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Lakers put some muscle into it

They get a little payback against the Celtics with a stirring overtime victory.

February 06, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

BOSTON — Tired of hearing about a particular 39-point loss in a game that just happened to be the second-largest blowout in NBA Finals history, the Lakers went out and did something that few would have envisioned eight months ago.

They were more physical than the Boston Celtics, matching technical foul for technical foul, push for shove, and box-out for box-out, a blueprint that led to their most stirring victory of the season, 110-109, in overtime Thursday at TD Banknorth Garden.

It came amid a chorus of boos from disbelieving Celtics fans, who watched as Ray Allen airballed a long jump shot as time expired in the extra session, with Derek Fisher draped on him and Pau Gasol coming to help, forcing Allen to adjust on the fly for a shot that never had a chance.

Sasha Vujacic grabbed Fisher and put him in a celebratory headlock, walking exuberantly with him off the court as the Lakers (40-9) passed the Celtics (41-10) by a few percentage points for the best record in the league.

The Lakers moved to 5-0 on their six-game trip, ended the Celtics' 12-game winning streak exactly six weeks after ending their 19-game winning streak, and swept the regular-season series, 2-0, perhaps an important tiebreaking factor down the road.

For now, though, it was the Lakers acting like the heavies when it was least expected, with their physically imposing 21-year-old center watching on TV back home in Los Angeles.

This wasn't 131-92, that's for sure.

"We came in this building and got beat pretty badly," said Kobe Bryant, referring to the Lakers' Game 6 loss to the Celtics last June.

"I think we kind of took the challenge upon ourselves coming in here and seeing how much we've grown since then."

The answer? Quite a bit.

Bryant didn't shoot well, making only 10 of 29 shots, but he managed 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Gasol, on the other hand, shot with precision in making 10 of 14 shots, scoring 24 points and taking 14 rebounds.

Lamar Odom, like Gasol, was maligned after the Lakers' meek exit in the Finals, but he scored 20 points and helped the Lakers leave this time with a victory by making two free throws with 16 seconds left in overtime, the final points of the game.

Above it all, the Lakers held the Celtics to 45.2% shooting, marking the return of a defense that didn't mark much of anything against Toronto, yielding 107 points, and against New York, giving up 117.

"We play a finesse game -- offensively, it's based on ball movement and not just pounding and beating," Odom said. "I think people take that for granted sometimes. Tonight I think the momentum switched a little bit. We couldn't back down any more."

There were so many plot twists, it was hard to tell who would back down first.

In a game that featured jabbering players at almost every turn, there were double technical fouls in the third quarter (Bryant and Rajon Rondo) and fourth (Josh Powell and Leon Powe).

There were personal fouls aplenty for key players, but none more important than the sixth collected by Kevin Garnett with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter. Garnett, who finished with 16 points, was called for pushing Fisher after Gasol poked the ball away from the Celtics' forward.

Glen Davis, who had missed all four of his shots, and went on to miss seven of eight, replaced Garnett.

"Listen, I thought in the third and fourth quarter, the game got out of control," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "And I thought the officials allowed it to get out of control. . . . I just thought it was a chippy game in the second half and it didn't need to be."

The Lakers, on the other hand, were chipper after fending off the Celtics.

"It was awesome. It was a great game," Bryant said. "Talking back and forth, bumping, hitting. It was great."

Bryant had a chance for a big shot, possibly a game-winner, but he missed a 22-foot turnaround over Paul Pierce with 9.9 seconds left in regulation and the score tied at 101-101.

After a Celtics timeout, Eddie House could muster only an awkward-looking heave that missed at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

The Celtics had the chance to take the lead after Odom's late free throws in overtime, but Pierce missed a 20-footer with 9.9 seconds left, and, after Rondo grabbed the rebound, Allen's shot fell short coming out of a timeout.

The Lakers stood chest to chest with the Celtics . . . and won.

Who would have thought it possible last summer?




By the numbers

5-0 - Lakers' record on six-game trip (ends at Cleveland on Sunday)

0 - Points for Kobe Bryant in overtime.

19, 12 - Celtics' winning streaks ended by the Lakers this season.

70 - Points for Lakers' big three of Bryant (26), Pau Gasol (24) and Lamar Odom (20).

59 - Points for Celtics' big three of Ray Allen (22), Paul Pierce (21) and Kevin Garnett (16).

4:22 - Time left in the fourth quarter when Garnett fouled out.

13-0 - Celtics' run at the end of second quarter and start of the third.

1-4 - Lakers' record in Boston since the arrival of Garnett and Allen.

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