The AP reports:

It’s looking a lot like 2008 again, with Paul Pierce carrying the Boston Celtics to victory in the NBA finals and leading them to the brink of yet another title.

Kobe scores 38 but Celtics beat Lakers in NBA Finals Game 5

Pierce scored 27 points—his best performance of this year’s finals—and the Celtics withstood 38 points from Kobe Bryant to beat the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers 92-86 on Sunday night and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series…

Bryant outscored Pierce this time, but the Lakers’ guard got little help from his teammates. And the stretch where he was most dominant was also the time when the Celtics pulled away…

With the “Beat L.A!” chant reverberating at the Garden, Kevin Garnett scored 18 points with 10 rebounds and Rajon Rondo had 18 points, eight assists and five rebounds to help Boston become the first team in the series to win two games in a row…

Bryant did everything he could to send the Lakers home with the edge.

He scored 23 straight Lakers points between the 4:23 mark of the second quarter until there was 2:16 left in the third. But over that span, the Celtics expanded the lead from one point to 13…

Pau Gasol scored 12 points with 12 rebounds and Fisher, the Game 3 star, scored all nine of his points in the first quarter as no other Laker reached double figures in scoring until Gasol hit a free throw with 2:25 left. Andrew Bynum played on his sore right knee for 31 minutes, but he scored all six of his points and his only rebound in the first quarter.

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Bryant had 38 points but didn’t get much assistance. The Lakers had only 12 assists, the game basically turning into Bryant all by himself, for better or worse.

Ron Artest was poor on offense, yet again, scoring seven points on two-for-nine shooting and experiencing an equally bad defensive game as Pierce scored 27 points.

Andrew Bynum tried to play despite a sore right knee but had only six points and one rebound in almost 32 minutes.

Lamar Odom battled flu symptoms and again fell into single-single territory, totaling eight points and eight rebounds. He has yet to take 10 rebounds in a game this series.

The Lakers now trail in a series for the first time this postseason after scoring their fewest points of the playoffs.

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Bryant took some ill-advised shots, but how unsupportive was his cast? He was the only Lakers player in double-figure scoring until Gasol made a free throw with 2:25 to play.

The Lakers shot only 39.7% and were drilled in points in the paint, 46-32, but they had their chances in the fourth quarter, pulling within 87-82 on three free throws by Bryant with 1:30 left.

Then Derek Fisher somehow outleaped Kevin Garnett on a jump ball at the other end, and Bryant found Artest behind the Celtics’ defense, but Artest missed two free throws after being fouled with 43.3 seconds left.

Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times reports:

Beyond Bryant, the Lakers seemed unnerved, with their lowest point total this postseason. Gasol, Bryant’s usual running mate, tip-toed his way to 12 points on 12 shots. No other Laker scored in double digits. Derek Fisher, who received a technical with Ray Allen in the third quarter, and Artest each shot 2 for 9. Andrew Bynum, who had his troublesome knee drained between games, lasted 32 minutes, but did not score after the first quarter.

In between games with a long flight before them, Bryant said he would not offer a pep talk.

“What the hell is the big deal?” said Bryant, who made 13 of his 27 shots and four 3-pointers. “I don’t see it as a big deal. If I have to say something to them, then we don’t deserve to be champions.”

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated reports:

The onus also falls on Artest, signed over the summer to guard players just like Pierce in situations just like this. Artest and Pierce have had many confrontations over the years, dating back to those classic Pacers-Celtics series in the early to mid 2000s; and at first, Pierce struggled terribly. Artest would push him out to the 3-point line, never allowing him to catch the ball where he wanted, forcing him to post up 20 feet from the basket. Even when Pierce did get the ball, Artest would often strip him as he started his dribble.

But according to a former Celtics assistant coach, Pierce gradually learned how to attack Artest. He became more aggressive getting to his spot. He held the ball more securely on the drive. And most important, he recognized that he was quicker than Artest and could get around him with a sudden first step. “You saw it start to change,” the coach said. Pierce was so effective against Artest on Sunday that at one point Bryant even asked to switch defensive assignments. The Lakers stuck with Artest, but for the first time in these Finals, he was soundly beaten.