Late in the 2005-06 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were sputtering with a 34-34 record, and they badly needed to finish the schedule strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
On March 20, a day after a rough loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. traveled to Massachusetts to take on Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics.
The rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics had been dormant for a very long time, but it didn’t matter to Kobe Bryant.
Going up against Pierce, he saw an opportunity to drive his team back to the postseason.
Almost a month before, L.A. had lost by one point to the Celtics at home as Pierce poured in 39 points, and Bryant wouldn’t allow it to happen again.
This time, he scored 43 points of his own while helping to hold Pierce to 8-of-19 shooting as the Lakers claimed a 105-97 win.
It started a spurt in which the team won 11 of its last 14 games, giving it momentum heading into the 2006 NBA Playoffs.