The AP reports: With his team one loss from having to make an impossible climb, Kobe Bryant was close to MVP form, scoring 36 points on an assortment of spins, drives and jumpers and reserve Sasha Vujacic added 20 points as the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 87-81 in Game 3 on Tuesday night… 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… Ray Allen scored 25 points—15 on 3-pointers—for the Celtics, but only one-third of Boston’s Big Three showed up. Kevin Garnett scored 13 points on just 6-of-21 shooting and Paul Pierce, playing a short drive from his childhood home, had only six points, missed 12 shots and was in foul trouble all night… The Celtics then closed the half with a short burst, capped by Allen’s 3-pointer and were within 43-37 at the break despite getting just 2 points apiece from Garnett and Pierce, who shot a combined 2-for-16. Garnett’s only basket came on an alley-oop dunk.

InsideHoops.com Stat Notes: The Lakers shot 43.5%, the Celtics 34.9%. Both teams shot well from three-point range and struggled from the free throw line, though the Lakers hit 21-of-34 from the charity stripe, the Celtics 15-of-22. Rebounds, assists and turnovers were all close. The Celtics had a few more steals and blocks.

For the Lakers: Bryant (12-of-20, 11-of-18 free throws) had 36 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, but more turnovers than assists. Sasha Vujacic (7-of-10, 3-of-5 threes) had 20 points and 4 rebounds in 28 bench minutes. No other Laker scored double-digits. Pau Gasol (just 3-of-9) had 9 points, 12 rebounds and more turnovers than assists. Derek Fisher (just 1-of-6) scored 6. Jordan Farmar had 5 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists and no turnovers off the bench. Lamar Odom (just 2-of-9) had 4 points, 9 rebounds and more turnovers than assists.

For the Celtics: Ray Allen (8-of-13, 5-of-7 threes) had 25 points and 5 rebounds. Kevin Garnett (just 6-of-21 and only two free throw attempts) had 13 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. No other Celtics scored double-digits. James Posey did more than his stats show with 9 points and 7 rebounds. Rajon Rondo scored 8 with 4 assists. Kendrick Perkins had 8 with 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Paul Pierce (awful 2-of-14) had just 6 points and 6 rebounds.