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Lakers go quietly against Celtics, 116-95

Pau Gasol is out for 6-8 weeks. Dwight Howard returns, but it doesn't help. Kobe Bryant even compliments Celtics for wearing their hard hats.

February 07, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan

BOSTON — It was the perfect time for a Kobe Bryant meltdown.

Throw a few things around the locker room. Eviscerate a teammate or two with some harsh words. Rip Dwight Howard for missing so many games.

Instead, Bryant calmly answered reporters' questions after the Lakers trailed by 32 points and lost to the Boston Celtics, 116-95, in front of jubilant fans at TD Garden who couldn't care less about the Lakers' woes, of which there many.

After all, there's not much Bryant can do.

The Lakers reached the latest lowest point of their season on a day when Pau Gasol was declared out six to eight weeks because of a tear in the bottom of his right foot.

The Lakers (23-27) are lurching and heaving, their disarray increasing seemingly every day.

When will it be too much? Or has it happened already?

One thing was sure to Bryant. He was incredibly complimentary of the Celtics' ability to press onward without injured point guard Rajon Rondo.

"It's typical Celtics basketball," he said of the Celtics' 6-0 record since Rondo's season-ending knee injury. "They all just put their hard hats on and they go out and they play hard and they figure things out. It seems like when their back's against the wall, that's when you really see the best from them."

Howard felt like his back was pressed into the wall Thursday morning, making it clear that nobody would prod him to get back to the court after missing three games, six overall, because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

He definitely didn't want to hear that Bryant apparently told ESPN.com that Howard needed to return ASAP.

"He's not a doctor. I'm not a doctor. So that's his opinion," Howard said. "I mean, I want to play. But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can't leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me.

"If people are [ticked] off that I don't play, that I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody's life is going to go on. I don't want to have to have another summer where I'm rehabbing and, you know, trying to get healthy again."

So Howard proceeded to play against the Celtics. He had problems all night, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds and six fouls in 28 minutes. He made one of six free throws.

In the fourth quarter, with the game decided, Howard had the ball stripped by Kevin Garnett and then lost it again in the post a minute later, two of his four turnovers.

Bryant tried to clarify afterward what he meant when he told ESPN.com, "We don't have time for [Howard's shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency."

He said it was all "overblown."

"I didn't say anything that was offensive or try to take a run at him," Bryant said. "It was pretty shocking to me in terms of how everybody reacted to it. I wasn't trying to do anything. It's pretty simple. If he's healthy, he'll play. If he's not, he won't.

"I didn't say anything that was groundbreaking. Do we need urgency? Yeah, we need urgency. It was a pretty interesting day to see how everybody kind of jumped on those statements. If I had a message in mind, I'd make it pretty black and white. I don't need to be surreptitious about it."

Of Howard's game, Bryant said, "It was his first time back. He was obviously a little rusty, kind of out of it a little bit. He did all right."

Steve Nash turned 39 years old Thursday, not that any Lakers were in the mood to party.

They trailed after three quarters, 95-69. Boston had 37 points in the third quarter on 76% shooting.

Garnett scored 15 points to go over 25,000 for his career. He was one of six players in double figures for the Celtics (26-23) to only three for the Lakers, led by Bryant's 27 points.

Bryant didn't have any assists for only the third time this season and the first since he became a share-the-ball guy. His teammates missed enough shots to cost him a few assists, but zero is still zero.

The Lakers' next game is Friday at Charlotte, where they are a numbingly awful 2-5 in the Bobcats' brief and doleful history, leading to a final, fleeting thought.

Maybe they haven't hit rock bottom yet.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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