just his third basket of the game.

Orlando had a chance to take back the lead when Rondo's 3-point attempt as the 24-second clock expired seemed to skim only the net as it came down, and the shot clock buzzer went off. But Perkins, who had grabbed the rebound, argued that the ball tipped the rim, and the referees overruled the initial call, giving the ball back to Boston with just 37 seconds left and allowing them to run the clock down.

Lakers 118, Rockets 78

In Los Angeles, the hosts bounced back from their Game 4 flop, routing Houston on Tuesday to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The top-seeded Lakers did everything they didn't do in Sunday's loss at Houston - hustled, rebounded and played tight defense on Houston's smaller lineup, keeping Aaron Brooks in check and limiting wide-open shots.

On Sunday the Lakers trailed by 29 points. On Tuesday night, they had a 29-point lead by late in the second quarter, on a 3-pointer by Kobe Bryant, who led seven Lakers in double figures.

The Lakers can wrap up the series Thursday in Houston.

"We've got to stay focused and understand that the effort we gave tonight is not going to be enough on Thursday. It's just not," Bryant said. "We're not playing some chump team. I don't care how many people they have out. This is a tough team, it's a tough team full of competitors."

The Rockets played their second game without Yao Ming, who sustained a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot in Game 3.

Bryant looked more like himself after being held to 15 points on Sunday. With the Lakers far ahead after holding the Rockets to only 15 points in each of the second and third quarters, he sat out the fourth period.

"We played just the opposite we did the last game," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "We turned it over in the first half, shot it poorly. We said if we turn it over against this team we're going to be in big trouble. That's exactly what we did.

"It just kind of fed their energy level. The second and third quarters are about as bad as we've played in a long time."

Pau Gasol had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Andrew Bynum 14 points, Trevor Ariza 13 and Jordan Farmar 12. Lamar Odom and Josh Powell had 10 apiece.

Brooks was held to 14 points after scoring a career-high 34 on Sunday. Ron Artest had a horrible night shooting, 4-of-15 for nine points. The Rockets shot only 32 percent.

The Lakers fell behind by six points midway through the first quarter, but it didn't take them long to respond, outscoring the Rockets 23-6 over the final six minutes of the opening quarter.

With Bryant sitting out at the start of the second quarter, the Lakers didn't lose any of their intensity, going on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 43-24.

With Houston going cold, the Lakers piled it on, taking a 64-35 lead before halftime.


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