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Defiant Kobe Bryant claims series with Boston 'ain't over'

LOS ANGELES - With the same purpose as one of his in-your-face jumpers, Kobe Bryant leaned into the microphone.

He promised more NBA finals games to come.

'The series ain't over,' he said. 'It's far from over.'

Faced with long odds, Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers returned to the practice floor Saturday for the first time since Game 4, when the Boston Celtics stormed back from a 24-point deficit to win and take a 3-1 lead in this reborn rivalry.

The Lakers have run out of time and tomorrows. It's either win Game 5 today or pack away the sneakers for summer.

No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals, and even if the Lakers can stave off elimination and win at Staples Center, they'll have to play Games 6 and 7 in Boston, where the Celtics are 12-1 this postseason. Since the league switched to the much-debated 2-3-2 format in 1985, no team has won the last two games on the road.

Their climb is a steep one, and if the Lakers have any chance of mounting a comeback, Bryant, the league's MVP and the game's most transcendent player, most criticized personality and most unstoppable force, must be the one to lead them.

If he's feeling any pressure, Bryant isn't showing it.

The Black Mamba is as cold-blooded as ever.

Bryant was relaxed and jovial during a news conference at the club's practice facility in El Segundo. The three-time champion, whose every gesture and facial expression made toward teammates gets overanalyzed, cracked jokes during a 10-minute session with the media.

Bryant insists the Lakers have moved on since their Game 4 collapse. There's no time to dwell on what happened, all that counts now is what happens next.

'We've got to take care of business on Sunday,' said Bryant, who spent much of the past two days relaxing at home with his family. 'So what are we going to do? How am I going to get my teammates in the right frame of mind, make sure they're energetic, and that's what it's been all about.'

Bryant said he spent much of the past two days reading a Harry Potter book to his daughters.

'It was awesome,' he said. 'He had more problems dealing with Voldemort than what we have dealing with the media and the Celtics.'