Lakers Battle Their Way To Victory Over Celtics, Win 97-94

We can add another page to the Lakers-Celtics rivalry book, as the Los Angeles Lakers (25-16) defeated the Boston Celtics (21-19) in yet another hard fought battle, 97-94.

Behind strong performances by Kobe Bryant (26 points, seven assists, three rebounds), Andrew Bynum (20 points, 14 rebounds, two assists), and Metta World Peace (14 points, two assists, two steals), the Lakers were able to come up with a solid victory yesterday afternoon.

The first quarter started off great for the Lakers, who received solid production from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (13 points, 13 rebounds, five assists), and were up comfortably, 24-14, at the end of the period. Bryant had six points and three assists while Gasol had seven points, seven rebounds, and two assists in the first quarter.

However, the second quarter would take away any hope of an easy victory for the Lakers. With the second unit on the floor, Andrew Bynum absolutely dominated to start the quarter. Bynum showed off his superior post moves and even his ability to control the offense by dishing out an assist to Andrew Goudelock–who dropped in a three-pointer–after the Celtics’ defense collapsed on the Lakers’ center. He threw down a thunderous alley-oop after a pass from Steve Blake, tallying seven points and five rebounds for the quarter.

However, the Celtics would not go away, cutting the lead to just two behind Rajon Rondo (24 points, 10 assists), Paul Pierce (13 points, nine assists), and Brandon Bass (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals) at the end of the quarter to trail, 44-42.

The third quarter was an absolute battle full of fireworks, tough play, and resiliency. However, the quarter belonged to Metta World Peace. After getting tangled up with Paul Pierce at one point, Kevin Garnett (14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists) shoved Metta World Peace. Metta would get two free throws, and receive a double-technical foul along with Garnett. This seemed to spark World Peace, as he hit a corner three-pointer off a pass from Bryant on one play, and stole the ball and took it coast-to-coast for a powerful one-handed dunk on another. Metta played very solid defense as well, as he scored 10 points  in the third quarter alone. However, the Celtics kept battling and even took a three-point lead at one point before Bryant drained a three-pointer to tie the game and was fouled on his very next three-point attempt (he sunk two of the three free throws). At the end of the quarter, the Lakers maintained their two-point lead, 72-70.

The fourth quarter was no different, as the two teams kept going back and forth, alternating leads. At one point, the Lakers were down 81-78, before Bryant hit another three-pointer to tie the game. Boston scored again, and Kobe dropped in yet another three to put the Lakers up 84-83.

The battle would continue, as the Lakers were trailing by five down the stretch before Kobe drove into the lane, stopped, and hit a fade-away jumper, cutting the lead to three. On the next offensive possession, Bryant toyed with the defense before lobbing a pass to Andrew Bynum. Bynum, who was being pushed in his back and pushed under the basket by Kevin Garnett, somehow managed to extend his long arm and control the ball, manipulating it into the basket and cutting the lead to one point with just over a minute to play. After a key rebound by Gasol, Bryant once again worked his way into a beautiful shot just left of the elbow, giving the Lakers a one-point lead. Brandon Bass missed a shot, and the Lakers called for timeout.

Then, something strange happened. Apparently, Kobe Bryant decided that it would be best for him to act as a decoy, and set up Andrew Bynum for the final play. A seemingly proud Bryant later said that everyone was expecting him to take the shot, and that the Celtics’ defense simply couldn’t handle Bynum in the post. So, with Bryant casually walking well above the three point ball, Metta World Peace dumped the ball to Bynum, who backed down Garnett, and scored easily on a jump-hook shot to put the Lakers up, 97-94, with just 15.5 seconds left in the game. On the next play, the Celtics managed three three-point attempts, but none of them connected as time ran out.

Lakers win, 97-94.

The Numbers

Bryant finished the game with 26 points (on 3-6 three-point shooting), seven assists, and three rebounds while Bynum had 20 points, 14 rebounds, and two assists. Metta World Peace scored 14 points on 3-5 shooting from three-point land, and Pau Gasol played solid throughout, tallying 13 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists. Derek Fisher contributed across the board as well with nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Off the bench, Matt Barnes contributed six points and four rebounds, and Andrew Goudelock dropped in five quick points (2-3 from the field in six minutes). Troy Murphy and Steve Blake each had two points, but Blake was very aggressive when he was on the floor, and dished out six assists.

As for the Celtics, Rajon Rondo led his team with 24 points and 10 assists, while Ray Allen had 17 points, six assists and four rebounds. Kevin Garnett finished with a strong game as well, adding 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Brandon Bass had 15 points, eight rebounds, and three assists while Paul Pierce had 13 points, nine assists, and three steals.

Now, let’s break down the victory.

Next Page: The Breakdown

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