The Celtics are just too good these days.
Bryant scored 22 for Los Angeles, going just 6-of-25 from the floor. Lamar Odom had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“They’re one of the elite teams. They’re at the next level,” Bryant said. “They’re at the level we’re trying to get to, and the challenge is there for us — do we want to stay in this middle pack, or do we want to get to that next level?
“And that requires for us to kind of double the work load.”
The Lakers introduced West as their honorary captain before the game, showed highlights from past players in the storied matchup, and wore throwback, short shorts for the first half.
Boston coach Doc Rivers enjoyed the big screen video.
“I don’t know if it spurred anyone on, but I hope it gave everyone a history lesson in some ways. I thought it was a really classy move, and really cool to watch,” he said.
As for the shorts, which looked particularly outdated in contrast to the Celtics’ knee-length attire, Rivers said, “I think it played in our favor, the atmosphere, because they had to get it from somewhere, and maybe those shorts helped us.”
He smiled and added, “I told Kobe, the one thing I know from this point on, our generation had better bodies than their generation, because they looked horrible in those shorts.”
Bryant wasn’t thrilled about wearing the old-time shorts.
“I don’t know what it feels like to wear a thong, but I imagine it feels something like what we had on in the first half,” he said with a grin. “I felt violated. I felt naked. It’s one thing to see films with guys wearing those things. … I’d rather stay warm, man.”
Boston took the lead in the first quarter and never relinquished it. Each time the Lakers threatened, the Celtics pulled away again.
The victory in the final of two meetings between the teams this season ran Boston’s NBA-best record to 26-3 and extended its winning streak to six straight, including all victories on the just-completed four-game road trip.
The defeat ended a four-game winning streak by the Lakers, who still have won 10 of their last 13.
The Celtics prevented Lakers coach Phil Jackson from moving ahead of Boston Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach on the career wins ladder. Jackson remained tied with Auerbach for seventh on the all-time list with 938 victories.
There obviously was a lot of emotion during the game—and a lot of jawing at the referees, who called seven technical fouls at different junctures: on the Celtics’ Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Ray Allen and coach Rivers; and the Lakers’ Bryant, Trevor Ariza and Kwame Brown.
Odom also was called for a flagrant foul late in the game, with Ray Allen drawing his technical on the same play.
Allen said of that brief tangle, “I don’t know what Odom was thinking. I got the rebound and he tackled me. I know this is Sunday, but this is the wrong field.”
Rivers didn’t think most of the technicals were caused by physical play.
“I thought it was just chippy,” he said. “I thought everyone was excited, both the teams and the refs. The refs were just trying to get everybody to calm down.”
Pierce said, “Guys are going to come out and try and talk us out of our games. We know we have a big red target on our back and everybody wants to beat the Celtics. We have the best record in the league and we have to be ready mentally and not get caught up in those little games.”
Garnett left the game briefly in the second quarter to get four stitches above his right eye.
Los Angeles, which trailed by double digits much of the game, narrowed the gap to 72-66 with 3:17 left in the third quarter, but Pierce scored 10 points in a row to give the Celtics an 82-66 lead at the end of the period.
Rondo sat out because of a tight hamstring, but the injury isn’t serious. … The Celtics won the first meeting of the season, taking a 107-94 victory Nov. 23 in Boston when Pierce led a balanced scoring attack with 20 points. … West’s introduction drew a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 18,997.