Celtics 112, Lakers 111

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Now that the Boston Celtics are through playing in February, Paul Pierce can reflect on perhaps the finest month of his eight-year NBA career.

Pierce scored 39 points, including the deciding free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining, and also had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals Sunday, leading the Boston Celtics to a 112-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pierce scored at least 30 points in eight of his last nine games, and averaged 33.5 in 11 games during the month.

“I’m not thinking about points, I’m thinking about wins,” he said. “It’s about roles, and that’s my role. I can say it’s a lot more fun in front of my family and friends.”

Pierce grew up in nearby Inglewood, and attended many games at the Forum as a youngster. The Lakers moved to Staples Center in 1999.

Pierce was fouled by Kobe Bryant, and made the first foul shot to complete the scoring. The Boston star missed the second, with the Lakers’ Luke Walton getting the rebound and calling a timeout with 1.7 seconds left.

Bryant, who scored 40 points but was held to three in the final period, missed from the top of the key as time expired.

“I didn’t intend to get into a scoring duel,” Pierce said. “But I wanted to step up and take him at the end.”

Rookie Ryan Gomes added a career-high 19 points and 12 rebounds for Boston, and Delonte West had 19 points and a career-best 10 assists before fouling out with 3:20 remaining.

“A lot of guys are growing up before our eyes—like Gomes and West,” Pierce said. “This team is in a good groove. It’s about being responsible for your role and being aggressive.”

Wally Szczerbiak added 16 points for the Celtics (23-33), who lost their first four games in February before winning five of their last seven. They went 3-1 on a four-game road trip after having won only four road games previously this season.

“I think Paul’s team play enabled us to win on this trip,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s been great. I think people will focus on his scoring. But he’s done so many other things.

“We are continuing to improve. We are becoming a team.”

Brian Cook scored 19 points, Lamar Odom had 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, and Smush Parker scored 13 for the Lakers, who lost for the eighth time in 12 games to drop to 28-28.

Bryant had eight rebounds and six assists to go with his 40 points.

“I am very frustrated. We shouldn’t have lost this game,” Bryant said. “We are not coming out ready to play.”

With Bryant on the bench, the Lakers outscored the Celtics 13-3 early in the fourth quarter to cut Boston’s lead to 97-95.

Baskets by West and Pierce gave the Celtics a seven-point lead, but the Lakers scored the next five points to make it 108-106 with 2:09 left.

Odom’s three-point play with 15.3 seconds to play tied the game at 111 and set the stage for Pierce. Odom was 1-of-6 from the foul line before making the tying free throw.

Gomes and Pierce scored eight points each during a 25-7 run to start the third quarter, putting Boston on top 79-65. The Celtics shot 10-of-12 during the spurt and 14-of-19 in the third period, when they outscored the Lakers 37-24 for a 91-82 lead.

“We slept almost all the way through the third quarter,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We’re just not able to play a full game.”

The Clippers scored 16 straight points in the third quarter Friday night to blow open a close game.

“The third quarter is really biting us in the butt,” Odom said. “It’s a team defensive thing we’ve just got to fix.”

Neither team led by more than six points in the second quarter, which ended with the Lakers leading 58-54. Bryant had 26 points and Pierce 16 at that stage.


The Celtics-Lakers rivalry used to be one of the NBA’s most intense, but it hasn’t been the same in recent years. The Celtics have won an NBA-record 16 championships, but none since 1986. The Lakers have won five of their 14 since then. The teams have met in the NBA Finals 10 times. … Boston’s Al Jefferson (sprained ankle) sat out his eighth game, and teammate Kendrick Perkins (dislocated left shoulder) missed his sixth. … Regis Philbin and a camera crew visited the Lakers’ dressing room before the game. The “Live With Regis & Kelly” television show is taping four segments in Los Angeles this week. Philbin conducted an interview with Bryant that will be shown Friday. … Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward and Pittsburgh Steelers teammate Jerome Bettis sat courtside.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
P. Pierce P. Pierce
12-20,  39 Pts
7 Rebs, 4 Assists
 LA Lakers
K. Bryant K. Bryant
11-23,  40 Pts
8 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders