The Boston Celtics (36–11) came away with a 109–96 win against the Los Angeles Lakers (33–15) in a hotly-contested rematch of last year’s NBA Finals on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Both teams were coming off tough losses on Friday in their first meeting since last year’s Game 7; Boston lost to the Phoenix Suns 88–71 in their worst shooting performance of the season and the Lakers lost to the lowly Sacramento Kings 100–95.
But you wouldn’t know it on Sunday as both the Celtics and Lakers brought their A-games.
Kobe Bryant had the hot hand for the Lakers and led all players in scoring with 41 points while Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 32 points.
“It’s another game, but it was definitely an emotional game, especially because we lost Game 7 here,” Pierce said in his postgame news conference. “It feels good to come back in this building and get a win.”
The Celtics took the lead early on in the first quarter, until the Lakers went on a 11–4 run aided by some sloppy Boston turnovers, to finish down by one point 22–21.
Pierce had traded some difficult fade-away jumpers with Bryant early on in the first quarter and Andrew Bynum took care of the ball down low for the Lakers.
Kevin Garnett exited the game briefly in the second quarter with cut on his head from an inadvertent elbow from Pau Gasol.
“I got elbowed in the head, and it didn’t change anything,” Garnett said. “If anything, it woke me up to be a lot more aggressive to the basket.”
The Lakers rallied again late in the second quarter on a 13–2 run to take the lead 44–42 off a 3-pointer by Bryant after some excellent defense down low by Gasol and Bynum.
The first half ended with the Lakers up 54–50 and Bryant carried the team with an impressive 22 points while no other Laker reached double-digit scoring. Pierce carried the Celtics with 16 points.
The third quarter went back-and-forth until Pierce took the Celtics to a small lead. Pierce had a stellar quarter with 14 points.
“For some reason Ron [Artest] is not into him tonight; he’s not up and at him and he’s playing rather passive so we need to get aggressive with Pierce,” Phil Jackson told ABC at the end of the third quarter.