The Lakers came into Sunday's showdown having lost two of their past three games, and the Celtics were just one game removed from an embarrassing 32-point loss to Philadelphia, but these two veteran teams cast their win-loss records aside for the day to produce a fitting renewal of the NBA's most historic rivalry. The Lakers marched out to an early 15-point lead before giving it all back and then some, as turnovers (18 resulting in 22 Boston points) led to the C's taking a five-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Derek Fisher said Saturday that even though both teams have faded in the standings, "the movie still has the same characters." Those characters starred Sunday, with Kobe Bryant's game-high 26 points, Metta World Peace's turn-back-the-clock 14 points and double-doubles from Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Boston's big four showed up, too (14 points and 11 rebounds for Kevin Garnett; 17 points for Ray Allen; 13 points and nine assists for Paul Pierce, and 24 points and 10 assists for Rajon Rondo), but L.A. came out on top to sweep the season series from the Celtics.
What it means: After that disastrous two-game skid on the back-to-back in Detroit and Washington, the Lakers have now won two games in a row heading into their next two-game road test in Memphis and New Orleans this week. The much-maligned Lakers offense managed to score 97 points against the traditionally tough Boston D, shooting 36-for-71 from the field (50.7 percent) in the process.
Bold play of the game: Allen missed an open 3, Bynum grabbed the rebound and then, with 1:17 remaining and the Lakers down by three, Bryant lofted an alley-oop that an airborne Bynum had to reach every inch of his 7-foot-3 wingspan back behind his head to control and put in the hoop, bringing the Lakers back within one. Bryant followed up on the next possession with a pull-up jumper to put L.A. up 95-94 with 41.7 seconds left, but if Bynum hadn't finished the improbable alley-oop, Bryant's shot might have been moot. Bynum also put the icing on the cake with a mini hook shot over Garnett with 15.5 seconds left to put L.A. up by three.
Hold your breath: Bynum had a scary collision with Allen near center court in the second quarter as he tried to retrieve an underthrown outlet pass from Gasol. Both players hit the floor, and Allen was whistled for a foul as Bynum came up clutching his ribs. Turns out Bynum suffered a bruise to his right knee, causing him to stay in the locker room for treatment as his teammates emerged for their light halftime shootaround before the third quarter began. Bynum still played his regular minutes in the second half but was more effective in the first half, when he scored 11 of his 20 points and grabbed 10 of his 14 rebounds for the game.
Stats of the night: L.A. came into the game ranked 29th in the league in 3-point percentage (30.1 percent) while Boston came in ranked first in 3-point defense (30.5 percent). The trends did not continue, as the Lakers shot 8-for-16 (50 percent) from deep. ... The Lakers outrebounded the Celtics 42-34.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.