The NBA finals will go into a seventh and deciding game after the Los Angeles Lakers kept their title defense alive by destroying the Boston Celtics 89-67 at home on Tuesday night to level the series at 3-3.
It will be just the second time in 16 years that the best-of-seven series has gone the distance when the teams meet again in L.A. on Thursday.
The Celtics could have taken the title for a record 18th time if they had won game six, but instead they slumped to their lowest-ever score in an NBA finals clash, hampered by the injury of Kendrick Perkins who was forced to sit out after hurting his knee in the first quarter.
"We just didn't play desperate like we wanted to win the championship," Boston's Paul Pierce told the official NBA Web site.
"You could tell that the guys were kind of anxious. When you're so close to a championship, sometimes that creeps in."
L.A. playmaker Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 26 points in the game to give the Lakers the chance of defending the title they won against Orlando last year.
Spanish forward Pau Gasol and veteran Ron Artest also contributed to the win, scoring 17 and 15 points respectively to ensure the West Coast team did not suffer their third consecutive defeat in the series.
They led Boston by a 20-point margin at halftime, a gap which from which the East Coast side were unable to recover despite a strong finish from Ray Allen, who scored 17.
Lakers center Andrew Bynum -- another player struggling with a knee problem that forced him to miss much of game five -- only managed a first-half appearance, but is feeling confident about playing in the decider.
"I felt like I would hurt the team if I was out there, he told the official NBA Web site. "This was precautionary. Save it for game seven."
L.A. coach Phil Jackson, who will lead a team into game seven of the NBA finals for the first time in his career, is excited about the prospect of Thursday's final showdown between the two rival sides.
"It's really a high tension situation," Jackson said.
"It's about who comes out and provides the energy on the floor and plays the kind of game and dictates the kind of game they want to dictate."
And after L.A.'s dominant performance in game six, Jackson's team will be feeling confident they can retain the NBA title on their home court, but Boston are sure to put up a fight.
"Game six is in the past," the Celtics' Rajon Rondo said. "We're not down. We're not hanging our heads."