Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works in the post against Celtics guard Ray Allen… (Elise Amendola / Associated…)
Reporting from Boston — What problems?
The Lakers peered into the swirling trade winds and stared down their still-angry opponents from last June, showing enough muscle and resolve Thursday to remind everybody they were still the two-time defending champions.
It was their best victory of the season, 92-86 over the Boston Celtics, and it was a testimony to their size — they outscored the Celtics in the paint, 50-32, and outrebounded them, 47-36, at a hushed TD Garden.
It was cerebral, Coach Phil Jackson asking a sports psychologist to talk to the team earlier in the day about ignoring outside distractions.
It was slapstick, the Lakers cracking up during a pregame strategy session when their video coordinator interspersed the Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian unisex fragrance commercial between clips of their less successful game last month against the Celtics.
And it was the continuation of momentum, the Lakers moving to 3-0 on a telling seven-game trip.
They needed this victory, coming into Thursday with an 0-5 record against teams ahead of them in the standings. They did it with defense, ripping a page from the Celtics' way to play, tightening up after a leaky beginning by giving up only 33 points in the second half.
Things started to go L.A.'s way near the end of the first half, when the Lakers cut into a 15-point deficit with a 10-0 run.
Andrew Bynum, firmly in the center of the trade rumor storm, responded with 16 points and nine rebounds. Pau Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 23 points, 20 in the second half after transitioning from pass-first mode. Odom had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"I thought those big guys carried us for a large stretch of the game," Jackson said.
Said Bynum: "We came to play today, the guys inside. It made a difference."
Bryant was there in the end.
Near the start of the fourth quarter, Magic Johnson wrote on his newly created Twitter feed, "If the Lakers are going to win, Kobe has to take over."
He couldn't have been more prescient.
The Lakers were up only three points when Bryant reentered with 5:04 to play.
He scored six consecutive points, drilling a 19-foot turnaround over Ray Allen, an open 17-footer and a driving layup to put the Lakers up 88-79 with 3:11 to play.
He drove baseline and found Gasol for an easy layup, then sealed the game with a 13-foot floater with 48.8 seconds left.
"Once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said.
After drubbing the Lakers 12 days earlier, the Celtics were banged up for the rematch. Shaquille O'Neal, key reserve Marquis Daniels and backup center Semih Erden all sat out because of various injuries. Then Nate Robinson left in the second quarter after sustaining a bruised knee.
The Lakers (37-16) needed to win, if only because the Celtics (38-14) were running out of players.
How physical were the Lakers?
They even hurt each other.
After Odom scored on a third-quarter tip-in, he turned quickly to run downcourt and smacked into Gasol. Both players were momentarily dazed, Odom needing attention from trainer Gary Vitti.
Odom returned with a bandage on his forehead and received eight stitches after the game.
"My grandmother used to say, 'Scars give you character,' " Odom said. "I guess I've got a lot of character now."
Unlike last week's last-second mishap in which he failed to box out San Antonio forward Antonio McDyess, Odom took a key rebound in this one, outhustling Kevin Garnett for a rebound with 1:09 to play after Bryant missed a three-point attempt.
"Lamar and Pau made some big plays at the end," said Ron Artest, who helped hold Paul Pierce to 15 points on six-for-15 shooting.
Toward the end of the first quarter, Allen became the NBA's all-time three-point leader after making the 2,561st of his career. He passed Reggie Miller, who happened to be covering the game as a TNT analyst. Allen went over and hugged Miller at the next break. He finished with 20 points.
It might have been the only memorable part of the game for Boston.
Bryant enjoyed pouring gasoline on the Celtics-Lakers rivalry several hours before the game, mentioning the antagonistic Danny Ainge and the Kurt Rambis "clothesline" game before saying of the Lakers historically, "We're the good guys."
Then he went out and buried the alleged bad guys, his teammates alongside him for an impressive final 24 minutes.