BOSTON — No matter how bad the Lakers' season gets (it's bad), no matter what's ahead of them (surely not playoffs), there's always one constant.
A victory over the Boston Celtics is a victory over the Boston Celtics.
Rookie Ryan Kelly made two free throws with 9.4 seconds left and the Lakers beat their eternal rival, 107-104, Friday at TD Garden.
BOX SCORE: Lakers 107, Boston 104
They didn't even care that this was the worst-ever combined winning percentage (.354) when the teams met, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Nor did it matter that two recent Development League players were forced to log big minutes for the Lakers.
This had Lakers loss written all over it. Losers of 12 of their last 13 games? Down eight with 3:28 to play? Playing without the suspended Nick Young and hoping he didn't further implode the team with his "one on five" accusation toward teammates two days earlier?
There's a reason Coach Mike D'Antoni's exhale was noticeably long as he exited the locker room afterward. And why Pau Gasol, a veteran of so many Lakers-Celtics clashes, was smiling.
"We experienced so much against them, and even though the teams have changed quite a bit, it's still great to come in and beat this team here," said Gasol, who had 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
What more could the Lakers have wanted? They didn't have 65.5 points of offense when Young (16.4 points a game) joined sidelined players Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar.
Kelly, though, had 20 points in 34 minutes, the Lakers' second-round draft pick playing his best NBA game to date.
Kendall Marshall, signed out of the Development League last month, had 19 points, 14 assists and a three-pointer from the right corner that gave the Lakers the lead for good with 1:09 left.
Manny Harris, plucked from the D-League on Thursday, had seven points in 22 minutes.
Oddly, only two players from the 2010 NBA Finals took the court — Gasol and Rajon Rondo, who returned after sitting out almost a year because of a torn knee ligament. Rondo had eight points, four assists and a missed three-point attempt with 1.9 seconds left that would have sent the game to overtime.
The Lakers, needing to apply an all-encompassing salve, talked as a team Friday morning and tried to push past Young's allegation that teammates didn't back him up in an altercation Wednesday against Phoenix.
Young was suspended by the NBA for Friday's game because he punched Suns guard Goran Dragic in the face.
"Once we talked [Friday], we aired everything out. We're all good," Young said.
What was a main topic?
"You don't have to fight, you just have to step in between," Young said, adding with a smile that "nobody wants to get beat up on national TV."
Marshall stood far away from Wednesday's skirmish, which happened after Young was fouled hard by Suns center Alex Len. Marshall said he apologized to Young on Friday.
"I take full blame. I should have ran over there and pulled him out of there," Marshall said. "I think it's good for him to get upset at us about that."
A photo circulated on the Internet of Marshall standing alone near the top of the three-point line, hands on hips, as the squabble took place under the basket. Someone added the caption, "Don't worry Nick ... Kendall got your back."
Marshall saw the picture and "thought it was hilarious," adding, "You look at it and it does look pretty bad."
D'Antoni seemed satisfied with the team's talk, saying the players were "fine." But he wanted the Lakers to be more aggressive, hoping for more "fight in the dog."
"You can show solidarity without going across the line, and that's what you have to do," he said.
They showed solidarity Friday. It had been a while since that happened.