Ron Artest and Paul Pierce tussle for the ball

*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.

*It’s looking more and more like the Los Angeles Lakers won’t have to worry about paying for a victory parade. That’s because Sunday night in Boston they lost to the Celtics 92-86 in game 5 of the 2010 NBA Finals. That means they are down 3 games to 2. One more loss and Boston will be crowned champs.

If you missed the game, here’s a recap:

Paul 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.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and a victory then or in Game 7 in L.A. on Thursday would give the Celtics a record 18th NBA title.

“It was our biggest game of the year,” Pierce said. “We’re in a good spot. We have two games in L.A.; now we have to get one.”

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. If Los Angeles can’t do the same at home, the Celtics will improve to 10-2 against them in the finals, from a 4-0 sweep over the Minneapolis Lakers in 1959 through the Bird-and-Magic era of the ’80s and Boston’s win in ’08.

But Bryant said neither the rivalry nor revenge that should be motivating his teammates when they try to stave off elimination at home.

“Just man up and play. What the hell is the big deal?” he said. “If I have to say something to them, then we don’t deserve to be champions. We’re down 3-2: Go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that.”

By the way, the Celtics have never blown a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals.

Watch game 5 highlights: