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Celtics head for West Coast with 2-0 lead

Fired on by Paul Pierce's 28 points, the Boston Celtics won the second game of their NBA final series against the Los Angeles Lakers 108-102. Buoyed by a 2-0 lead, the Celtics now head for LA to play Games 3 and 4 on the West Coast.

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Paul Pierce scored 28 points and the Boston Celtics edged the Los Angeles Lakers 108-102 here, giving the Celtics a two games to none lead in the National Basketball Association Finals.

Three days after being carried off the court with a sprained right knee, Pierce and reserve Leon Powe, who scored 21 points, powered the Celtics within two triumphs of their first NBA title since 1986.

The best-of-seven series now shifts to Los Angeles, where the Lakers have won eight playoff games in a row, for games Tuesday and Thursday.

"Our mindset is to get game three, take away their confidence and try to get the series in LA," Pierce said.

The Lakers are 0-5 in the NBA Finals when losing the first two games and 3-11 when opponents own the home-court edge as Boston does.

Pierce's fitness had been a question after the injury in the Celtics' 98-88 opening victory Thursday but there was no doubt he was healthy after 16 points and five assists in the first half with 3-for-3 shooting from 3-point range.

"I'm not feeling any pain once I'm out on the floor," Pierce said.

Boston pulled ahead 95-71 with 7:40 remaining but as the Celtics eased back, the Lakers refused to quit and outscored the hosts 31-9 over seven minutes, matching an NBA Finals record with seven 3-pointers to pull within 104-102.

Pierce and James Posey each sank two free throws in the final seconds to secure a narrow victory that had once appeared destined to be a blowout.

"We got complacent with the lead. We didn't maintain our composure," Pierce said. "I had a chance to ice the game at the line. I wanted to make sure I knocked them down."

NBA Most Valuable Player Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, leading the comeback after managing only nine points in the first half. Spanish center Pau Gasol added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers.

Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, like Pierce in their first NBA Finals and trying to end a history of playoff failures, each scored 17 points. Garnett added 14 rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 16 assists.

Boston seized a 54-42 half-time edge and Bryant, averaging 31 points a game in the playoffs but hitting only 33 percent against Boston, shot a woeful 4-of-10 in the first half.

Gasol opened 6-of-6 from the field and had 13 first-half points to keep the Lakers within reach, helping ignite a 10-3 run that pulled Los Angeles within 68-59 late in the third quarter.

Pierce answered with back-to-back baskets and Boston finished the quarter with a 15-2 that stunned the Lakers. Allen added a 3-pointer and Powe added two slam dunks and a drop-in in the staggering stretch.

"He was terrific," Celtics coach Ray Allen said. "We made a point of trying to get him the ball."

Powe, averaging only 4.6 points a game in the playoffs, produced a career playoff scoring high.

The Celtics, down by seven in the first quarter, scored the first 10 points of the second quarter for a 30-22 lead and never trailed again.

Boston shot 26 of the first 28 free throws awarded in the game, the Lakers unable to penetrate the Celtics defense and forced to fire up perimeter shots rather than drive to the basket and draw fouls to create free-throw chances.

The Celtics will try to extend their all-time record of 16 NBA crowns while the Lakers, second on the all-time list with 14, look for their first title since winning three in a row from 2000 to 2002.

Boston defeated the Lakers in their first eight NBA Finals meetings before Los Angeles snapped the skid in 1985 and repeated the feat in 1987, their most recent playoff matchup before this latest revival of the NBA's top rivalry.
 

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